Alan Cathcart takes the new Norton 961 for a ride
Norton 961 Commando Café Racer
Engine: 961cc OHV air-cooled parallel twin
Claimed power: 80hp @ 6,500rpm (claimed, at crankshaft)
Top speed: 130mph (test)
Weight (dry): 414lb
Price: £13,995 ($21,818 as of 1/12/11)
Start believing. If you ever questioned that Norton would find itself back in business after British businessman Stuart Garner acquired the rights to the historic British marque in 2008, the new Café Racer should allay those doubts.
Since 2008, Garner has moved fast to bring Norton back to the marketplace, erecting a 20,000-square-foot factory and recruiting a strong group of executives and engineers (many of them from the nearby Triumph factory) to push development of the first new Norton (excepting the rotaries of the mid-1980s) since production effectively stopped in 1975. Using the three prototypes created by Kenny Dreer in Oregon that he’d inherited as the starting point, Garner gave himself a head start in his ambitious plans to fast-forward development of the retro-inspired Commando 961. Almost all of the first-production 961 SEs (for “Special Edition”) were sold long ago, but Norton has unveiled two volume production variants whose production is now underway, the base model Sport roadster that’s a non-blinged out version of the SE and the Café Racer, a clip-on barred take on The Way It Was. MC
To read about the development of the Norton 961 and view more color photos, order the March/April 2011 issue of Motorcycle Classics. Contact Customer Service at (800) 880-7567 or contact us by email.