John Player Norton Monocoque Replicas

Former Norton engineer Peter Williams will produce 25 replicas of the John Player Norton Monocoque.

| September/October 2013

  • Norton Monocoques
    Only four John Player Norton Monocoques were built in 1973, but Peter Williams, the bike’s original designer and pilot, plans to build 25 replicas.
    Photo By MC Staff
  • Open Norton Monocoques
    Only four John Player Norton Monocoques were built in 1973, but Peter Williams, the bike’s original designer and pilot, plans to build 25 replicas.
    Photo By MC Staff

  • Norton Monocoques
  • Open Norton Monocoques

Former Norton engineer and factory rider Peter Williams has announced that his company, Peter Williams Motorcycles, will produce 25 replicas of the famous 1973 John Player Norton Monocoque. Williams says he was inspired to craft the replicas to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the original Monocoques he built while at Norton. Only four Monocoques were built in 1973 (including one prototype chassis), making the John Player Norton Monocoque one of the rarest racing motorcycles of all time.   

Williams, who was trained in mechanical engineering, was Norton’s top rider in the early 1970s. He designed the monocoque John Player Norton during 1972-1973 after securing support from Norton boss Dennis Poore to build a race bike that could return Norton to racing supremacy. Williams won the 1973 Isle of Man TT aboard the Monocoque (literally “single shell” — the body is a structural skin) at a record speed of 105.47mph and set a new lap record of 107.27mph, making him the second fastest rider ever to lap the course.

The original machines were built by hand and each one took the equivalent of 12 man-weeks to construct. Williams says the replicas will go together much quicker thanks to CAD-CAM manufacturing. The replica monocoque frame will be made of stainless steel, per the original, and power will come from brand new 750cc Commando engines built by Norton engine specialist Mick Hemmings, who raced Nortons extensively in the 1970s.

The engines will feature Williams’ PW3 camshaft and will use a Quaife 5-speed transmission. Cast magnesium wheels made from the original tooling will support the replicas, along with magnesium fork sliders recreated from the original drawings. Williams is credited with bringing cast wheel technology to motorcycles, designing his first mag wheel in 1967.

Where necessary, Williams has reverse-engineered original parts in CAD, using the two John Player Norton Monocoques housed by Britain’s National Motorcycle Museum as patterns.

Although the machines will be fully functioning, Peter Williams Motorcycles says the bikes won’t be road legal. They won’t come cheap, either, at approximately £65,000, a whisker from $100,000 U.S. Given that a “real” JPN Monocoque is valued at roughly $250,000 that could be viewed as a bargain, especially considering the very unique fact that these bikes are being designed and manufactured by the same man who built the originals. They are, in some respects, a continuation of the original. That’s a provenance that’s hard to beat — if you can afford it.

We’re hoping our man in England, moto journalist Alan Cathcart, will get a chance to swing a leg over a finished bike. If he does, you can bet we’ll share the experience here. MC 

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