Posts by tag: rotary

Norton January 7, 2020 posted by

You’ll Never Take Me Alive, Copper! 1989 Norton Commander P52 for Sale

The history of rotary motorcycles is relatively short and includes a few technologically interesting, but largely unsuccessful motorcycles by Hercules, Suzuki, and Nortons. I’ll admit that I’m stretching the definition of “sport bike” much more than I usually do with this Norton Commando P52 police bike, but it’s such an oddball I had to post it. I mean, how could I not post a fully-faired Norton rotary-powered motorcycle? Hey, at least the P52 shared the same basic engine with the very rare and sporty Norton F1!

A rotary engine is elegant simplicity in concept, but problematic in execution: they have very few moving parts, and no need for camshafts, as the rotors themselves effectively open and close the fuel/air inlets. There are no poppet valves to bounce and play havoc when they try to share space with fast-moving pistons, and their rotational motion means they’re extremely smooth, compared to a reciprocal piston engine. One can understand an interest in avoiding engine vibration, as Norton’s previous parallel twins required the company to engineer the famous “Isolastic” mounting system to prevent the bikes from basically shaking themselves and their riders to pieces.

Unfortunately, Norton traded one set of problems for another by switching to a rotary design and, aside from a few spectacularly cool racebikes that did well in competition and a few road going F1 replicas to match, the bike was a relative failure. Rotaries tend to run hot, so after an initial run of air-cooled motorcycles, Norton switched their twin-rotor design to liquid cooling, which helped control temperatures somewhat, but added weight and complexity. Overall, Norton managed to work out most of the bugs, aside from emissions, fuel economy, and problematic apex seals. Reliability improved, but the bike didn’t really offer much of a performance advantage, compared to conventional machines, and it never really found enough of an audience to justify itself or save Norton from insolvency.

Rotary-powered cars haven’t fared all that much better than rotary-powered motorcycles: enthusiasts may love them, but warranty claims for NSU’s R0 80 basically sank the company and Mazda’s rotary has been in and out of production for years, owing to their fairly horrible fuel consumption and issues with emissions, as well as rotor apex seal durability. Ultimately, they’re not the simplest, or most efficient way to motivate a motorcycle. Considering the hard miles law-enforcement machines rack up, I can only imagine the headaches experienced by officers using a Norton Commander P52 in the field…

From the original eBay listing: 1989 Norton Commander P52 for Sale

This is a very rare Norton Rotary motorcycle and is in running condition.  It was sold to the Dubai (Middle East) Police Department as a demonstrator, probably with the hope of a large fleet sale.  I purchased this bike in the UK around 1995 and have finally been able to go thru it and get it 100% running and titled in the State of Arizona.

This bike has matching frame (VIN) and engine numbers.

This bike has a calibrated speedometer and has only 1150 original miles from new. Very little was done to bring the bike up to full running condition. As it sat for years (always indoors), I had to professionally rebuild the SU carbs with proper parts from the UK. As a safety measure the fuel lines were replaced due to age and hardness. (I have the old fuel lines for historical reasons). 31 years ago Iridium spark plugs were not yet either in wide use or even available. These plugs are well suited for an engine that burns oil  (as is the case in 2 stroke or rotary engines) so I installed NGK Iridium plugs in this bike to minimize fouling and promote easy starting and running. Again, I have the stock plugs. Norton also recommended Shell Rotella oil but once again I did some research and was advised by several people in the know that the Shell oil is perhaps not the best modern choice of rotary oil. Mazda, who perhaps has more success with the rotary engine in the world had commissioned Idemitsu  of Japan to develop a full synthetic oil for use tn their rotary engines. I decided that the Idemitsu oil was the best modern choice for the Norton Rotary and drained the oil tank and replaced the engine oil with Idemitsu full synthetic oil designed for the rotary engine.

The bike has all the equipment as shipped from the factory, including a 58/100 watt siren, front and rear blue flashing strobe lights and the STOP POLICE illuminated  rear sign. I have 2 new screen printed extras that were made by a friend of mine in the sign business. The siren can be heard for miles so I will include a 100 Watt audio L PAD that can be plugged in line with the siren driver to safely adjust the volume to a comfortable level. I Laser cut a “Norton” sign to replace the Police sign if so desired.

The machine uses 2 batteries and new sealed batteries were installed recently. ALL keys are included and except for the trunk key, duplicates were made for the rest.

The factory workshop manual only ever existed as a “work in progress” but I was able to secure a copy of the manual as a draft. All further work on the full published manual stopped when Norton shut down. I was also able to secure a full wiring drawing of the bike.

Several sales brochures  for the strobes and siren manufacture are part of the literature package included. A full parts list with images is part of the sale.

Norton designed in some unique features into this machine such as a 100% enclosed rear drive chain with an oil bath to promote long life. Built into the trunk is an on board battery charger with the typical UK plug and 240 volt AC input. I designed and built a 110 VAC to 240 VAC step up transformer, all mounted in a plastic box with a UK socket. This allows the built in battery charger to operate properly from US 110 VAC power.

The original owners manual, operators manual, and color sales brochure are part or the package along with letters from Norton to the Dubai authorities and letters in Arabic back to Norton.

The brake system had to be 100% rebuilt as the DOT 3 fluid had started to degrade. All calipers, and master cylinders were completely rebuilt and the fluid was replaced with DOT 5 silicone fluid to eliminate any future  concerns. Again, due to the age of the machine I did change the antifreeze coolant. The rubber hoses connecting the radiator to engine have hardened to the point of minor leaking… I have factory original  replacements that  have not been installed yet.

The tool pouch was missing the basic tools except for the important real wheel axle spanner wrench.

As the bike in NOT restored, various scratches and blemishes exist. I went so far as to NOT polish the bike in any way. To the best of my knowledge the bike is as described.

The Norton F1 is the bike we’d normally want to feature here on RSBFS, being a full-on race-replica with pretty solid performance credentials. The sport-touring Commander seen here used a variation of the liquid-cooled two-rotor powerplant, with fully-faired bodywork that included integral panniers, although later machines used detachable luggage instead. The starting bid is set at $15,000 which seems… honestly, I’d have no idea how to value this bike, but hopefully some collector with a taste in interesting machinery will give it a good home!


You’ll Never Take Me Alive, Copper! 1989 Norton Commander P52 for Sale
Norton November 3, 2015 posted by

Spectre: 2014 Norton Domiracer in the UK

This is only the second “new” Norton motorcycle to be posted here on RSBFS and it seems somewhat overpriced but it is one of the rare Domiracer units of which only 50 were built so I figured it was worth a post.


Note:  Photo above is of Domiracer #1, the unit for sale is actually #35

Norton is one of the oldest motorcycle brands, having built its first motorcycle in 1902 but suffering through lean times and more than a few shutdowns and subsequent revival attempts, including a rotary racer effort.  Fortunately the most recent relaunch seems to be fairly stable, having begun in 2009 with a 961cc parallel twin powered standard known as the Commando model, followed by a 961 SE.  Overall Norton seems to have found a bit of a niche, currently producing about 1000 hand assembled motorcycles a year out of its castle-like Donington Hall facility in the UK (ext to the famous Donington Park racetrack and park).

Norton seems to be following a production plan similar to fellow UK relaunch success Triumph Motorcycles.  This strategy involves initially focusing on iterations of the same basic configuration/power plant numerous models.  For Norton this means the launch in 2009 of the 961 Commando, followed by the SE version several years later.  In 2014 internal design teams were allowed to submit their own ideas of what the next generation Norton platform might be and while this exercise in corporate team building was originally intended to result in just a one-off showbike, when the result was displayed the response was overwhelming and a decision was made to build 50 examples as a limited edition.   The result was the Domiracer, a polished tank and chrome dripped tracker that was barely street legal.  In an almost Ducati MH900E type reaction, within 14 days all were sold despite a hefty price tag of over 20,000 GBP per unit.


2014 Norton Domiracer #35 on ebay uk

Was the Domiracer any good?  Or was it just a few bits of chrome on top of a standard 961 Commando?   Well MCN titled its review of the Domiracer as “A sensory overload- better than sex!” and Cyclenews was nearly as enthusiastic.  Private reviews from actual riders stated that while the café racer stance/lower bars and adjusted footpegs initially appeared fairly extreme, the riding position wasn’t really an issue.  Some riders noted that power was still a somewhat low 80-ish bhp so the Domiracerwasn’t superbike fast but cafe racer’s are typically more about the experience than warp speed anyway and fit and finish  were reported as being the best produced to date by the reborn Norton concern.


The unit for sale on ebay has a low 282 miles and seems to be being offered by a UK dealer.   But before you start looking up shipping companies, there is one major issue- the seller has listed the price at an astonishing 39,500 GBP.  Yes you read that right.  That price is nearly double the original asking price and SE and Commando versions seem to be available for about half that price.

Perhaps the seller is trying to take advantage of the fact that a Norton Dominator (the model after the Domiracer) is rumored to appear in the new James Bond Spectre film, or perhaps the seller is merely using the bike as a sort of stalking horse with no real intention to sell it…I can’t honestly say if this price is reasonable or ridiculous…perhaps some of our RSBFS readers in the UK will chime in within the comments section and let us folks here in the states know.


Spectre:  2014 Norton Domiracer in the UK
Norton July 3, 2012 posted by

Rotary Alert! 1985 Norton Interpol 2

For Sale: 1985 Norton Interpol 2

Say you are interested in a rotary-engined bike that is NOT a Suzuki RE5. What choices do you have? Other than a handful of prohibitively rare and prohibitively expensive Van Veen machines, Norton was the only other purveyor of Wankel hardware.

From the seller:
When was the last time you saw one of these gems. This is a extremely rare 1985 Norton (only one known in the US) with Nortons own twin rotary engine. It has been used solely for escort duty in London, such as heads of state and the occasional Royel wedding. Due to the spasmodic nature of this duty the documented miles covered is very low. Amazingly ALL the original equipment is still in place. Flashing blue lights, strobe light, two way radio with speaker. two tone air horns (sounds like a fire engine), “Stop” sign etc. The bike is not a restoration , it is a unmolested original in spotless condition throughout. Riding one of these rotary Nortons is a wonderful experience, smooth as a turbine and sounds like a Turbo Prop plane engine. They rev very freely yet have the low down torque and pulling power of a steam engine. Parts are available from Norton UK. Seller will be glad to assist in transport at buyers expense, or simply fly into Spokane and ride it home.

What really makes this particular bike unique, however, is the full Interpol livery and equipment list. Reading through the resources over on the Norton Owners Club website I found this:

All ex-police bikes have carried a certain stigma with bikers, a fact reflected in their second-hand value. Some were turned into specials and others broken for spares, but many were civilianised. Nearly all surviving Interpols will have lost all trace of their origins as no special engine or frame markings were used. Therefore most survivors look like, and are accepted as, any other civilian machine. Very few examples (perhaps as few as 4 or 5) remain in standard Interpol form, if indeed, a standard ever existed.

So up for grabs today is a pretty rare model by most standards, with equipment not normally found on any Norton Rotary. It is located in the Pacific Northwest area of the US, and appears to enjoy a title as well. I’m thinking this could make the perfect touring bike: smooth, rotary power, a large fairing to protect you from the elements, and lights and sirens to protect you from potential traffic. Mount up!

Bidding is going on right now, with the current price above $6k (at time of writing) and reserve still in place. Action has been very heavy on this one indicating a LOT of interest. I have not idea what it should go for, but I do know that I will be watching it closely. Enjoy!


Bimota April 6, 2011 posted by

RSBFS Spring Updates 2011!

First of all, we hope you enjoyed our April Fools fun last week. We had a blast putting it together and I think everyone enjoyed it for the most part. Anyone pick up one of those beauts?

While here in the Pacific Northwest spring has yet to really make an appearance, I know proper riding weather is returning to most of the country as we speak. The guys have already posted some fantastic examples in the past couple of weeks to fill empty garage space and we look forward to seeing what else pops up in April and May — which are historically the most active months on our website. Here are some updates that haven’t made it to this site and we think you’ll enjoy.

Rare Sport Bikes

It’s been a while since we’ve updated the action over at our companion site Check out what you’ve been missing:

Mid America Motorcycle Auction Las Vegas 2011

Mike recaps the 2011 Mid America Auction in Las Vegas earlier this year

Airane2 Moto2 GP Motorcycle News

The latest with the Ariane2 Moto2 exclusive updates

OW-01 Restoration

An OW-01 build thread I spotted on PistonHeads

And numerous cool finds from around the web (click images above for details)

Classic Sport Bikes For Sale

Doug, Mike, Brian and myself have also started to revive Here are some of our first picks to kickstart the site back into action:

1973 Triumph/BSA X75: A Beginning and An End

Triumph/BSA X75: A Beginning and An End

What come around goes around: 1975 Suzuki RE5 Rotary

What come around goes around: 1975 Suzuki RE5 Rotary

1983 Kawasaki GPz305

1983 Kawasaki GPZ305 For Sale

We are eager to reach out to potential partners that would be interested in very attractive advertising rates on this site. Join the excitement as we really get this site cranking in the next few months. Email me for details.

Featured Listings

We currently have two featured listings that we’d like to point out. Please check out these beautiful bikes:

Ducati 748R For Sale

Ducati 748R with 587 miles for $10k

2006 Bimota SB8K Santa Monica #006

Bimota SB8K Santa Monica with 350 miles for $13k

Do you have a bike for sale that needs special attention on our site? Email me for details on how to get your motorcycle featured on

Meet-up at West Coast Moto Jam AMA Pro Races in Sonoma this May?

West Coast Moto Jam, Sears Point, SonomaIn May the AMA road racing series comes to Sonoma at the West Coast Moto Jam, and RSBFS is going to be in attendance! A group of us are actually riding down the west coast on our bikes and I’m hoping to organize a brief ride from the track to Lagunitas Brewing in Sonoma on Saturday afternoon. I’m buying the first round, so if you’re in the area please join us! RSVP ahead so I can estimate if we need a reserved area. If anyone would like one of our shirts hand delivered that day I’ll discount to just $10 at the event! S/L/XL still available.

We’d like to reintroduce two of our primary sponsors on Rare Sport Bikes For Sale, SpeedyMoto and Tyga USA. SpeedyMoto produces top shelf aftermarket parts for late model Ducati’s, and Tyga USA is a recent entry to our shores providing many brand new upgrade products for all modern sport bikes and many older two strokes as well. We thank our sponsors for their continued support and welcome new partnership opportunities. Please email me for our latest media guide and pricing if interested.

Tyga USA

And no update would be complete without a heartfelt Thank You to our readers. All of us at RSBFS, RSB, and CSBFS sincerely appreciate you reading our sites, commenting on our picks, and submissions to our sites. We love what we do and without you our work would not be possible. Thank you!

Dan Crouch

Uncategorized April 24, 2010 posted by

Two Norton F1’s-1990 and 1992 John Player Specials

Two Norton F1’s-1990 and 1992 John Player Specials

Well I guess these fall under the category of rare: he says sarcastically. We’ve got two versions of Nortons’ F1 on Ebay and Ebay UK.  Lets start with the one in the here in the States.  Don’t buy this bike expecting to join a  F1 owners club as the seller states this is 1 of 2 known Norton F1’s in the country.  I make no claim to be an expert on Norton motorcycles, all I knew was they seemed to go in and out of business frequently and that the 2010  incarnation are  sharp looking.  After a little research I came up with a few tidbits about the F1.  After several incarnations of the company,  Norton was relaunched in the late 80’s and soon experienced racing success using the Wankle rotary valve engine in the RCW588 works bike.  The F1 was built as a detuned replica of that bike.    It appears there were several versions of the F1.  I believe this is the F1 Commander, which I believe is a little less sporty than the F1 Sport you will see below.  It looks like some, if not all, F1’s sport Spondon frames.  I would assume the John Player version was a special color scheme for the F1’s.  I saw one figure claiming less than 55 of these world wide.

From the Ebay auction:

One of only two known to be in the U. S. is this John Player Special (JPS) Twin Rotor Norton F1. The other known example in the U. S. is in the fabulous Barber Museum.

This example is one of the last series of Norton F1 built. Incredible handling and brutal speed, it is simply a wonderful machine. In superb condition, with only minor scrapes on the cowl that have been properly touched up. She runs perfectly and in just fast!         



I’m  taking a pass on discussing the price on this thing.  The bidding was already up to $14,000.   If it really is one of two bikes in the U.S. and you’ve wanted one and money is not an object,  is price really a concern?  Want to wait for the next one to pop up for sale? I didn’t think so.  Check out the bidding on .


Now, across the Atlantic another F1 has appeared for sale.  This one is a 1992 F1 Sport in John Player colors.  I’m starting to assume all Norton F1’s were in John Player colors.  The Sport appears to be: well, Sportier. 

From the seller:

You are looking at a 1992 Norton F1 Sport (P55B) chassis number 050358. This is 1 of only 66 F1 Sports made by Norton Motorcycles in the early 90’s. It is in Norton JPS Racing colours and totally standard. The only additional work that has been done to the bike apart from routine maintenance and servicing is to Moly Inlay the inlet faces which was done by Norton Motorcycles Limited in 1999. It was first registered on the 23rd of October 1992 and purchased by me from the original owner in March 1999. It has only covered 1307 miles in total and is still fitted with it’s original Michelin tyres.  I also have the original owners handbook, F1 Sport Supplement, spare key and wallet. This bike is in excellent original conidtion with no accident damage.

The final form of evolution of the original F1 the F1 Sport (P55B) utilized the front fairing of the F1 but for that was a carbon copy of the factory race bikes, the petrol tank and seat unit both lifted straight off the Trevor Nation/Steve Spray machines. Most connoisseurs of Norton Rotaries, and certainly everybody who has had the chance to sample them all, will agree the F1 Sport was the best Norton Rotary ever produced. 


Being a little more racey, I’d assume this one will fetch even more than one for sale in the U.S.  .  I’d love to see some comments on these bikes from guys that are really up on the Nortons.