Wat van Norton? – Vintage Motorfietse Online

1 Feb 2015 | skrywer: | Comments Off op Wat van Norton? – Vintage Motorfietse Online

Wat van Norton?

O n the air for VMOL’s monthly appearance at ‘Side Stand Updot com, Bill Ross and I were using internet radio’s largest motorcycle forum to discuss the machines listed in our November poll question. Those with even the slightest knowledge of our respective backgrounds were no doubt surprised when both Bill and I tagged the Norton as our ‘pickof the litter. Heck, I think we even surprised ourselves. for other than reviewing the script beforehand we hadn’t discussed the matter

In light of current events, maybe it isn’t such a shock after all. There’s been a real Brit-bike buzz circling our. err, circle here lately, and it’s growing. Last month I climbed on my Bloor triple for a two-day, 1700 mile turn-n-burn to meet John at the vintage meet in San Luis Obispo.

daar, among other fine things we visited with Norton’s recently appointed US-importer Matt Capri and pursued the new Commando. True to form, Capri (whose LSR exploits are the stuff of legends) has already finished an initial round of tweaking to the Norton’s injected twin, and happily reports the engine’s massive potential. From AJS to Zenith and everything in between, our email is filled with images of English classics owned, restored, and ridden by VMOL readers.

uiteindelik, two weeks ago and without warning, JJ pulled the trigger and flipped his Road King for a bullet-fast, silver-hued Sprint GT.

What in the name of Winston Churchill is going on around here?

The British motorcycle industry is back it seems, and no one I’ve spoken with has any complaints. With the exception of the Indian-built Enfield Bullet, Triumph has basically owned the title of sole proprietor for the last 15-years or so, steadily gaining ground with newer, ever-advancing models and a few round-house rights (read; the 2300-cc Rocket III) tossed in for good measure.

Interessant, those trying to imitate Triumph’s considerable success have thus far failed, including Kenny Dreer’s Gladstone, Oregon-based Norton USA. A lack of critical sustenance doomed the effort before Dreer could deliver his new Commando to the masses, but the ball didn’t touch the ground before Stuart Garner snatched up the manufacturing rights and planted the snortinNorton back on U.K. soil.

Focusing mainly on the vintage side of things, I haven’t stayed on top of the happenings at Norton but I am somewhat familiar with the project. I was the first journalist to ride Dreer’s 952 prototype and came away from the experience impressed. Kenny was fiddling with crank throws and experimenting with tuning options (the machine I tested was still fitted with carburetors) but in my opinion the light and lithe new age Commando had real merit.

Understandably, the new ownership has distanced themselves from this era of the bike’s development, making over the Norton’s pushrod parallel twin with input from Oxfordshire’s Menard Competition Technologies. No question it’s far more sorted than the taped up prototype I rode, but I still see a lot of Dreer in the design. From my recollection, that’s a good thing.

Founded by James Lansdown Norton in 1898 and producing its first bike four-years later, Norton enjoyed immediate success in circuit racing; winning the first Manx TT with a 690cc Peugeot twin. Production and track wins grew with the years, through World War I and into Norton’s golden age. Finding their nichewith rapid OHV/C singles, the legendary ‘Interand Manx gave way when the Dominator twin hit the scene in 1949.

For the next 20 years the range hinged on the Dommie, through ownership changes and shifting market trends until the Commando appeared in 1968. One year prior, Dennis Poore combined the largest remaining chunks of the English motorcycle industry by forming Norton Villiers Triumph, allowing the tide of a new generation to cleanly sweep away almost 100 years of British motorcycle tradition.

Norton Triumph Prototype

Since the retro-boom started you can count the number of successfully resuscitated marquees with one hand and have fingers left over. MV Agusta, Indian and Excelsior Henderson were all relaunched under a healthy economy, and except for the barely breathing MV, none survived the financial burden of their respective RD payback. It seems a forgotten fact that Norton’s storied past only played a part in the capital delivered to Kenny Dreer by his principle investor Oliver Crume.

More than anything, the motivation behind relaunching Norton was Dreer’s wildly popularVintage Rebuildsand the stunning VR880 Sprint Special that emerged from the VR skunkworks. I say this with confidence because I was there, and along with a good number of working journalists watched the whole thing unfold before my eyes. Given that bit of information, one has to ponder the odds Garner and his born again Norton face, but this is one time I’d love to be proven wrong.

Dan weer, some of us might warm up a little more to the project if Dreer’s involvement in the machine’s development wasn’t brushed under the rug.

I asked Kenny for a response, but he declined comment. I’m neither surprised or upset by that. Om eerlik te wees, I’m more than capable and willing to put this story out all by my lonesome. Projection analysts earn every penny of their pay because nothing is trickier than predicting what will, or won’t catch the eye of the fickle motorcyclist. For most, the proper mix of moto-characteristics contains equal parts tradition, styl, performance and heritage.

Some have it, most don’t.

Oddly enough, the new Commando’s biggest competitor isn’t Bloor’s Bonnie, Ducati’s Monster or any number of new retro-fliers, it’s the vintage Norton, Triumph or BSA the bike is engineered to resemble. Fifteen-large will get you a pretty nice English twin that’s backed by a aftermarket that’s both reliable and proven. Toss in nasty factoids like new bike depreciation verses classic appreciation, and one can see why it’s hard to find an empty chair at the Mid America Auction every winter.

For the record, I love Norton and I love the new Commando, but time will tell if it has the horsepower to pull through. Nolan Woodbury

Norton Triumph Prototype


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