According to Webb’s of New Zealand, which will auction the motorcycle you see here on October 19th for something between $24,000 and $28,000, this Norton Commando production racer can be considered the “ultimate British vertical twin” for these 10 reasons. Take that, Triumph.
1. Only Norton, of all the British bike manufacturers, attempted to come to grips with the inherent vibration of a big OHV vertical twin, and thus only Norton’s Isolastic-framed Commando, designed by Bob Trigg and launched in 1968, can be said to have dragged the venerable old vertical twin into the post-war world.
2. The Norton Production Racer was the fastest, best-handling, lightest and quickest Commando you could buy.
3. When Tony Murphy took a ‘72 Production Racer to Willow Springs, former Norton factory rep Brian Slark reports, he got the bike around in less than 1:40. Considering that the lap record at the time was around 1:36, the motorcycle had to be taken very seriously as a racing machine.
4. They were hand built by Peter Inchley’s famous “Long Shop” race department team (home to a B-17 bomber wing of the Eighth Air Force, WWII).
5. To turn the street bike rolling-chassis that got delivered from the Andover factory to the Long Shop into a Production Racer, Inchley and development engineer factory racer Peter Williams used an old school run-it-and-see development program fine-tuning the original Wally Wyatt project racer of 1969 considerably.
6. The few bikes that emerged from the Long Shop (estimates vary from less than 100 to less than 120) proved the worth of the machine, because in 1971, ‘72 and most of ‘73, they virtually owned their class in England and Europe. Only the arrival of the Kawasaki Z-l and Honda CB750K put them on their trailers.
7. It’s yellow not red.
8. The engine’s vast reservoir of torque, allowed the Commando pilot to dial his speed as though the 70bhp twistgrip.
9. The Commando’s fundamental agility was sharpened by the chassis tweaks until the bike was so stable and responsive that it could be ridden anywhere on the track at an optimum velocity.
10. The generous suspension travel gave the Production Racer a soft ride almost unknown among racers of the day, allowing the rider to concentrate on racing rather than just staying aboard. At long tracks notably the Isle of Man—the fatigue-reducing aspects of the Commando played a decisive role.