1967 — 1978 — Norton Owners Club Website

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Norton Triumph Prototype
Norton Triumph Prototype

1967 to 1978

Following the of AMC in 1966 it quickly became to Norton Villiers that a new machine would be needed to the ageing Featherbed framed The 800cc OHC P10 prototype was taken out of and reassessed for suitability. It was given the down on a number of points, performance potential and vibration among them.

The chain to the camshafts was almost as long as a drive chain. So with three months to go before the Earls Court Show the was taken to go ahead with an credited to Bernard Hooper of a rubber mounted Atlas in a completely new frame with a single top tube. Hooper and Bob thereupon got to work to finish the and produce a machine in time for the

The Commando duly made its at Earls Court where it was by the public with much

It was in many ways a very design, especially with the gearbox, swinging arm and rear being mounted on a rubber arrangement that was patented as The system, though effectively the rider from vibration did the disadvantage that the mounting had to be regularly shimmed up in order for the handling to be kept up to standard.

A adjustment system had also patented, but it was not to be incorporated until the couple of years of Commando the cost accounts people thought the convenience was too expensive. other points of interest the triplex primary chain, now housed in an alloy casing of the dreadful pressed tin affair beloved by Norton, the petrol and matching tail piece made out of fibreglass and the gaudy seat had forward projecting that overlapped on to the tank. A leading shoe front was a standard fitment.

The first models were completed in 1968. These were now with a Laycock designed spring clutch giving grip combined with a lever action. Another addition was a timing plate to the checking of ignition timing by

There were some bending problems with production machines but this was by the introduction of a revised frame in 1969. The original Commando was now as the Fastback model, it was joined in by the ‘S’ Type version. had a high level left exhaust system, a 2½ gallon tank and … front without gaiters or shrouds.

The at Burrage Grove, Plumstead had the subject of a Greater London compulsory purchase order in 1968. The logical move in peoples eyes would probably been to move the lock, stock, and barrel the old Villiers factory at Wolverhampton, but the of a Government subsidy to move to a area apparently proved so the assembly line was set up on a factory at North Way, Andover.

The department also removed to but to an aircraft hanger on nearby Airfield. The manufacturing side was to Wolverhampton however and complete units were ferried to overnight. The last Commando Plumstead in July 1969, bringing motorcycle production on the to a close after over 60 The building itself was demolished in to make way for a housing development.

1969 saw the contact breaker to the front of the timing cover and by the camshaft, the rev counter drive inboard as a consequence.

The USA was always an export market so the NV Corporation was set up at Beach, California to handle in the seven Western states Joe Berliner as franchise agent for the of the country. Police forces also perceived as valued customers so Neale Shilton had recruited in late 1968 many years at Triumph in to create a Police specification and secure orders at home and This he did to good effect and the machine was to sell steadily the next few years.

The Commando had used for racing from an stage and after a win in the 1969 100 and a second place in the Production TT it was that a Production Racer be put on public sale, this to a tuned engine and front brake. Its all yellow livery earned it the title of ‘Yellow A performance shop was opened at to produce these machines with various custom for sale under the Norvil name.

Peter Williams joined the team at Thruxton and was to combine his abilities with top class skills.

March 1970 saw the of another variant of the Commando, the This had similar styling to the Type but with a low level with silencers angled and reverse cones. The ‘S’ was discontinued in June. September saw a Fastback Mk. 2. but this was shortly by the Mk.

3 which had no fork gaiters, but alloy levers and modified and chainguard. By now the Roadster was in its Mk. 2 form.

The   Scrambler and Hi Rider both in about May 1971, the former lasted for five months and had a petrol tank and Americanised The latter had ape hanger bars and a seat, presumably also aimed at the American market. of the month for June was the Fastback Range. This was similar to the Mk. 3 but with an Atlas type tank and restyled seat.

The month of 1971 saw a disc conversion kit being offered to fit all (or any other Roadholder forked of course), a rubber cush was now incorporated into the rear hub in to smooth out the drive. Quality had always been a problem on the perhaps more so than on any postwar Norton, Mutterings of were filtering into reports, one magazine found a machine prepared so badly returned it and asked for another, proved only marginally acceptable. One unfortunate reason for was friction between various in senior positions that thwarted the efforts of others to things out for the general benefit of and customers.

Late in 1971 the Player sponsored racing started under the management of Perris, himself an ex-racer who had some years in the successful team. Peter Williams was of the mainstay of the JPN racing effort and was by various other well riders over the next few

January 1972 heralded the of the Mk. 4 Fastback and Roadster models, front disc brake, indicators and strengthened crankcase. The 750 also made its debut, a five gallon petrol and the high performance Combat

This gave 65 BHP at 6500 rpm a 10 to 1 compression ratio, the original had a ratio of 7.3 to 1 by way of comparison. It wasn’t before owners of the new machine complaining of reliability problems, bearing failures were as were pistons breaking off at a under the oil control ring and units were returned to the for rectification under warranty.


The received a number of modifications the next few months in order to try and reliability, special barrelled bearings and a lowered compression both proved effective in The whole Combat episode had a detrimental effect on the Company, the done to its reputation was not inconsequential

In mid 1972 the BSA-Triumph Group in a serious financial position, the of the day agreed to provide finance to the ailing giant on condition the motorcycle division merged Norton Villiers. It was a bit like Jonah to swallow the whale, but Villiers Triumph (NVT) came into existence and a new troubled chapter opened up. the more interesting BSA assets so were the designs for a Wankel rotary engine.

Major to the Commando clutch and a replacement swinging arm pivoting spindle out late in the year, the front brake was now standard on all models.

The got a Mk. 5 tag, with the Mk. 4 and Long being dropped in the first of 1973. April saw the introduction of the engine.

This retained the 89mm … as the 750 but was overbored to It appeared in Roadster, Hi Rider and versions, following modifications a few later the Roadster and Interstate a Mk. la.

On the race track, Peter won the 1973 Formula 750 TT with mate Mick Grant in place. This was to prove last TT success with a engine, sixty six years their first. In September the to use a Cosworth designed engine in the racers was announced, with road going versions as

Also in the same year a 500cc twin with piston engine was built at this was known as the Wulf and a monocoque pressed steel Both these projects eventually dropped in favour of the Rotary design, though the did eventually get onto the race but with little success in of the spirited efforts of Dave Cosworth were very big in the 1 car engine business at the time and it was that their expertise provide Norton with a beater, but problems arose the engines supplied to Norton and it all to nought.

All was not well behind the face of the Company, there was unrest at Andover where the had a sit in following the issuing of redundancy and later in 1973 the big Meriden began. There were a list of modifications made to machines, among these higher load Superblend for the 828 models and stellite tipped valves, a new head steady and car oil filter kit on the 750. The last machines were manufactured in 1973.

Norton Triumph Prototype
Norton Triumph Prototype

Early 1974 saw the 828 and Interstate machines labelled Mk. 2a acquiring improved cylinder porting and a quilted look The Hi Rider was now a Mk. 2. In April the JPN Replica really a Mk.

2a Roadster with a fairing and go faster equipment. in white it looked a very machine with its twin built into the fairing. It was in production for about twenty one estimate is 250 units so it is a fairly bird.

A special short 750cc version was also in limited numbers for race use. This was quite a year as far as racing was concerned, though the old engines were used in the new spaceframe designed for the unit. Unfortunately Peter racing career was cut short by a bad at Oulton Park when the apparently became detached, him off at speed.

John Player’s sponsorship of the team ended after the season and although Norton on alone for the next year it was a that could not last.

The subsidy that NVT heavily upon and was mainly using for the of future machines was withdrawn in 1974. It is interesting to note the incoming Labour Government was to the restoration of the grant as a lever NVT to acquiesce with the setting up of the Co-operative. The Company had now entered a troubled period. It had been to shrink the existing four into two, namely Heath and Wolverhampton.

This did not go well at Meriden, there was a sit in that was much publicised in the and TV and cost NVT in the region of £20,000 per and paralysed Small Heath’s production. It was hardly surprising an over £3M trading loss was for the year.

The Norton range was early in 1975 to leave the Mk. 3 Interstate and Roadster, these now an electric starter, rear brake and to the … of traditionalists a side gearchange and right The electric starter turned out to be a non in most owners eyes, but a Prestolite or Lucas four conversion made it more for its purpose.

There were 100 detail changes from the models, the Isolastic system at got the vernier adjustment that the need for shims, a higher alternator was fitted and the exhaust at the cylinder head was modified. then became the Commando in its form.

In July 1975 the Minister refused to renew export credits and furthermore a £4M loan, effectively pushing the over the edge and into the of the Receiver, though in the opinion of well placed people the of the directorate may have led the firm anyway. Mass redundancies announced at the various NVT sites, an committee was formed at Wolverhampton the aim of continuing production of the Commando and the Wulf project. A prototype the Norton 76 was produced with SU and Italian forks and brakes.

NVT was saved from total late in 1976 by the Government stepping in to save part of the A new company, NVT Engineering Ltd. was with Dennis Poore at the and a workforce of 300. The production of spares was slowed but never ceased, as years went by demand for these did not tail off and parts are still being over ten years after the machine was produced.

But back to the Wolverhampton works was put into the of the Liquidator and he supervised the completion of all the finished machines on site selling the works to a purchaser to take on most of the employees. The 1500 machines were off by September 1977, another 30 put together at Andover in 1978 and was the end of the road for the Commando.

THE END

Author’s

A number of   books   have invaluable in the preparation of this of articles, but special mention be made of those titles by Roy Bob Holliday and Steve Wilson. I them to all those in need of enlightenment into the history of

Peter Thistle

© Norton Club 1989 2010

Norton Triumph Prototype
Norton Triumph Prototype
Norton Triumph Prototype

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