The Approachable Nortons

Norton’s release of a new “all-British V4” has us sifting through the sands of time, starting with the Monocoque Commando.

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by Phil Aynsley
The Monocoque Commando, designed by innovative Norton engineer Peter Williams.

Norton’s tie-up with respected U.K. automotive engineering firm Ricardo has resulted in an all-new V4 engine. It’s the first clean-sheet 4-stroke performance model the famous company has made since the 1970s. Computer-designed and painstakingly developed, it is Norton’s new platform off which several models will spin.

This isn’t the first time a motorcycle manufacturer has joined forces with the car industry. Harley-Davidson did it twice with Porsche. The first time, in the 1980s, was the still-born “Nova” V4 engine. Their second union conceived the Revolution engine range, which powered the liquid-cooled V-Rod family launched in 2002.

However, Norton only needs to look back into its own history to read a cautionary tale. In the early 1970s it worked with Cosworth on what it hoped would be a world-beater, the so-called Norton Challenge P86. Sadly, this was a dead-end and the project was soon abandoned.

Long forgotten, it unexpectedly reappeared in the mid-1980s to win a major international race at Daytona’s speed bowl. The original Challenge project was planned to become the basis of a range of models and the current Norton V4 engine has already achieved this aim. As well as the V4 SS, Norton has revealed three 650cc parallel-twin models based on the V4 engine: the Superlight road racer, and the Nomad and Ranger retro street scramblers. All these bring back memories of Norton golden years of the 1970s. Hang on for a wild ride back in time.

Monocoque Commando

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