Category: Norton

One Owner 1975 Norton 850 Commando with Under 3k Miles!


When are you going to see this again?! A one owner Norton 850 with a little over 2,700 miles!

I’m thinking about reviving this website. Shoot me an email if you’d like to be a contributor!

dc

1975 Norton 850 Commando For Sale on eBay

from the seller:

1975 Norton 850 Commando electric start, in a rare condition, all Original, 1 Owner, everything is clean and works, No accidents, No repaint, 2,755 mi. Runs great / I have all the paper work

Old Yellow: 1971 Norton 750cc Production Racer for Sale

1971 Norton Commando Racer L Side

Phil Schilling was an ex-racer most famous for being the editor of Cycle magazine and for his involvement in the creation and racing of the classic hot-rod Ducati named Old Blue. But as with any good motorcycle enthusiast, his tastes were varied, and apparently this bright yellow Norton Commando production racer was built to his specifications.

1971 Norton Commando Racer R Side Engine

Norton’s old-school approach to motorcycle construction may not have been cutting-edge at the time, but means that they’re relatively simple to work on, many parts are interchangeable between models [see: Triton], and plenty of the reliability issues can be addressed with updated parts or regular attention. And while many bikes at the time boasted more advanced specification and design, Nortons were fast, powerful, and handled well.

1971 Norton Commando Racer Dash

A steady increase in displacement to keep Norton’s power competitive with rivals and appeal to US buyers meant unacceptable levels of vibration. Parallel-twins are extremely compact and far simpler to manufacture than v-twins, but they do tend to vibrate more when not fitted with modern luxuries like engine counter-balancers. By the time the Norton twin was punched out to the race-legal 745cc likely found in this bike, vibration was enough of an issue that a solution was needed. Instead of rubber-mounting the bars, pegs, seat, and anything else that might interact with the rider, their innovative Isolastic system used a system of rubber mounts to insulate the engine itself. It works great when properly set up but, like all rubber bushings, they need regular attention: worn Isolastics can mean scarily unpredictable handling.

1971 Norton Commando Racer Kick

From the original eBay listing: 1971 Norton 750cc Production Racer for Sale

The ex-Phil Schilling 1971 Norton Commando 750cc Production Racer, Fully Documented, to AMA 750 Spec, 1 of 1!

Frame #: 145102 Engine #: 145102

Its innovative vibration-beating Isolastic frame enabled the Commando to prolong the life of Norton’s aging parallel twin. Launched in 1967, the model was an instant hit with the motorcycling public, being voted Motor Cycle News ‘Machine of the Year’ for five consecutive years. A true ‘skunkworks’ project, the Production Racer was introduced for 1971 and hand-assembled at Norton race manager Peter Inchley’s famous ‘Long Shop,’ a hangar at the old Thruxton air base. A homologation special built for little more than one season to qualify for various 750cc road racing series, the street-legal ‘Proddy Racer’ was the fastest/quickest Commando made, capable of 130mph as delivered with a list price double that of standard Commandos. Credit for the performance goes to the blueprinted engine, meticulously assembled with high-compression pistons, factory 3S racing camshaft, ported cylinder head, larger valves and polished internals, good for at least an additional 10bhp over an assembly-line Commando. Handling likewise was improved upon thanks to test rider Peter Williams, also an excellent development engineer, who could simply throw open the hangar doors and commence to hot-lapping the adjacent Thruxton race circuit. It certainly did the bike’s credibility not one iota of harm when Williams and co-rider Charlie Sanby took a Production Racer to victory in the 1970 Thruxton 500 endurance race.

While records aren’t definitive, it is believed that fewer than 200 Production Racers were made, perhaps as few as 120.

The example on offer here, is a tad more special than the average, incredibly rare Norton Proddie Racer. The bike was built for Executive Editor of Cycle magazine and famed racer, Phil Schilling. A great collector of classic machines, Schilling sensed the collectability of the Norton, so had Peter Williams personally build him the ultimate iteration of the ultimate Commando.

The engine is much wilder than that of the standard Production Racer, with a host of trick parts. The engine was built to the same specification of Williams’ AMA750cc Class Special with Norvil ‘Triple S’ cams, high 10.25:1 compression pistons, big 32mm Amal Concentric carbs and twin megaphone exhausts. A Quaife five-speed gearbox replaced the standard item.

Fork sliders and internals have been reworked for superior damping, while the swingarm bushing was totally revised, and the arm itself was lengthened. A 6-gallon gas tank replaces the standard Production Racer item.

The bike was extensively tested by Peter Williams on the Thruxton track before delivery in August of 1971.

This amazing piece of Norton history is accompanied by a letter from Norton Villiers’ Chairman, R. D. Poore to Cook Nielson at Cycle magazine discussing the delivery of the “Schilling Norton”, original spec sheets from Norton, and the magazine article, scans attached to the listing.

I have confirmed the factory records, which say that Engine/Frame number 145102 was recorded as a racer, dispatched to Berliner, the US distrivutor, on August 4th, 1971.

This irreplaceable historically significant bike has been on static display in a very prominent collection of high-end motorcycles, and, as such, some re-commissioning will need to be undertaken before returning to the track.

There’s very little time left on the listing, with a Buy It Now price of $29,000. That’s obviously huge money for a Norton Commando but, if the seller is to be believed, this is a one-of-a-kind motorcycle and would easily cost that much just to build a replica, ignoring the historic value. It’s tough to put a value on such a rare machine but, with no offers yet, this one might be priced just a bit too high. Certainly, the link to Schilling is pretty cool, but collectors seem to value actual race history and that may be affecting the sale on this one. Hopefully, the right buyer will find and prep this bike for some vintage racing. It’s what Phil would have wanted I’m sure.

-tad

1971 Norton Commando Racer R Side

Oooh, Shiny! 1974 Norton Commando Roadster

1974 Norton Commando R Side Front

Classic British motorcycles like this 1974 Norton Commando seem to have their devoted legions of fans for the same reasons American musclecars do: they’re relatively available, easy to tinker with and modify, and simple to make into a strong statement that reflects the individual owner, for better or for worse. Parts interchange between models and even brands, the basic engineering is solid, or at least straightforward to remedy, and there is huge aftermarket support.

Nortons of the period were a bit like the John Bloor’s resurrected Triumph of the 1990s: modular designs allowed the factory to tailor bikes to fit niche markets, like the Interstate that was clearly intended to speak to American fans. But after the 1973 shift from the 750 to the 850 version, they were all built around the 828cc engine in different states of tune.

1974 Norton Commando L Side Rear

They also featured Norton’s solution for the increasing vibration supplied by their ever-larger parallel twin. Parallel twins are compact and inexpensive to manufacture compared to a v-twin or multi. But while modern models use all sorts of balance-shaft trickery to prevent vision-blurring and hand-numbing vibration, bikes in the 1950s and 1960s relied on tricks like odd rubber footpegs [see: Benelli Tornado] or the sheer cussedness of the rider to combat fatigue.

1974 Norton Commando L Side Engine

Norton’s solution was the perfect example of plucky British workshed engineering: they basically used rubber mounts to isolate the engine, transmission, and swingarm from the rider. Those bits were left to vibrate happily while the rider racked up the miles in relative comfort. For such a simple concept, the Isolastic mounting system works very well but must be carefully maintained, as worn bushings can lead to vague and unpredictable handling.

1974 Norton Commando R Side

This particular machine’s classic looks actually suggest a 1950s machine to me, with all that bare, polished metal. But the builder has clearly spent a great deal of effort and money to update the bike functionally in as many ways as possible.

From the original eBay listing: 1974 Norton Commando for Sale

Custom build using the best parts available. I started with a 1974 frame and installed a 750 hi performance motor that I rebuilt for just such an occasion. Most if not all the parts are new or better than OEM replacements.

This is a partial list:
Engine # 20M3S 132501
New valves, springs, pistons and rings
High performance camshaft
Amal 32mm carbs
Dave Taylor head steady
Venhill braided Stainless rocker feed lines
“Big Bore” 1-1/2″ exhaust system
RGM Belt Drive Primary
Quaife polished gearbox case
Alton Electric start kit
Shorai Battery
Stainless steel transmission adjustment hardware kit
Jim Comstock hydraulic actuated clutch with Brembo Master cylinder
New drive chain with 21tooth countershaft sprocket
New polished Excel rims with stainless steel spokes and nipples
New Bridgestone tires
Hagon Shocks
Performance machine 4 piston caliper with Brembo Master cylinder
Baja Designs light switch / directional switch combo
Solid state charging system
Rebuilt gauges
Custom quartz headlight incorporating LED turn signals
RGM 3.5 gallon custom alloy gas tank
Custom alloy seat and Corbin gunfighter seat
New fork tubes, seals etc
Bucketloads of stainless steel hardware
New wiring harnesses

As you can see from the list, this is a serious amount of money invested in the parts alone. The Alton E-Start kit alone retails for $2495 and drives the crank directly without going through the primary so it spins the engine with very little effort. If you’re looking for something completely different, this is the one. I have ridden the bike to put some shakedown miles on it and everything is working well.

1974 Norton Commando R Side Rear

Oftentimes, it’s the perfectly preserved, completely original bikes that command the hearts and dollars of collectors. But the Commando seems to buck that trend, as long as the updates and modifications are the right updates and modifications… Bidding is currently up to $9,100.00 with the Reserve Not Met and a $14,995.00 Buy It Now option. Nortons were always easy to modify and lent themselves to tinkering, modifying, and improving. A bit like the MGB, you can just about build one from an aftermarket catalog, assuming you have a frame number to start with. This one seems to use the best of the old and the best of the new to create something that captures the classic British biking spirit.

It may not be to everyone’s taste, but it is very classic and the completed bike is very… polished.

-tad

1974 Norton Commando L Side

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

Frisky Featherbed: 1965 Norton Atlas for Sale

1964 Norton Dominator L Side

Often overlooked in favor of the more rakish Commando and more famous Triumph Bonneville, the Norton Atlas offers familiar British twin strengths with its own particular charms. The parallel twin may be the perfect motorcycle powerplant. Compact, simpler, and easier to package than a v-twin or inline-four, smoother and more sophisticated than a single, the layout was used extensively by the British biking industry in the 1960s and 1970s. Unfortunately, the layout’s Achilles heel is vibration, especially in larger displacement applications.

1964 Norton Dominator Engine

Certainly vibration was an issue as Norton’s twins grew past 500cc, eventually necessitating the Commando’s innovative Isolastic frame, but handling certainly wasn’t a problem for the Atlas: it was fitted with the famous “featherbed” frame, so named after racer Harold Daniell described the 1950 racebike that originally used a similar design as being so smooth and comfortable it was “like riding on a featherbed.”

1964 Norton Dominator Dash

Today’s example has been well-maintained and features some appropriate, period-correct updates and modifications along with tons of character and patina.

1964 Norton Dominator Primary

From the original eBay listing: 1965 Norton Atlas for Sale

This auction is for a very good example of a great British motorcycle, don’t overlook the Atlas model: they are very sought after on the other side of the pond and my personal experience has been that it has out performed my other similar Brit twins, Triumphs and BSAs included.

It is still a low mileage mostly original bike even has  the std size factory dished top pistons for low compression are still in their noticed them when I decarbonized the top end also that is the original seat covering in place.

Here is a list of repairs and up-grades that I have done since I owned the bike and It probably has only covered 7k afterwards(other bikes to ride)

6 start oil pump drive, cam chain replaced, mag chain replaced, oil distribution seal for crank changed, gearbox sprocket  changed, solid state voltage regulator, Boyer dual coil, 1968 Commando distributor in place of magneto with electronic ignition now starts with key.

Bob Newby primary belt drive, best on the market, cost $780 eliminated oil leaks from the badly designed steel primary cover and as an added benefit bike has less vibration also changed to the newer laminated style stator. Norvil pushrod seal conversion insures clutch stays dry.

Clutch now has a sweet take up and very light lever pull. 

If you are a  collector the Frame and Engine numbers do match. 

This  motorcycle is a collectible model that won’t depreciate with its slim line “featherbed frame” really is a joy to ride, extremely stable for a classic bike and can handle  100 mile weekend  day rides in the summer months even on the highway with no over-heating!

1964 Norton Dominator Front Wheel

The seller also includes a list of some original parts that are included. It’s obviously been enthusiast-owned and well cared for, although with no takers at the $5,500 starting bid, the seller may be aiming high, even considering the condition.

-tad

1964 Norton Dominator R Side

Working Class Hero: 1958 Triton for Sale

1958 Triton L Side

One of my favorite things about motorcycles is the seeming endless ways there are to mix and match parts to create new machines. Chain drive and fairly simple frames mean that it’s no big deal to say, sling an RD400 motor into the old GS500E you have lying around. But while many of these creations are born of necessity or just to see if it can be done, the classic Triton was a very functional motorcycle that actually managed to achieve some legitimacy among the motorcycling community.

1958 Triton R Side Engine

The Triton was a hybrid that used a Triumph parallel-twin engine and the famously excellent-handling Norton “featherbed” frame to create a seriously nimble motorcycle with good power and endless tuning potential. It also happens to be the name of the half-man, half-fish son of Poseidon in Greek mythology, something that the motorcycling community has sadly not capitalized on.

1958 Triton Dash

The choice of a Triumph engine might seem odd at first. After all, in stock form, it was actually a bit more powerful than the Triumph. But the Norton’s longer-stroke engine had a much higher piston speed and was considered less reliable, and a wealth of performance parts and tuning expertise were available for the Triumph as well.

1958 Triton L Side Engine

Interestingly, the non-unit design of both bikes meant that either four-speed gearbox could be used, although the Norton’s was generally considered superior. Really, all it took to make a Triton was a couple of donor bikes and a set of engine/transmission mounting plates, so it wasn’t too difficult to build one if you were reasonably competent with a set of tools, and plenty of these were built then and are being built today, so “authenticity” is hard to define and hard to verify.

From the original eBay listing: 1958 Triton for Sale

Ultimate Cafe Racer

1958 Norton Featherbed frame (Model 88)

1971 Triumph T120R engine with 4 speed transmission.

  • Unity Special Equipe UNAX2 Polished aluminum, Lyta style, 3 Gallon Short Circuit fuel tank.
  • Unity Wideline oiltank w/ battery holder
  • Unity Wideline Seat
  • Unity Fiberglass Fenders
  • Gold Star Silencers
  • Converta Engine plates
  • 4 Leading shoe Brake hubs
  • Akront Rims laced by Hagon
  • Far too many parts to list them all. For more information please feel free to contact us with your inquiries. 
  • Clocks show 269 Miles. Actual mileage is unknown. 
  • Was acquired from a museum. Rides and sounds wonderful. 

1958 Triton R Side Rear

I don’t know all that much about Tritons, but I know enough to know that they naturally vary a bit from bike to bike, since there’s no such thing as a “factory” example. These really do take the best bits and incorporate them into one of the most beautiful bikes of the era: everything is on display here, and looks purposefully industrial, but hand-crafted and decorative at the same time… So far, bidding is very slow, with the Reserve Not Met at $5,000 which is obviously well below where I expect this to sell, but maybe someone will manage to scoop a bargain with this one…

-tad

1958 Triton L Side Riding

Perfect Recreation: 1961 Norton Manx Replica for Sale

1961 Norton Manx Replica R Front

For many vintage motorcycle enthusiasts, the Commando is what first springs to mind when you mention Norton. But while that bike was stunning to look at and fast, its design wasn’t really cutting-edge, even when new. For vintage racing fans however, the name Norton probably conjures up images of this bike, the Norton Manx, a bike whose technical specification set the standard for privateer racing in a career that spanned 20 years, an almost impossible-to-imagine longevity in a sport where last year’s bike isn’t a classic, it’s just slow.

1961 Norton Manx Replica R Side Rear

The single-cylinder engine came in two flavors: 500 and 350cc’s. Both used reliable and precise bevel drive and tower shafts to work the dual overhead cams. But while the engine was sophisticated and reasonably powerful, it was just part of the picture and far from the bike’s defining characteristic. Instead, it was the bike’s “featherbed” frame that was the standout feature. The innovative frame was lightweight, stiff, and featured a swingarm rear for excellent roadholding that allowed it to compete against much more powerful machines.

1961 Norton Manx Replica Dash

Christened the Featherbed frame by racer Harold Daniel who described the experience of racing the bike like “riding on a featherbed.” That’s obviously a far cry from the “riding on a bedframe” experience of most motorcycles built when motorcycle frame technology was still in its infancy. But amazingly, the Manx was still winning races almost ten years later…

1961 Norton Manx Replica L Side Engine

So the bikes were stone-axe reliable, nimble, and made decent power, making them hugely versatile tools for the wide variety of events held during that period. In fact, the folks at Molnar will still be happy to build you a perfect replica of the original Manx today, if you have the cash…

From the original eBay listing: 1961 Norton Manx Replica for Sale

I have for sale here a “new” Norton Manx Replica.  This bike was built in the image of a 1961 Manx.  The bike is a re-creation, built to modern standards.  I am relisting the motorcycle with lower Buy It Now and lower reserve.  It was previously listed as a 1962 Manx Replica but Andy Molnar pointed out the single-sided brake is proper for 1961 and earlier, not 1962.

The bike’s features are:

  • New, never run, Molnar Precision Limited 500 cc. DOHC motor.  I have a copy of the original build sheet.
  • Believed new Mick Hemmings Quaife 5 spd. transmission.
  • New Molnar Precision Lightweight beltdrive
  • New Featherbed frame produced by Andover Norton
  • Newly strung alloy wheels, built by Buchanan on proper period magnesium hubs, all new bearings/axles
  • New Ken McIntosh oil and fuel tanks
  • New tachometer 
  • New Amal GP carburetor and Matchbox floatbowl
  • New controls including levers, throttle, rearsets and all cables
  • New seat
  • New exhaust pipe and megaphone
  • Number plates are alloy, not plastic, and new
  • All new nuts and bolts, proper Manx rifle-drilled where appropriate.  The number plate and fender bolts are aerodynamic stainless from Racing Norton
  • Rebuilt, period correct Featherbed forks, new internals, new rear suspension units
  • New alloy fenders
  • New fairing and windscreen

This bike has recently been professionally completed and as noted, has not been run, in respect for its “new” condition.  The Molnar motor was factory equipped with a PVL electronic racing ignition hidden in the stock magneto housing, and initial timing was set at the factory.  (NOTE:  If you intend to purchase this motorcycle to race in a class that prohibits electronic ignitions, I do have a newly rebuilt Lucas magneto that is available separately.)

Andy Molnar is well aware of this motor and will be pleased to discuss it with a purchaser.  The initial cost of the motor is roughly half the Buy It Now price.

An individual purchasing this motorcycle to display will be pleased with the beauty of the bike and the quality of construction and the fact that there has never been petrol or oil in the tanks (I believe this makes international shipping easier as well).  A racer acquiring the bike to compete will need to safety-wire as required by sanctioning bodies.

1961 Norton Manx Replica Shifter

Keep in mind that, in this case, “replica” is underselling it a bit. Molnar makes what are basically recreations of the original Manx bikes, similar to “continuation” Cobras. They’re the real deal in every way, except that they weren’t built fifty years ago. In many ways, this is actually more desirable to anyone who wants to use the bike in anger, since they won’t be risking an irreplaceable piece of racing history and will get a very authentic experience racing one of the most perfectly designed and executed motorcycles of all time.

-tad

1961 Norton Manx Replica L Side

Faster! Faster! Supercharged and Fuel Injected 1974 Norton 850 Commando

1974 Norton Commando SC L Side

Introduced in 1967 and displacing 745cc’s with pre-unit construction that was rather unimpressive in specification, Norton’s Commando was a development of the Atlas and distinguished by its simple but effective “Isolastic” engine-mounting system that allowed for the needed increase in displacement without the associated increase in paint-shaker vibrations. The Commando’s rakish leaned-over engine was largely a visual update to the engine, although Norton also claimed an improved center of gravity and increased space for carburetors and airbox.

1974 Norton Commando SC L Engine

So for vintage biking fans, the Norton Commando has it all: decent power, classic good looks, a great soundtrack, and tons of aftermarket and community support. All it really needs is a bit more poke and something to make it just that bit more exotic so it stands out in a crowd.

1974 Norton Commando SC Dash

Kawasaki have gotten a lot of ink recently with the introduction of their supercharged H2 and H2R bikes. While there have been a number of production turbocharged motorcycles, supercharging generally seems to suit motorcycles a bit better: the performance is more linear and the plumbing is much simpler.

1974 Norton Commando SC R Rear

Simply: a supercharger is generally belt-driven off the crankshaft and works as an air pump to cram more fuel/air mixture into the engine than would be available at normal atmospheric pressure. Technically, a turbocharger is also a type of supercharger, but is driven by exhaust gas instead of a belt, meaning power is determined by throttle-opening and revs. Turbos are a great way to get “free” horsepower, but since turbos are driven by exhaust gasses, you have to route all that air from the exhaust to the turbo and back into the engine. Something that’s generally not such a big deal with cars, but often difficult and very inconvenient on a bike.

1974 Norton Commando SC Oil Cooler

This particular Norton 850 Commando is fitted with a period Drouin supercharger unit. Period tests saw north of 100hp, up from the approximately 60hp produced by the stock unit. Early versions used a side-valve carburetor that apparently leaked, so this later, fuel-injected setup should be a big improvement.

From the original eBay listing: Supercharged and Fuel Injected 1974 Norton 850 Commando for Sale

A 1974 Norton 850 SC Commando with 13,669 original miles. A series of tasteful custom features adore this wonderful street bike. They include the following; Competition Fairing, Full instrumentation Package, Wickedly Beautiful Black Paint, Corbin Gun Fighter Seat, Carry On Tool Kit, Light Weight Front Fender, Back Dated & Vented Front Drum Brake, Custom Oil Lines, Twin Oil Coolers and the incredibly Rare Drouin Super Charger with Fuel Injection. 

The Drouin unit, Slide Throttle Fuel Injection unit and the Instrument Package were after market item that could have been purchased in the 1970’s, through the Norton dealer. The Drouin Super Charger and the Slide Throttle Fuel Injection unit are fully operational and produces amazing and quick 100 HP. The Fuel Injected Slide Throttle system was the very last iteration of the Drouin Super Charged series intake systems, therefore, being the most advanced and powerful. Upon riding this custom Norton there is sense of amazement in the additional torque and power that comes from the bike. It runs properly and smoothly. The shifting in precise and positive. The brakes are quite ample in bringing this bike to a halt. The tire have some age on them, but are quite usable. The fuel tank interior has been cleaned and sealed. 

The rear fender has some small dimples and a little discoloring. There is some very minor pitting on the wheels, a 1/8″ hole that had been drilled through the front, between the forks. Otherwise, this Norton 850 SC was shown recently at the prestigious “Riding Into History” Motorcycle show in May and was judged as a first runner up in the all Norton class, next to a very well known, twin engine Bonneville Norton. A spare Super Charger Drive Belt is included with the sale of the Norton, as well as an original Drouin Super Charger Manual.

1974 Norton Commando SC L Rear

Drouin superchargers are desirable period mods should add significantly to the performance and value of this bike. Bidding is very active at this point, with several days left on the auction. I’m thinking this would make for a possibly fiddly, but very rewarding motorcycle. I’d love to hear that classic British twin noise with a supercharger whine laid over the top!

-tad

1974 Norton Commando SC Front

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

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