NORTON 952 COMMANDO
Gamma Bike Production Underway at Norton
has begun the final stage of development towards the production of the new 952
Commando SE; Gamma production is underway.
“We’ve been following a development process that began with the
completion of the first Alpha bike. This
was followed by two Beta bikes completed in April” said Director of Design and
Development Mr Paul Gaudio. “These Gamma bikes are a continuation of
that process and are the final prototype bikes we’ll build prior to the
commencement of production in the first quarter of 2005.”
Norton: A brief History of Performance and Innovation
Norton brand is one that has been blessed with over 100 years of motorcycling
heritage. From James Landsdowne Norton’s first production motorcycle
in 1904 through the years of dominance on the racing circuits of the Isle of Man
to the commercial success of the Commando, the Norton brand holds a special
place in the hearts of all motorcycling enthusiasts. Performance has always been synonymous with the Norton brand
to the degree that, in some years, only race ready motorcycles were produced.
That reputation for performance was enhanced by the commercial success of
the Commando series in the late 60’s and early 70’s when coupled with the
famous “Norton Girls” campaign.
the decline of the British motorcycle industry there were many stops, starts and
restarts. Some restarts were
heralded as the return to greatness, while others were bemoaned as
misrepresentations of a legend. Today
Norton Motorsports, Inc., has the consensus support
of both the industry and the Norton faithful. The new company is
committed to restoring the luster to the brand and carrying the Norton torch as
if the original Norton Motorcycles were still in business today.
The first Norton motorcycle was produced. It consisted of a bicycle with a
Belgian Clement engine on the front down tube.
The long lived 633cc side valve Big 4 with all chain drive is introduced. It
will continue as a mainstay of the five model range from after WWI until after
Available at Harrods (the agent in the early days in London) eight models were
offered for sale, two with bought in engines, six with Norton engines.
The famous curly Norton logo appears. They also move to a larger location
Norton produced their first OHV machine, the Model 18. The OHV made little
impact at the 1922 TT but before the year was out it had firmly established
itself as one of the quickest forces around.
Alec Bennett won the Senior TT with an OHV Norton, averaging over 60mph for the
Four speed gearboxes and internal expanding brakes were standard equipment on
several Norton models along with automatic primary drive chain lubrication.
Stanley Woods wins the 1926 Senior TT on a Norton.
Walter Moore designed an overhead camshaft engine that retained the classic
Norton dimensions of 79 by 100mm but that was the only similarity. The drive
from the crankshaft was taken through a set of bevels, and then by an enclosed
vertical shaft to the cambox via another bevel set. The cambox was bolted to the
cylinder head and the valves returned by coil springs. A new frame was also
introduced, a cradle type with single top and front down tubes. The exhaust pipe
was to the left of the machine, which was the standard Norton practice at the
Bennett won the 1927 Senior TT on the OHC machine
Norton gets Arthur Carroll to redesign the OHC engine. He produced what became
one of the most dominant racing engines of all time with a racing dominance that
lasted for the next twenty-five years.
Bill Lacey raised the one hour record to 110mph at Montlhery.
Plunger rear suspension appears on the works racers
Jimmy Guthrie (famed racer of Nortons) is killed at Chemnitz in Germany from
crashing when trying to snatch victory from a supercharged BMW. A statue was
erected to his memory in his home town of Hawick and even in Nazi Germany, a
memorial was placed at the spot where he crashed.
The Manx Grand Prix racer was offered for sale. This model was basically an
Inter with all the latest go-go faster goodies except the DOHC engine. It had
the plunger frame, conical hubs, and a big finned head. The plunger frame was an
option on the Inter models and a most hideous silencer was put onto the OHV
machines for just the one year.
Over 100,000 Nortons are manufactured for military use during the war. These
consisted of the two side valve machines, the 16H to 1937 specification with
open valve gear and an air cleaner for overseas use; and the Big 4 for sidecar
duty, this having a disengageable drive to the sidecar wheel.
Norton starts taking an interest in the U.S. export market. Will enter a
successful works team under Steve Lancefield then Francis Beart in the Daytona
200 race using American riders until OHC engines were banned in 1952, most
likely in order to help along the chances of a particular manufacturer who was
devoted to sidevalves.
Norton dominates racing. Geoff Duke wins the Senior Manx Grand Prix on a Norton.
The team of Duke, Oliver, and Artie Bell went to the Montlhery track in France
and together took twenty-one world records in the 350cc and 500cc classes.
The Featherbed frame, designed in Belfast by the McCandless brothers, is used on
the works racers. Innovative and ahead of its time, it rendered all else
obsolete and became the standard of comparison for all other frames for many
years to come. The construction material was lightweight yet strong and durable
Reynolds 531. The original version of this frame had the rear sub-frame bolted
New frame is a success at the 1950 TT, taking its rider Duke to a record
breaking Senior win and Bell to victory in the Junior. In both the Senior and
Junior races, Norton bikes finished 1st, second, and third.
Norton wins both Senior (Ulsterman Reg Armstrong riding - beating out a 4
cylinder Augusta) and Junior TT races. Norton once again won both Senior and
Junior TT races.
Norton rider Geoff Duke is world champion in both the 350cc and 500cc classes
and is awarded the OBE for his services to motorcycling.
Ray Amm, a very hard and fearless rider from Rhodesia, is left standing as the
number one Norton rider, and goes to TT double in that year. He is also the
rider of the experimental 'flying fish' kneeler in the North West 200 but
retired after just three laps. (He would later ride this machine to a one hour
record of 133.71mph; this would also mark the last time it was to be held by a
Nortons still are tops in racing. The leading riders on British short circuits
are Mike Hailwood, Phil Read and Derek Minter, and they all are on Nortons.
All models now have wider roadholder forks to allow for fitting of a wider tire
on machines destined for the U.S. market.
Development of the Commando begins! Norton Villiers decides that they needed to
spruce things up and they'd start by replacing the ageing Featherbed framed
machines. The 800cc OHC P10 prototype is reassessed for suitability but due to
its vibration and poor performance potential it is rejected. The chain drive to
the camshafts is almost as long as a final drive chain.
The Commando is BORN! With just three months left before the Earls Court Show,
the decision is made to go with Bernard Hooper's idea to hang a rubber mounted
Atlas engine in a completely new frame with a massive single top tube. Hooper
and Bob Trigg finish the design and produce a machine in time for the Show. The
experimental P10 800cc twin with overhead camshaft has not shown much promise so
the Atlas engine will be in use for a few more years yet. However, the Commando
has so many changes from the Featherbed twins that it marks the beginning of a
new era for Norton just as the twin engine marked a new era back in the 1940's.
To remove vibration a whole new frame is devised with the engine and rear wheel
as one unit separated from the rest of the machine and the rider by a rubber
mounting system. The Commando debuts at Earls Court to a warm reception by the
public. Its radical design with its engine, gearbox, swinging arm and rear wheel
being mounted on a rubber bush arrangement that was patented as 'Isolastic'is
truly a thing of beauty. The beauty pales however, when it is realized that
although this system insulates the rider from vibration, the mounting rubbers
must regularly be shimmed up in order for the machine's handling to be kept up
to standard. A vernier adjustment system (an expensive yet convenient little
thing) while also patented, will not be incorporated until the final years of
Commando production. The Commando's triplex primary chain is now properly housed
in an alloy casing rather than the pressed tin doo-dad that Norton has so long
held dear. Its fuel tank and matching tail piece are made of fibreglass and the
orange seat has forward projecting wings that overlap on to the fuel tank. A
twin leading shoe front brake is standard on the Commando.
The "S" Type version (the first variant) Commando debuts in March. It
sports a high level left side exhaust system, a small 2½ gallon fuel tank and
naked front forks without gaiters or shrouds. It has both exhaust pipes at a
high level on the left side and despite its good performance is far too radical
for Great Britain for its time. It doesn't sell very well. The extra performance
of the 'S' Type may come from the slightly lower back pressure exhaust system.
The only internal change of significance was the moving of the points from
behind the engine to the end of the camshaft which meant a new timing cover to
fit it in, with the rev counter drive moving inboard to come off a skew gear on
the camshaft. Reverse cone silencers are also used for the first time, though
the Fastback continues with the old Dominator cigar shaped silencers.
The Street Scrambler and Hi Rider debut. The Street Scrambler had a rather short
lifespan (about 5 months) with a small fuel tank and a very American style to
it. The Hi Rider fared a little better with its ape hanger bars and a chopper
seat mainly the U.S. market.
The John Player sponsored racing team starts under the management of Frank
Perris, once a racer for the Suzuki team. Peter Williams is the mainstay of the
JPN racing effort and is partnered by various other well known riders over the
next few years.
1976: The last Commando rolls off the production line in Britain. Despite having great commercial success with the model, Norton cannot survive the combination of the British recession, and the huge influx of new Japanese bikes into the market.
1980: Norton developed their own rotary powered road bike the "Classic and EF1", what beauts.
Rotary Classic... still looks good
Old Norton's best... the EF1. Saw one in Cape Town in 1996, wonder if it's still around?
I can recall it like it was yesterday. It was another hot sticky summer day in Philadelphia, maybe 1969 or so. I was already addicted to motorcycles, having worked my way up on the “other” British twin brand. I had only once seen a Norton from a car window and my curiosity antenna was way up. I pulled into a parking lot, and perched on its' stand was a new yellow 750 Norton Commando.
I will never forget the impression that bike made on me. I was in the presence of something I could not define, but it was a presence nonetheless. After endless walk arounds, the owner came to his bike and after a brief chat, he gave me the keys and offered to let me have a go on it. Just sitting on the bike felt special, but I didn’t have a clue as to what was in store. He instructed me about the reverse gear shift pattern, and off I went.
off, the Norton wasn’t at all like my ride; this was entering a new dimension
of motorcycling The acceleration was fearsome. First gear nearly ripped
the bike right out from under, hit second, and it’s still yanking on the bars.
The sound of the upswept meg’s blew me away. All
of it, the clocks and the forward slant of those cylinders.
I couldn’t even begin to describe all of the sensory impulses that were
going through me. I did know this, I had to have one.
I didn’t know then is what would happen today. Norton Motorsports, a
company forged through my passion for motorcycles, has developed an entirely new
Norton Commando - the “952”. This motorcycle is built for today with power,
styling, and most importantly, a motorcycle that honors its' heritage.
are what we do at Norton Motorsports, this is our mission. Through the years, we
have received acclaim and recognition from both the industry and the Norton
faithful for our efforts to carry the “torch” as if the original Norton
Motorcycles was still in business today. Every bike we build today carries with
it not only the history, but also the inspiration and soul of Norton.
Motorsports, Inc., based in Portland,
Oregon, USA, is restoring the strength and
stability of the 100-year-old Norton marque through the design and manufacture
of original, sporting motorcycles and accessories of unique quality and enduring
value. The all new Commando 952, and Commando-based line of production
motorcycles, has been created to fulfill the opportunity and expectation
associated with the re-launch of the Norton brand in the global motorcycling
Founded by Kenny Dreer, Norton Motorsports, Inc. is the evolution of a partnership between Dreer and the company’s Chairman, Oliver Curme. The relationship began with Curme’s purchase of a Dreer Norton VR880, and has grown into a company with ownership of the global trademark rights to the Norton name. This company is now leveraging those assets to break into the $9B heavy-weight motorcycle industry as a manufacturer of high quality, premium motorcycles, accessories and branded merchandise. For 10 years, Dreer, as President of Vintage Rebuilds, Inc., developed a reputation for Norton restorations including building the limited production VR 880, a remanufactured motorcycle composed of classic and modern motorcycle components. The VR 880, with classic style and modern performance, was the idea from which the new Nortons come. His efforts and reputation helped to keep Norton a living brand, even though Norton ceased commercial operations in 1976.
952 Commando Specifications:
952cc Air/oil cooled parallel twin cylinder motor
The Commando, one good-looking bonnie, don't you think?
Of course we can't forget the famous Norton Girls