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Norton posted by

The Smoker You Drink, the Player You Get: 1974 Norton John Player Special

One has to wonder if Joe Walsh wasn’t contemplating the Norton John Player Special when the Barnstormers released their seminal album. A blatant tobacco advert in the form of racing sponsorship, the John Player Special was essentially a stone stock Norton Commando with novel bodywork. This was a pure marketing play that intended to drive boatloads of customers to Norton’s door, but instead created a true icon; a limited production, very rare edition that would escalate in value in the passing decades.

1974 Norton John Player Special for sale on eBay

The most expensive of the Nortons parked in front of the dealer shop, the John Player Special (JPS for short if you like your acronyms), was a classic British twin wrapped in the cloak of sporty intentions. The bodywork was novel; clean at the rear, with real race bike intent, and more of an endurance look up front with the bar ends covered. The elephant in the showroom, however, was the full frontal view: massive twin headlights with a massive gap between them. It was a love it or hate it moment, not entirely unlike the Ducati 999 debacle that erupted 30 years later. The look is polarizing, but the remainder of the silhouette remains classic and charming.

From the seller:
1974 John Player Special Norton 850cc Commando Factory Competition Replica

One of the nicest JPS Norton’s in existence. She starts, runs, shifts and stops like new, watch the video below. Her condition is near mint… With the exception of the original racing body work in amazing condition, this JPS Norton has only 2 brake-in miles! since a nut and bold restoration completed this summer by SoloMoto in Greenwich, CT and is a proper collectors bike. Aside for two small blemishes on the original faring, she is utterly mint.

More from the seller:
Back Ground: The Norton Road race team sponsorship by the John Player tobacco company was a new commando model, the John Player Norton – or “JPS” for short. It was announced for the 1974 sale season, equipped with a streamlined, twin headlight half fairing and matching tank/seat unit in the John Player livery. Beneath the endurance-race inspired bodywork was a standard issue MK2A Commando 850. The “gas tank” is actually a fiberglass cover hiding an elongated steel roadster tank buffered by rubber mounting on the isolastic frame to reduce vibration. This was the first introduction of the revolutionary feather bed frame.

JPS this is unique and special model, production totaling for 1974 & 75 is only about 200units, with only 120 shipped to the US. The factory JPN won 14international races including the Transatlantic Trophy, the Formula750cc Isle of Man TT, the British 750cc Championship and the MCN Superbike Championship.

Today’s example has seen some restoration work, and the paintwork appears to be bright in color. The white mag wheels are an interesting add on, with the factory JPS bikes sporting laced-up spoke wheels. Those wheels practically make the bike appear brighter than stock, which makes me wonder if the main fairings were repainted a slightly different color than stock. The tail paint also appears slightly different than the standard JPS, as the red paint does not go up all the way to the top of the tail – but again, that could be my eyes or my lack of knowledge of the intricate variants of the model run. Finally, the stripe under the windscreen with the Union Jack does not appear in any of the catalogs or brochures I researched. But again, I do not claim to be an aficionado of the model, and acknowledge that there may be differences across so few bikes from a small vendor. There are some minor marks in the paint in a couple of places, and the fairing bodywork does appear to be delaminating on both sides where the flat edges meet the sides. Mechanically, this bike is said to have gone through a complete nut and bolt restoration, so that should bode well for the next rider. The pipes are not stock, but should emit quite the bark at full song. You can check out all of the details on this one HERE, and be sure to share your thoughts on the JPS. Do you love it, or does the bug-eye look scare you away? Good Luck!!



  • Needs wire wheels IMHO.

  • Those white wheels are impossiblly white. They look ultrasonically cleaned. That just does not exist at that age. It blowns my mind.

  • Of course, Jay Leno has a perfect, stock JPS. I like the JPS’s styling. I believe the wide spacing between the headlights copies a French endurance race team fairing (Sonauto?). Interesting note: the JPS bikes had a faster top speed than the Comando’s due to the fairing’s aerodynamics, despite the JPS being about 30 lbs. heavier.
    Were these wheels a option? What make are they? Are they magnesium?

  • Also, I imagine Peter Williams was involved with development of this fairing due to his involvment w/ the Norton JPS factory racers. He had a pretty good understanding of motorcycle aerodynamics.

  • Odd claim that this machine was the first showing of the Featherbed frame, as the Featherbed was introduced for race bikes circa 1950 and was never used on the later Commando models, being discontinued with the Atlas era if memory serves.
    And yes those wheels look a bit naff, wrapping a stock Commando in a copy of a race fairing was really just marketing, akin to the Mike Hailwood Replica of later fame.
    Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, personally the earlier simpler fastback and roadster with peashooter upswept pipes were the ones to lust after for me, although in reality at this stage the Japanese manufacturers were in the process of murdering the British factories who were still churning out dinosaurs with pushrod motors, preunit construction, and horrendous electrics( Joe Lucas, Prince of Darkness etc)
    Still the Commando is a desirable thing, rattles and all

  • The wheels on this bike are CMA wheels from the uk . A very popular after market wheel from the late 70,s to early 80,s .

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