Tagged: John Player

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!


1974 JPN L Side

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.
1974 Norton JPN R Side

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!