The Norton P11 Prototype Replica — Classic British Motorcycles — Motorcycle…

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Norton Triumph Prototype

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1966 P11 Prototype Replica

Engine: air-cooled OHV vertical twin, x 89mm bore and …, compression ratio, 52hp @

Top speed: 113mph (period

Carburetion: Two 1-1/8-inch Amal

Transmission: AMC 4-speed, chain drive

Electrics: Lucas K2F

Frame/Wheelbase: Dual-downtube steel fabricated of Reynolds 531 tubing/57in

Suspension: Teledraulic forks dual Girling shocks adjustable preload rear

7in (178mm) SLS drum (fins from hub) Akront rim front, 8in (203mm) SLS G50 magnesium hub WM3-18in chrome steel rim

Tires: 3.5 x 9in front, 4 x 18in

Weight (dry): 345lb

Seat height: 32.75in

Fuel capacity: 2.7gal

History is a subjective experience. of the past are told and passed but details get lost with the of time. It’s not often the record can be set straight by talking to the directly involved — the history themselves.

But this is exactly one of cases.

It was 1966 when Bob and his mechanic/parts manager Steve worked together to blend from two motorcycles to create the of what would become one of the legendary classic Norton — the 1967 Norton

New Jersey-based Mike Berliner, manager for Berliner Motor acted as an intermediary between the of the American prototype and the engineers at While Blair died in both Zabaro and Berliner are and well, and they remember the of the Norton P11.

In the beginning

Bob Blair was the proprietor of ZDS Motors in Calif. and was the West Coast for the now legendary Berliner Motor which imported all manner of foreign motorcycles to the U.S. ZDS for Zundapp, Ducati and Sachs — all imported by New Jersey-based Berliner. Berliner took over for the North American market in the Blair agreed to distribute the brand for them on the West

Offroad desert racing was popular in the western states at the The machines used in competition to be powerful, light and fast. enthusiasts built their own sleds,” and there were factory-built offroad bikes in desert races, such as Spitfire Hornet and Triumph’s

Associated Motor Cycles had an entire slate of dirt-friendly machines, including the AJS 18CS and the Matchless G12CS and G80CS, in 1964, the Matchless G15CS and the N15CS (CS for Competition Spring

Lost in translation

It’s a way from the arid California to the foggy climes of Britain, but where AMC produced AJS, and Norton motorcycles. AMC grew the AJS and Matchless motorcycle companies, and in gained the Norton brand. By AMC was in financial straits, and according to the Berliner’s were propping up the even paying for their in advance — and in cash — so AMC could their payroll.

That year saw the introduction of the single-cylinder Matchless G85CS, a purpose-built, scrambles/offroad racer that well in the desert. However, Bob Blair and Zabaro felt the could be an even better if only it had the bigger and more Norton Atlas 750cc engine.

“We talked to Mike and asked him to talk to the factory putting the Norton 750 motor in the chassis,” Zabaro recalls. came back and said the said ‘No’ — I don’t if it was because technically they do it or financially or whatever. But Mike us, ‘If you think it’s feasible, go and do it.’” When told AMC didn’t think the G85CS/N15CS could be done, Bob Blair mince words. “That’s was his exact response.

P11 starting a wrecked G85CS

“The single-cylinder engine (in the G85CS) was in the tooth,” Zabaro recalls. intended to only make a few of the for a televised motocross event in the but when pictures and stories of the G85CS came out everybody one. There were 96 of the G85CS made for public and I would guess we got 70 of them on the Coast. They were light, but there wasn’t a lot of

Zabaro should know. He a new Matchless G85CS and rode it It was while riding up a washout in Canyon in the Mojave Desert Zabaro hit a large rock, the front wheel into a and severely twisting the forks.

the crash he brought the damaged back to the shop at ZDS Motors and set it aside.

After being the AMC factory didn’t believe a could be created by installing the Atlas twin engine in the G85CS chassis, Bob Blair and got to work.

“We brought out my bent and we brought in a new, crated N15CS from inventory,” says. New Matchless Teledraulic were installed as was an Akront alloy rim laced to a Matchless With the G85CS now rolling, the engine and gearbox were together with the fuel and oil tank. From the uncrated came the 750cc twin equipped with dual Amal carburetors and Lucas K2F

They also took the gearbox and fuel tank. The of the Norton’s pieces went on the in the ZDS parts department.


Zabaro recalls fabricating engine mounting plates, and a very small amount of from the lugs on the front downtubes in order to get the engine to into place. He then a number of small spacers to everything up — something he didn’t the factory would keep if the went into production.

Bob and Zabaro liked the look of the Norton N15CS gas tank as to the fiberglass Matchless unit, so the tank was installed on the Matchless At this point they an oil tank, so they turned to Crowell, a local California and fabricator. “Paul made a alloy oil tank that the frame from side to Zabaro recalls.

ercury Bending in Los Angeles supplied the and straight exhaust tubing Zabaro cut and welded into the high-rise pipes.

Zabaro thinks it took about three weeks to the package together, and they had the prototype in the hands of Mike a successful offroad racer ZDS was sponsoring in desert events. “We ‘Go wring it out’,” Zabaro “And he did.”

The prototype flawlessly during testing in the — with the exception of the mounting on the alloy oil tank. These and Zabaro welded them up.

“Mike said it was great — and fast,” Zabaro recalls. Mike told them not to a thing, he did want to see it with the Norton Roadholder forks but there wasn’t time to the change. “After Mike it and we welded up the oil tank, we crated it up and it to New Jersey,” Zabaro says. “We the prototype in the summer of 1966, and was a big rush to get it done and back to the AMC so they could produce

On to England

The prototype arrived at Motor Corp. in New Jersey to be to the AMC factory. Bob Blair and Bob Budschat, a Wash. dealer and racer, the bike to New Jersey, where joined brothers Joe and Mike Together, they all flew to to meet with AMC brass.

test rode the prototype and off the machine’s capabilities.

How did AMC feel being shown a prototype assembled in the United States?

Norton Triumph Prototype

were proud people,” Berliner says today. “I have to tell you, like any manufacturer is proud of product, they were, But if they are smart — which were — they will any change which will the product.”

He continues: “[AMC engineer Charles] Udall and managing director A.A.] they both decided to do (AMC) could sell and this prototype was a machine we was going to do good.”

Although couldn’t recall all of the specific surrounding the Norton P11 project, he well the Berliner corporate and how the company would support dealers and their mechanics.

manufacturer who is interested in selling product is interested in continually it, and if there is a suggestion from top or an engineer that will the product — and after they it out — naturally they will go and put it in production.

“That’s the way we worked with and Ducati and Moto Guzzi; all the way. You test the machine in the — there is no better place to a machine than the U.S. — the mileage from one area to is so great. Some American are pretty rough on the machine,

“And if there is anything you report it to the engineering department, I did. I was in Italy and in England every six or eight weeks. If I had a I took the product immediately to the department.”

Berliner adds: listen (to the dealer or the mechanics) and if have anything to suggest or any information to improve the product, than relay the information to the you pick up the guy and say, ‘You to come to Europe with me? go. You have the suggestion, and you explain it the way possible.’” That’s pretty how the Norton P11 prototype came

On to production

AMC clearly liked they were shown, they pushed the prototype production quickly. Designated P11, the new bike was launched in only months after it had created. There were, of changes to the production P11. The Monobloc carburetors were with newer Concentric and the Lucas magneto ignition capacitor and coil. And where the used the solid footpegs a Matchless G85CS, AMC fit folding to the production P11.

The prototype used the special magnesium hub from the G85CS, while the P11 used a standard Matchless wheel.

The biggest outward from the prototype to the production P11 was the of lights and instruments. To accommodate the aluminum oil tank was chopped off and a for a battery and a cover fitted to the side of the machine. “Because of the we’d had with the oil tank Bob (Blair) told AMC not to build it ours, but they did, with a part of it missing so could run the battery,” Zabaro

In the U.S. the production P11 quickly the desert racer to have. In a new Norton P11 was presented to racer Patrick, who then proceeded to the No. 1 plate in desert racing two in a row with this machine.

In all, it is thought some P11s and its descendents, the P11A and 750, were produced being dropped from the range in 1969.

Recreating the

Bob Blair’s son, Steve was only four years old the prototype desert racer was together in his dad’s shop. But the obviously left an indelible because for years Steve has wanted to faithfully recreate prototype. And what better way to do he reasoned, than to work the very man who helped build the prototype?

“When my dad was told AMC factory] couldn’t build the he went into the back of the with Steve and started to a bike, and lo and behold, they did Steve Blair says. prototype they built the P11, but they didn’t each and every step of the process. It was done very

Steve Blair and Steve are lifelong friends. In 2008, he told Zabaro he wanted to the prototype Norton, there was no that Zabaro would “He said, ‘Bring it up and I’ll you do it,’” Steve Blair “There was no way it could have without him — he’s the only alive who knows exactly how it together in the first place.”

In 2009, Steve Blair a production model 1967 P11 to use as the platform for his replica. The bike was a San Craigslist find, a second-owner in fine condition. Steve then collected some of the bits and pieces that turn the P11 back into the including a conical magnesium hub, which he sourced Molnar Precision Limited in the

To make the Norton engine the one fitted in the prototype, he located the Amal Monobloc carburetors, not an find these days. had to be by Lucas magneto, and not the capacitor and fitted on the production motorcycle. He the original G85CS non-folding at Baxter Cycle in Marne, “I couldn’t believe Randy had a set of those!” Steve Blair

With the P11 donor bike and in hand, Steve Blair to Zabaro’s shop, where the completely disassembled the P11 and rebuilt single component, from the and engine to the forks and wheels, the with the correct Akront alloy rim.

The oil tank was from scratch to replicate the alloy unit that the frame from side to Steve Blair started on the at home, but finished it at Zabaro’s under Zabaro’s instructions. the mufflers from the Norton P11 pipes brought the tubes to what the prototype ran — straight without a baffle. The frame was the silver of the Matchless G85CS, and items were chrome

All told, building the prototype about four weeks.

“I to recreate what my dad and Steve and then tell the accurate about the P11,” Steve says, adding, “And I the recreation to be as accurate as possible. For I could have used rear hub, but that have been right. comes from my dad — he was a real and white guy.”

For Zabaro, the brought back memories of beside Steve Blair’s dad at ZDS Like most people who history, back in 1966, he had no that he was doing anything

“I was running the parts department, and I could catch a moment I’d do on the project — it really wasn’t difficult to do — it was just making up mind to do it. But I didn’t have any of it being historic.

“Even at the I realized what we were was building a dinosaur. The P11 has to be the last scrambler designed and built. and competitive Huskys and CZs were here in Southern California,” says.

And that, we think, set straight the record on the Norton MC

Norton Triumph Prototype
Norton Triumph Prototype
Norton Triumph Prototype

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