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For the term "john player".

Ahead of Its Time: 1974 John Player Norton Commando for Sale

1974 Norton Commando JPN Fairing Front

You’d be forgiven for not realizing that this very strange-looking John Player Norton Replica is, under the skin, a Commando: buyers didn’t know quite what to do with this at the time, either. It’s a bit of an evolutionary “missing link” in terms of sportbike design, effectively bridging the gap between earlier bullet-like dustbin fairings and modern designs as seen on the first-generation GSX-R750. Cutting-edge design unfortunately cuts both ways: while theoretically new ideas should excite consumers, manufacturers always run the risk that their revolutionary machines will actually alienate their core audience. Take the Pierre Terblanche-styled Ducati 999 for example: the bike was, in virtually every way, an improvement over the beloved 916 and the design was a complete departure for Ducati. The 999 is finally, grudgingly being accepted as a classic design but when new it was too much of a departure, too new, too alien to be the follow up Ducatisti were waiting for. And sales were disappointing.

1974 Norton Commando JPN R Fairing

The John Player Norton Replica suffered a similar fate. Named after the famous British tobacco company, the few made didn’t find an audience at first and some languished unsold for years. Keep in mind that the whole concept of collectable motorcycles is relatively new, and few people were interested in race-replicas or limited editions. On the upside, if the odd styling captures your imagination, this should offer no real challenge to ride and maintain: aside from gearing changes to take advantage of the bike’s improved top-speed potential, the bike is basically a stock Norton Commando.

1974 Norton Commando JPN L Tank

It uses the 828cc version of Norton’s famous parallel-twin engine and four-speed box found in the 850 Commando. A short-stroke 750 was also available for buyers that planned to race their machines in the US, although I’ve never seen one come up for sale and I’m not sure exactly how many of the 200 total machines took advantage of this option.

1974 Norton Commando JPN L Seat

From the original eBay listing: 1974 John Player Norton Commando for Sale

Very, very nice John Player Special. These do not come up very often. Many, many more vintage motorcycle available…

The seller then goes on to list a number of other vintage machines they have available. Which is great, but a bit of that space could have been used to answer some questions about this machine: does it run? What work, maintenance, or upgrades have been done to the bike in question? Aside from the fact that it has 12,465 miles on it so we know it’s not been sitting its whole life, we’re left to guess. I’m sure the seller is probably expecting prospective buyers to ask appropriate questions. But although these are pretty rare, with just 120 shipped to the US, they’re not impossible to find, and many buyers want to do their initial research without having to reach out to the seller. It’d also be great to see some better pictures of this very distinctive machine, although the close-up shots do show some great detail and give a pretty good idea of the overall condition.

-tad

1974 Norton Commando JPN L Fairing

Retro-Futuristic: 1974 John Player Norton Replica Replica for Sale

1974 John Player Norton R Side FrontWell, this John Player Norton Replica isn’t American, but at least it’s red, white and blue to celebrate the Fourth of July…

Of course, “John Player” wasn’t a person. This bike was from the era of motor racing when cigarette sponsorship reigned supreme, and John Player was actually the name of a British tobacco giant. Its bones are mostly stock Norton Commando, no bad thing considering the well-known performance potential of that bike. This example features Norton’s 828cc “850” engine and four-speed gearbox, although a short-stroke 750 was available for riders who planned to race their bikes in the US.

1974 John Player Norton L SideWith largely stock underpinnings, aside from taller gearing to capitalize on the bike’s improved aerodynamics, it’s that angular, bug-eyed fairing that was the main selling point. Or not, as was the case when new. It’s important to realize that the concept of collectible race-replicas and limited-edition bikes wasn’t really established in the early 1970’s. Old cars and old bikes were mostly just that: obsolete. No one was really buying them with an eye towards appreciating value since, in the early 1970’s, it hadn’t really occurred to anyone that might even be a thing. 1974 John Player Norton CockpitSo a bike with shockingly futuristic styling, with race-replica graphics and a much higher price, produced in limited numbers to seemingly stimulate collectors was an idea before its time, and these didn’t sell particularly well when new. Just 200 were believed to have been built, with 120 shipped to America. 1974 John Player Norton R Side EngineInterestingly, this particular bike is not an original JPL, but is a replica of a replica, built from kits available at the time the bike was new. It looks to be in beautiful shape, and might be a great opportunity to get a very striking machine for much less than you’d pay for the real thing.

From the original eBay listing: 1974 John Player Norton 850 Replica for Sale

The John Player Norton (quickly abbreviated JPN) was introduced in late 1973 and reached the public in April 1974. Many people think it was put together by the race team, but only the production racers were built by the race team, not the John Players. In actuality, the JPN was either built at Andover, in a separate facility, or on the main production line at Norton’s Wolverhampton factory.

Most JPNs went to the United States. It’s believed that of the approximately 200 JPNs made, 120 were sent to the U.S. All factory JPNs (as opposed to home-built copies) were made in 1974, with the shifter on the right and 30mm intake ports. Tapered manifolds connected the ports to 32mm Amal Concentric carburetors. The front brake was a disc, the rear a drum. All factory JPNs had forged aluminum brackets on the back of the fairing. There are some copies floating around, but these have welded brackets.

Unfortunately, the JPN banked on a collector’s market that did not then exist. To most potential buyers, the fairing and twin headlights looked weird instead of fashion forward. Young men looking to lure the fairer sex objected to the lack of a passenger seat, while other buyers objected to the price tag. At $2,995 — $495 over a standard Commando — it was the most expensive production Commando. JPNs sat on dealership floors. To make matters worse, John Player Tobacco quit sponsoring Norton at the end of 1974. And that was the end of the John Player Norton.

This is an excellent example of one of these classic motorcycles- while it is NOT one of the original 200 built- it is an authentic replica of the JPN replicas in that Sprint offered the body pieces as a kit for sale back in that era  – this is one of those kits placed on a VERY LOW MILEAGE 1974 Commando – and while the tank underneath the fairing is a standard tank – we do have an extended matte finish tank (which needs to be fitted) and it will accompany the bike – all in all a great little collectible to take to rallies and show off to your friends!  Even the kit bikes are Rare as hen’s teeth and this one runs like a dream.

1974 John Player Norton DashThere are just about 8 hours left on this auction, and bidding is up to just about $6,000 as of writing. These are certainly odd-looking, a design from an alternate future that never happened, like a space rocket from a Buster Crabbe “Flash Gordon” episode. But the Norton Commando underpinnings mean that parts are available, and a huge support community exists to keep them running and make them faster, so if you fancy something that will turn heads at your next vintage bike meet, this might be a great way to pick up a bit of history on the cheap.

-tad 1974 John Player Norton L Side

No Haters: 1974 John Player Norton 850 in Denmark

1974 JPN L Front

In spite of all the race-replica motorcycles named after their riders like this week’s Eddie Lawson Replica Kawasaki, the John Player Norton was not actually named after a particular rider. It was named after the British tobacco company that sponsored Norton’s race teams and the distinctive looks effectively bridge the 1960’s half-fairing sportbike style of the Ducati Super Sport and the later, fully-faired GSX-R750.

1974 JPN R Side

For the most part, it’s a Norton Commando under the skin and features the same strengths and weaknesses of those bikes. The main changes were cosmetic, with the wild, twin-headlamp bodywork and solo-seat tail section. Road-going examples used Norton’s standard 828cc parallel-twin and four-speed gearbox, although an optional short-stroke 750cc version was available for US race classes.

This one looks to be in excellent shape, and is fitted with the road-oriented “850,” rather than the short-stroke engine, and is currently located in Denmark.

1974 JPN L Rear

From the original eBay listing: 1974 John Player Norton 850 for Sale

This is a very, very cool bike.

Up for your consideration is a 1974 Norton John Player 850.  (It’s kind of like a Commando but my boss says don’t call it that…)

From the sales brochure:

“Limited production run of this eye-catching luxury machine for the connoisseur.  Powered either by the high torque 850 unit to provide outstanding flexibility for the highways or by the 750 c.c. short-stroke high output engine as a base for competition.  White fibreglass fairings give the same aggressive appearance as the machines which carried the Norton name to yet one more victory in the 1973 Isle of Man T.T.  This model offers the ultimate in exciting high performance motorcycling combining style with comfort, speed and safety.”

“Features Twin double-dip headlamps with halogen light units if required; high output alternator with twin zener diode charge control.  Rear set footrests, brake and gearchange pedals; clip-on handlebars.  3½ gallon (15 litre) steel petrol tank.  Access to flip cap through quick-release cover in the styling.  Access to steel oil tank by lifting seat panel.”

This bike comes from a good a respectable home where it has accrued only 12,198 original miles over its lifetime.

1974 JPN Dash

While somewhat awkward in appearance, the JPL has undeniable presence and is historically significant, an evolutionary step to the sportbikes of today. Approximately 200 are believed to have been made in 1974, their only year of manufacture. At the time, they were not especially desirable and were difficult for dealers to unload but this, as so often seems to be the case, simply makes them rarer and more valuable now.

There’s very little time on this auction, so move quickly if this strikes your fancy!

-tad

1974 JPN L Side

The tale of two John Player Nortons

$_57

Norton and their Winning Ways were making a comeback in the 1970’s, and with the backing of John Player Tobacco Company, they were back on the track. The Norton Atlas had grown into the Norton Commando, and with the addition of a rubber isolation system, the vibration was tamed, and with a total of 850cc, the Norton became a Super Bike, again. These two John Player Norton’s may be “paint editions” and not have the twin headlight fairing to emulate the JPN endurance racers, but you are getting possibly the pinnacle and swan song Norton.

$_57 (3)

From the first seller

For sale is my 1975 Mk.3 Norton Commando John Player paint edition. The bike has had a full engine rebuild with forged JE pistons, Black Diamond valves, Superblend bearings, re-sleeved Amals, Boyer ignition, new camshaft, upgraded starter wiring, and new British made peashooter mufflers.The iso’s were also rebuilt….Bike has new British made stainless steel rims with new spokes in stock size and has new Dunlop Roadholder K81’s with maybe 1000 miles total since I mounted them….The bike was repainted very nicely in it’s stock JPS paint scheme. The seat cover is in nice shape but the foam should at some point be replaced or better yet, upgrade to a Corbin seat.

$_57 (2)

Both of these bikes offer electric starters. These were first offered in 1975, also introduced in 1975 was something that wasn’t new, but something required by the Design Company that is the United States regulation committee. They said that all motorcycle have to have the brake on the right, and shifters on the left. This Design Company that was the United States ruined a lot of good designs, both motorcycle and automobiles.

$_57 (4)

From the second seller

1975 Norton Commando John Player Edition. Numbers Matching, Excellent original condition,  down to the black cap silencers and very well maintained. Includes detailed service records since new. I purchased this from the original owner who bought the bike new from the Norton Dealer in MN. The mileage and paint is original with service records to back it up. Starts and runs excellent, doesn’t smoke and the carb is tuned to idle at that perfect Norton low rumble. The electric starter has been rebuilt and upgraded to the 4-brush starter, it works great (it will also start first kick, if you prefer to kick start it). The original air box, tool kit and service manual will be included in the final sale. I put about 400 trouble free miles on it last year.

$_57 (5)

Now it was difficult to get a sense of the difference between the full fairing JPN replica racers and the John Player paint edition, but I was able to find the below numbers for performance. The key may be in that the JPN full fairing seems to have been offered for 1974-75, and the electric start from 1975-78. The Tobacco Company left the Norton racing effort rather quickly and it would make sense that they would not want to advertise a sponsor that was no longer sponsoring Norton. Something else that these two auctions might give is a sense of how much buyers value original pain. At the time of this writing the first Norton John player with its re-paint has 9 bids up to $5700. The second Norton John Player with its original paint has 30 bidders up to $10,000. BB

John Player Norton Commando
Years produced:
 1974
Total production: 200 (est.)
Claimed power: 50hp @ 5,900rpm
Top speed: 115mph (est.)
Engine type: 828cc air-cooled OHV parallel twin
Weight (dry): 435lb (198kg)
Price then: $2,995
MPG: 40-50

 

$_57 (6)

1974 John Player Norton Commando 850

1974 Norton JPN L Front

Built to capitalize on Norton’s racing efforts of the 70’s the John Player Norton is an odd-looking beast, with twin, endurance-style headlamps in an aerodynamic fairing. While the styling is, to my eye, slightly ungainly, it’s interesting in that it seems to straddle two eras: it’s far more modern and angular than bikes like Ducati’s SS and not quite as origami as 80’s Japanese machines would become.

If you’re wondering who “John Player” was, he wasn’t: John Player was a British cigarette manufacturer that sponsored Norton’s racing efforts of the period.  Basically, it’s a Commando, Isolastics and all, with radically different bodywork and taller gearing.  Most featured Norton’s iconic 850 [828cc] engine, but they could also be had with the short-stroke 750 that was homolgated for Norton’s US racing efforts.

1974 Norton JPN L Rear

The eBay listing is very brief: 1974 John Player Norton 850 for Sale

An iconic bike at the peak of English Motorcycle dominance; 1 of 200 made – with far fewer still around; Matching serial numbers, lovingly restored and a gas to drive; Electronic ignition, Oil Cooler. The Norton 850 JPN is a unique and special motorcycle. Garaged for past 30 years. Rarely does one as nice as this comes to the market.

1974 Norton JPN L Side

As the listing mentions, it’s believed that of the approximately 200 JPNs made,  with 120 shipped to the U.S.  All were made in 1974.  At the time, the bike was the “answer to a question nobody asked” we see so often when looking at collector bikes: what sold poorly at the time often becomes desirable decades later, as innovation and forward-thinking design that were frightening at the time are finally recognized.

There are still a few days left on this auction, and the reserve has not yet been met.  The bidding is still on the low side for these: they can fetch as much as $15,000 from the right buyer if they’re in good condition.
-tad
1974 Norton JPN R Side

1974 John Player Special Norton

I have not had this conversation before, but I bet many vintage motorcycle enthusiast look at an old bike and think, “I bet Jay Leno has one of those.” And since I have been to his Big Dog Garage web site, and spent time looking at the videos of Jay and his Motorcycles, I know that he does have a John Player Norton like this 1974 JPS offered up on eBay now.

From the seller

John Player Norton 850 in perfect condition. Matching engine and frame numbers. Not one scratch on it. Absolutely no rust. Original Dunlop rims with stainless steel spokes and nipples. Original speedometer and tachometer, black chrome exhaust system, factory clip-ons. Featured on the front cover of Motorcycle Collector magazine April 1994. They only made 200 of these models, and this is an authentic John Player Norton. Stainless braided overhead oil line and stainless braided front brake hose. Original rear shocks rebuilt inEnglandby Rustler Racing. Original Amal carbs re-sleeved by Mike Gaylord and rebuilt by Phil Radford at Fair Spares America. Phil also completely rebuilt the entire engine, gearbox, clutch, and front disc brake. Wiring harness is original. Fitted with Boyer electronic ignition, Lucas 6-volt coils, and Mk3 isolastic engine mounts front and rear. Motorcycle has covered only 1437 miles since Phil completely rebuilt engine and gearbox. Original mirrors, factory rearsets. Starts first kick. An eye-catching machine, low production, very rare to find one in such outstanding condition. I have owned and ridden this JPN since 1979. Currently fitted with Dunlop K81 TT100 tires and registered with clear title.

I think if you have been researching Nortons, or own one, some of the names that the seller drop mean more to you then me. But what this usually tells me is that the sell has spent a lot of money, and time, sending bits and parts of the bike to competent individuals to put them right. (I could drop some BMW names as easily.)

Based on the Commando line from Norton the JPS was a celebration of the Sponsorship of the tobacco company in Norton’s success on the race track. The Norton on the track was one of the first to use a Monocoque frame, but the street version is all fiberglass. In fact because of laws, there is a steel gas tank under all that pretty white glass.

The other thing under all that glass is a 829cc Norton Commando engine which will generate 60hp at 6200rpm fed by a pair of 32mm Amals. Don’t forget this is a push-rod engine originally designed by Bert Hopwell in the 1940’s. Though it might look Japanese with its full fairing and Dual Endurance inspired headlights, underneath it is still a British Twin. But that is not a bad thing. BB

1974 John Player Norton

We have highlighted a John Player Norton here on CSBFS and given a little bit of history on our previous post. This JPN offered today on eBay looks to be in great condition from the cramped pictures offered. Get that guy in the back to help you move the Corvette and take the bike outside for some good pictures.

From the seller

1974 Norton John Player . This is a one owner bike purchased in California from a Norton dealer in 1975. Completely original, … Documented original mileage of 4455 miles. Never laid down ,motor never opened up…starts right up. everything works, electrical, hydraulics etc. This is a no -stories bike. Pair of NOS-chrome mufflers still in their boxes come with the bike. Original calif. pink-slip,…mint condition. This bike is very much one of a kind,..a great collector opportunity.

When the JPN came out, Endurance racing was all the rage in Europe, and the full fairing and dual headlights were a tribute to the success that Norton was having. But once again America was behind the trends and the John Player Norton’s that did end up on these shores often sat unsold. Once again, what was once unwanted has become wanted.

To tell you the truth, as I mentioned in a previous post, I am heading to Bonneville Speed Week in about 24 hours, and I was looking for a motorcycle that I could pick up to go racing. And with the full fairing, claimed 60hp at 6200rpm I am thinking that I could roll this off the trailer and go fast. Wish me luck. BB

So you want to be a player? 1974 John Player Norton

For Sale: 1974 John Player Norton

Here we have a very classic Norton – a John Player model – with only 15,636 miles. The bike is not restored and far from perfect, but looks to be very original in terms of condition, parts and patina.

The John Player Norton was a street-going machine intended to invoke the famed racers of the day. As with most competition, the “win on Sunday, sell on Monday” applies to motorcycles as well. Still, the JPN model is pretty rare in relative terms. For more information on the JPN model, check out this excellent post by fellow CSBFS contributor Brian.

From the seller:
This is believed to be an authentic John Player Norton in spite of the chrome exhaust system. It is titled as a 1975, however, the engine and gearbox numbers are 316923 which appears to mean a June/July 1974 production date. Not sure of the frame number. I purchased it in 2002 from a neighbor who indicated he had owned it for about 10 years and bought it from a dealer in Olympia, WA. The black exhaust system (in good condition) comes with the bike. It has been stored since 2004. It ran well when I bought it and turns over now, but has not been started since going into storage. At some point the frame was painted red, but is black underneath. The wheel rims have some surface rust. The fairing is in good condition except for the scrape indicated in the picture. The lefthand edge of the plexiglass windscreen broke off and has been glued back on. With these exceptions, the bike is in very good condition for its age.

If you can get past the bug-eyed front view, these are pretty neat bikes. They are reasonably rare, historically significant, and decent riders. This one is not perfect, but all the pieces are there should you want to make it so.

This auction is underway, and the bidding has brought the bike up to $5,500 at the time of this writing – with reserve still in place. Top condition bikes run from $12,000 – $15,000, so this one is still well below fair dollar. There have been a high number of bidders on this bike, which indicates good interest. To check it out or even jump into the fray (there’s always room for one more bidder!), . Good Luck!

MI

1975 John Player Norton

Why be so short with such a great bike? I know those that are looking for a John Player Norton know what it is, but what about all those people that just want to kick the tyres?

John Player was a cigarette manufacture in England who sponsored almost every kind of sport, including Norton for Endurance racing. Designer Mick Olfields arrival at Norton coincided with their success in racing and his first project was to bring the celebrated endurance racer to the street.The John Player sponsored motorcycle was very different, being one of the first to use Monocoque design, but used the reliable parallel twin. The John Player for the street numbers claimed 50hp @ 5,900 rpm. Top speed was estimated at 115mph all for a price of $2,999 when new. 

Underneath, the street bike is based on the Norton Commander of the 1970’s. The body work was a copy of  the dual headlight and full fairing necessary when racing for long hours at high speed through the night. Because fiberglass was illegal for tanks, the molded body work includes a tank over the steel gas tank underneath. There were reported only 200 made, you will see more replicas then survivors, so it is important to know the key differences if you are going to spend this kind of money. This may help.

The bike offered here is in Houston is strait and to the point.

From the seller and only two pictures

1975 John Player Norton
New Rebuild
SS Spokes
New chrome rims
Boyer Ignition
Fresh paint

$15000 or best offer

Luckily I spend a lot of time on the Internet and may have found a sort of “build thread” for this bike. It even tells one of the secrets to disquise the really thing from replicas. I cannot be sure, but the “after” picture by the builder is the same one posted by the seller, bother builder and seller are in Texas. Draw your own conclusions.

BB

Better Than New: 1974 Norton VR880 Kenny Dreer Commando

1974 Norton VR880 L Side

The original resto-mod, the Kenny Dreer VR880 was basically a vintage Norton Commando with most of the quirks ironed out and all of the character left in. Unlike John Player, Kenny Dreer was an actual person, a vintage bike restorer with a shop in Portland, Oregon that specialized in British and Italian bikes.

1974 Norton VR880 Engine Detail

The VR880 was the culmination of his experience, a low volume “production” machine that was basically a ground-up restoration that featured modern components wherever possible for reliability, and a bored-out motor for thumping British power. The VR880 gave way to the 961SS before financial problems called a halt to the operation.

1974 Norton VR880 Rear Suspension

From the polished aluminum tank and tail to the vented primary cover, this thing just embodies the very best of what people love about classic British twins. I’d just change those very, very ugly white-faced gauges for something a little more traditional-looking.

1974 Norton VR880 Clocks

From the original eBay listing: 1974 Kenny Dreer VR880 Norton Commando for Sale

Up for sale is my 1974 Kenny Dreer VR880 Norton Commando that is all original and in outstanding condition with only 1,138.5 miles. Kenny Dreer built a total of 50 VR880’s and only 5 were built with aluminum tank, sidecovers and rear fender. Mine is one of the 5. I did a lot of research and found out the brother of the original owner of my bike ordered a VR880 from Kenny and had a bad accident and totaled the bike leaving only 4 aluminum built bikes remaining. The aluminum work was hand formed by Evan Wilcox. As you can see in the pictures I have all the original paperwork, the original purchase agreement signed by Kenny Dreer and the Serial number on the purchase agreement matches that of the bike, I also have the dyno test for the bike. The bike still has the original tires from when the bike was built. I believe there isn’t another VR880 with all the paperwork that goes along with it to be found. The bike should be in a museum or with a serious collector.

No arguing there. It’s certainly got a few nicks and bits of wear and tear, but patina is what many people want from a vintage British motorcycle, so that shouldn’t deter anyone from a purchase. As the seller indicates, these are very rare in any configuration and, while the price will be somewhere north of $14,000 when the dust settles, that’s a pretty fair price for a well-tuned and heavily updated Norton.

-tad

1974 Norton VR880 R Side