Coming to America?

2010_Honda_CB1100_Wallpaper 3

If You were around in the 1970s, this bike might look familiar to you. It’s the return of the classic Universal Japanese Motorcycle (UJM), in the shape of the Honda CB1100, a bike previously only available in Japan. It looks like nothing other than a slightly modernized version of the venerable 750 Four, right down to the chrome fenders, and it brings back lots of childhood memories. Now a new generation will get to admire the UJM outside of Japan, as the French and italian motor press has revealed that the Bike will be available in Europe next year, where its already been sited in testing. If Europe gets it, can the US be far behind? Stay tuned.

2011-Norton-Commando-961-SE-Right-Angle

And speaking of motorcycles from my childhood, Norton is back with the Commando, now in a modern 961cc version, and the lads in Donnington have announced that the Commando 961 will, in fact, be coming to the US. Norton has announced that the three Commando variants have all completed both EPA and CARB durability testing, the first step in getting 50-state approval to import the modern resurrection of this iconic motorcycle.

Pierre Terblanche moves to Norton

Ducati’s Pierre Terblanche, designer of the beautiful Ducati Supermoto, is moving to Norton Motorcycles in the UK to design bikes.  Since Norton currently produces only the 961 Commando, I think we can assume that the reborn British maker has some other models in the works.  If I was guessing, I would say the Norton rotary-powered NRV588 is the prime candidate for Terblanche’s design magic.

If so, he could do a lot worse than to come up with an update of the classic John Player Special version of the Norton Commander F1.

1991 Norton Commander F1 John Player Special

One of the most beautiful bikes ever made.

Another Barn Find

So, this motorcycle shop owner over in Aalst, Belgium died, and the shop’s contents are going up for auction.  That means that Troostwijk, an industrial auctioneer in Antwerp, had to go in and take stock of the shop’s contents.  When they did, they got quite a surprise.  Because they found eleven–count ’em, eleven–brand new 1975 Norton 850 Commandos, unassembled, still packed away in factory crates.  Oh, and a Matchless, too.

1975 Norton 850 Commando
1975 Norton 850 Commando--Still sitting nicely in its factory crate.

And that’s not all.  According to MCN:

The hoard also includes an ex-Peter Williams 1974 Norton works ‘space frame’ racer, a still-crated bike, a 1989 Rotax-powered Matchless G80, dozens of other Nortons and Triumphs, as well as masses of spasres [sic] and workshop machinery.

Anyway, for some reason, the auctioneers now think the estate auction may be slightly more profitable than originally thought.

If you’re going to be in Belgium, and you’ve got thousands of dollars on hand, you can find more information about the auction at Troostwijk’s web site.  Better hurry, though, if you’re planning to get to Antwerp in time.  The auction closes on the 26th.

The Commando is Back

The Norton Commando is one of the iconic bikes of motorcycling.  Back when I was a kid, and the average rider was tooling around on a 500cc BSA, the Norton Commando was the bike to have if you wanted a big, hellishly fast–in 1970 terms–motorcycle.  Sadly, when Nortun went TU several years ago, the Commando disappeared…until now.

2010 Norton Commandos
2010 Norton Commandos

Stuart Garner’s revived Norton Motocycles is now offering the 961cc Commando for the 2010 model year.

The 961 Commando will come in three models: the SE, Cafe racer, and Sport models shown here.

The differences are mainly stylistic, as all three models come with a 961cc parallel-twin, dry sump, pushrod engine, much like the venerable original, which is rated at 80HP at 6,500RPM, and 59 lb-ft of torque at 5,200 RPM.

They all sport Öhlins suspension with full adjustment. Stopping power is provided by twin Brembo 320mm semi-floating hi-carbon stainless steel discs & Brembo 4 piston radial calipers up front, and a single Brembo 220mm disc, with Brembo 2 piston “Gold Line” calipers out back.  A 5-speed gearbox sends the power to the rear wheel via a 525 O-ring chain drive.

The three models have minor weight differences, but the ball park is 415lbs dry, although oil, hydraulic fluid, and enough gas to fill the 4.5 gallon tank will add another 50 pounds or so.

Norton at Bonneville: Day 7

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He came close, but on the final day’s run, Norton CEO Stuart Garner wasn’t able to crack the 175MPH barrier on the salt flats.  On the final run, the NRV588 matched the 173MPH run of the previous day.  But, the Norton team feels fine about what they accomplished.

Stuart has been remarkably consistent, and let’s face it, 173 mph for a 566cc lightweight racer on the new and strange salt-flat surface is nothing to be ashamed of in any way.

We’ve succeeded in all we set out to do. Stuart has used the opportunity of coming to Bonneville to cement an agency arrangement for the new Norton 961 Commando with Sam Capri’s South Bay Motorcycles, and their assistance at Bonneville has been invaluable, not just in the logistics, but in building an excellent rapport with the team there.

The NRV588 has proved to be a potentially potent force, and not disgraced itself in the slightest – Tony has had almost sod-all to do all week. An occasional oil-change, a daily clean-down to get the salt off, a regular oiling of the chain that tightens as the salt works its way into the rollers, destroying the ‘O’ rings link-seals, fuel top-ups and one wheel change. Howzat for a trouble-free racer, then? There are many, many at Bonneville who would swap their reliability records for ours.

Well, that sounds good then.  So, when can we expect to have the NRV588 available for sale in the United States?

Norton NRV588 at Bonneville: Faster!

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It’s day 6 for Stuart Garner’s attempt to set a speed record for the Norton rotary engined NRV588 racing bike at the Bonneville Salt Flats.  And on day six, Garner broke through 170MPH on the salt.

The power is fed in crisply but not over-enthusiastically, no wheel-spin, no ‘rooster-tail’ of spun-up salt to dramatise the launch but at the risk of excessive tyre wear, just Stuart sailing sublimely into the distance, his progress marked by a series of sharp, snarling applications of power between cog-shifts – the Rotary really does sound superb, a curious mix of the banshee wail of the 500cc stroker Grand Prix bikes of yore, and the deeper, more gutteral snarls of modern MotoGP machinery.

We wait with bated breath for the marshal’s now-restored-to-life walkie-talkie to crackle with our news – “Bike 747, 173mph” – !!!!!!!

I’ve never been on anything–except an airplane–that went faster than 170MPH.  The fastest I’ve ever been on a motorcycle is an indicated 130MPH.  That was for about 5 seconds.  173 miles per hour must be quite a rush.  And that’s 173 MPH on salt, so, that means that on asphalt, the NRV588 would be even faster, because the loose salt surface scrubs speed.

All the local experts say the same; running on the slightly loose salt knocks at least 10% off the speed one could expect on asphalt, so our 173 translates into an equivalent 192mph. Then factor in the 7000 foot altitude, and the thin air we’re all, including the NRV588 Rotary Norton, breathing and one can clearly see well over 200mph from this, our ‘baby’ rotary.

Well, OK, but I think that’s a theoretical speed.  I’m not sure wind resistance at lower altitudes would allow that.  Even for a small motorcycle, at 190MPH, you really do have to push quite a lot of air our of the way.  200MPH+ at sea level?

I think I’m gonna need to actually see that happen before I sign onto that prediction.

Norton NRV588 at Bonneville

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Norton NRV588 at Bonneville
Norton NRV588 at Bonneville

Norton motorcycles has finally gotten an update online about their attempt at a land speed record at the Bonneville Salt Flats.  Actually, it’s more than one update.  They did a data dump of the last four days, pretty much all at once.  So far, it appears that they are pleased with their progress towards a record.

As we suspect, with only a mile run-in, Stuart is still accelerating as he hits the front line – indeed, he’s still accelerating as he throttles back at the end of the measured mile!

Alan Cathcart brings yet more glad tidings back with him from the organiser’s trailer, where he’s picked up our print-out.

160.31mph for the flying kilometre!! We’ve actually cracked 160 on only the second run!!!

The maths suggest that we entered the mile at around 150, and exited at about 170, so there would seem to be a-ways to go yet!!

The bike is still running well, no problems of any sort need to be fixed, the tyres are still perfect, so we finish up the day with a photo-shoot to record the event, before washing off all the salt and returning the beast to the South Bay trailer.

So, Stuart Garner, Norton’s CEO, hit 160MPH on his second run.  But, now is time to get serious, since they need to hit 175MPH to qualify.  It seems they’re off to a good start, though.

By the way, Confederate is there, too, trying to set a record on their new P120 Fighter Combat.

Norton Goes For a Record

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Norton Motorcycles, the iconic British motorcycle brand recently resurrected by Stuart Garner, packed up their rotary-engined NRV588 racing motorcycle and left Britain today.  Their destination: The Bonneville Salt Flats, right here in the US of A, where Garner himself will attempt to pilot the bike to a land speed record.

If Garner is successful, the NRV588 will set the world land speed record for a rotary motorcycle.

And, speaking of the NRV, Norton has a road-going edition of this racer in the works.  It’s no where near as pretty as a 1991 Commander F1, but, it’ll probably be a whole lot faster.  They are being hand-built in Norton’s Donington Park factory, even as I write this.

The Norton NRV588, ready to be packed off to the Salt Flats earlier today.
The Norton NRV588, ready to be packed off to the Salt Flats earlier today.

Oh, and since I mentioned it…

1991 Norton Commander F1 John Player Special
1991 Norton Commander F1 John Player Special

I think there’s 55 of these left in the whole world.