Road Test: 1973 John Player Norton Monocoque

Just as the sun was setting on the British Empire, Norton set the racing world on edge with its revolutionary stainless steel-framed racer — the John Player Norton Monocoque.


| July/August 2010


1973 John Player Norton Monocoque
Claimed power: 76hp@ 7,200rpm
Top speed: 158mph
Engine: 746cc air-cooled OHV parallel twin
Weight (dry): 350lb (150kg)
Fuel capacity: 6.35gal (24ltr)

Although only three John Player Norton monocoques were ever built (plus a fourth prototype chassis), all of which competed for just a single race season in 1973, its unlikely success against much more powerful 2-stroke opposition cemented the JPN as one of the benchmark race bikes of the modern era.

The John Player Norton story is much more than a footnote in the history of Britain’s oldest and most historic marque, denoting a brief revival of race track fortunes in the face of a burgeoning Japanese onslaught. Thirty-eight years ago, Norton’s tiny race shop not only established the prototype of the modern fully sponsored road racing team, it also created a race-winning bike that, while essentially a 2-wheeled anachronism thanks to its archaic air-cooled pushrod 2-cylinder engine and separate gearbox, was arguably the most sophisticated and avant-garde motorcycle in terms of chassis design that the world had yet seen.

The John Player Norton story began in 1971 when Peter Williams, a Norton engineer who successfully combined his day job with GP racing at the top level, was given a budget by Norton chairman Dennis Poore to build a one-off open-class racer using the firm’s production 750 engine. That bike performed well enough to convince Poore to go racing in the new Formula 750 class, where the BSA/Triumph corporate cousins were already tasting success.

The Norton-Villiers performance shop at Thruxton circuit turned its attention to the manufacture and development of the new machines. Freshly crowned 250cc world champion Phil Read was recruited to ride alongside Williams and former Suzuki GP rider Frank Perris signed up as team manager. As the final ingredient in what was to prove a fascinating cocktail of talents, former car racer Poore used some of his contacts in motor racing to attract Imperial Tobacco to sponsor the Norton race effort via its John Player brand, the first example anywhere in the world of a bike team fully supported by an outside sponsor — let alone a cigarette one. John Player Norton had been born. MC  

Order the July/August 2010 issue of Motorcycle Classics to read more about the 1973 John Player Norton Monocoque, including a road test by Alan Cathcart. Contact Customer Service at (800) 880-7567 or contact us by email. 





Ride 'Em, Don't Hide 'Em Getaway

Classic Motorcycle Touring and Events.


The latest classic motorcycle events and tours.

LEARN MORE



The sound and the fury: celebrate the machines that changed the world!

Motorcycle Classics JulAug 16Motorcycle Classics is America's premier magazine for collectors and enthusiasts, dreamers and restorers, newcomers and life long motorheads who love the sound and the beauty of classic bikes. Every issue  delivers exciting and evocative articles and photographs of the most brilliant, unusual and popular motorcycles ever made!

Save Even More Money with our RALLY-RATE plan!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our RALLY-RATE automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $4.95 and get 6 issues of Motorcycle Classics for only $24.95 (USA only).

Or, Bill Me Later and I'll pay just $29.95 for a one year subscription!




Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter


Copyright 2018, All Rights Reserved
Ogden Publications, Inc., 1503 SW 42nd St., Topeka, Kansas 66609-1265