Reborn in the USA

Published: 09 September 2003

NORTON has promised it’ll be back more times than Arnie – but this latest attempt to revive the name looks like it might actually stand a chance of success.

Kenny Dreer, who owns Norton America and the rights to the name in the UK and Europe, isn’t planning a world-beating superbike or a V8-engined monster – but simply plans to build and sell this updated take on the classic Commando.

The Norton Commando 952 might look like a well-restored 1970s machine, but in fact this latest prototype (MCN first showed an early version back in April) is completely new. Dreer said: " The old bikes were very cool, but they weren’t manufacturable. Our new design addresses all these issues and more. This is a totally new Norton that shares no parts with the original Commando. "

While the parallel twin motor might look similar to the old Norton engine that inspired it, it’s actually completely redesigned. The capacity is up to 952cc, as the bike’s name suggests, and the cylinder head has been developed to give a big power increase, incorporating roller bearings for the rockers and a much steeper valve angle than the original. The result is 80bhp on the dyno from the prototype motor in this bike. Although this version features 39mm Keihin flat-slide carbs, the production bikes will be fuel-injected, and should manage around 85bhp at the wheel – good for a 135mph top end. The power gets there through a new five-speed gearbox, with the option of a six-speed version for a little more cash.

The new engine is bolted to a twin-downtube steel frame, which also acts as the oil tank. It’s far stiffer than the old Norton frame, thanks to design changes including a box-section swingarm that bolts through the frame rather than the engine as on the original Commando.

The suspension and running gear is off-the-shelf superbike stuff, including 41mm Paioli forks, six-spoke alloy wheels and Brembo brakes. And the spartan design means weight is kept low, at around 180kg dry.

In the first year of production, Dreer plans to build 100 bikes, most of which will be sold in the States, although some will come to Europe. It is expected to cost around £9500.