1970 Kenny Dreer Norton VR880 for Sale

The British biking industry has recently undergone a renaissance, with Triumph’s modern machines winning comparison tests and awards.  They compete with the clinical precision of the Japanese Big Four by offering something a bit different: a potent combination of just slightly left-of-center styling and real-world performance.

But it wasn’t always that way.

By the mid 1970’s, the British biking industry was well into its decline, and wouldn’t really reemerge until Triumph’s current era: they simply existed in the 80’s and 90’s, limping along with models that couldn’t truly compete with the Japanese offerings, except in terms of the abstract qualities of “character” and “nostalgia”.

Norton wasn’t so lucky.

In a saga reminiscent of so many Italian brands of cars and bikes, the brand disappeared and resurfaced under different ownerships, with varying ideas of what a British bike should be.  Some seemed to be aiming to make the bike into the “Lamborghini of British Motorcycles”, missing out on the honest, real-world appeal of the classic bikes.

But one man involved more recently had a better idea.

Kenny Dreer owned and operated a vintage bike shop in Portland Oregon, restoring and rebuilding vintage British and Italian bikes.  In the Late 90’s, he began building his VR880, which was basically a “resto-mod”, a ground-up rebuild of an old bike using many modern improvements and a bored-out motor.  He eventually progressed to manufacturing new machines using his upgraded design of the vintage bike and produced an number of his new, hand-built 961 SS Norton’s before financial problems caused production to cease.

The bike for sale is one of his original experiments: a massively rebuilt classic Norton Commando that, from the video, starts, literally “on the button”:

Start Up Video

Considering that the original Norton electric start was considered more of an “electric assist”, that alone seems a pretty significant achievement.

This bike should be a nearly perfect Norton: rebuilt to as-new condition and improved in every way possible while remaining absolutely true to the original style and feel of the original bikes.  The “idea” of a 70’s Norton distilled.

You can find the original listing here: Kenny Dreer Norton VR880 for Sale

I’ve no idea what this bike is really worth: the seller claims only 50 were made.  Bidding is up to about $14,000, with several days left.  If you’re into old Nortons, it’s certainly a bike that should not disappoint.

-tad

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1 Response

  1. Tom Parker says:

    I’m working on a documentary about Kenny. There were actually less than 50 of these made. The number I’ve heard quoted most often is 48. One of those is in the National Motorcycle Museum in the UK. The bike belonging to Kenny’s backer Ollie Curme sits unused in a storage container. So at most there are only 46 of these that you might ever see on the road.

    It’s impossible to overstate Kenny’s attention to detail. On David Edwards’ bike, Kenny machine the heads of the allen bolts to make them look a little slimmer. These are truly works of art

    The last one of these I saw (also a Paul Sr. bike, I think–he had two) went for about $16,000.