The Norton 961 Commando in America


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norton 961 
The new Norton 961 Commando Café Racer. 

Patience: That best describes the demeanor U.S. buyers for the new Norton 961 Commando have had to assume since Stuart Garner’s 2008 relaunch of Norton.

Garner, who made his fortune in fireworks, originally hoped to have bikes in production by mid-2009. But reality has a nasty way of insinuating itself into even the best laid plans, and it took another year for the first finished bikes, the limited edition 961 SE (200 will be built), to start rolling off the new Norton line. Here's the official promo video for the Norton 961 SE:

Yet delays haven’t stopped interest. Industry veteran Matt Capri was quick to link up with Garner, establishing South Bay Norton in August 2009 as the exclusive U.S. dealer/distributor. South Bay’s John Perkey told us only three of 50 U.S. allotted 961 SEs were still available as we went to press; the U.K. allotment sold out by October 2009.

The first U.K. market SE was delivered last March, the first Sport in October and the first Café Racer in November. U.S. customers can expect to start collecting their SEs in April or May, assuming the 961 passes EPA emissions testing, ongoing as we went to print. Capri expects it to pass easily, with California certification following shortly. The wire-wheeled SE is priced at $17,999 and the carbon fiber-wheeled SE at $19,499. Perkey says those bikes are being sold at a discount to drive interest; in the U.K., the Café Racer and Sport are priced at approximately $22,000 and $19,500, respectively. The first Café Racer could arrive here as early as April, but it could be as late as mid-summer. For a taste of what you can expect, read Alan Cathcart's road test of the new Café Racer.

Garner has clearly been re-evaluating the importance of the U.S. market; in November he named one-time Ducati North America CEO Dan Van Epps as CEO of newly created subsidiary Norton Motorcycles USA. Van Epps will spearhead efforts to establish a dealer network in time to start selling bikes by April or May, with an ultimate goal of dealer presence in the top 50 U.S. population centers. Further, as we went to press, Norton announced it had hired ex-Ducati fashionista Pierre Terblanche as head of product development and design. Among his challenges is designing a new line of multi-valve, multi-cylinder engines.

2/18/2011 3:48:17 PM

They will eventually run up against the problem that everything retro hits: where do you go after you've done the original "updated" remake. So long as it looks like the old Norton twins so many of us love, it will sell (to a limited market). But is the world really eager for a multi from Norton? Do they really want to get into a serious HP war with the established brands? Are their pockets that deep?

2/17/2011 11:02:57 AM

A kick a$$ big single!!! The time is right. I can't tell you how many folks (and I don't mean just those over 40) I've had 'cool' bike discussions that involved the high-performance BIG single subject and ended with something to the effect "Less is more and I'd definitely buy one, as long as they didn't try and make it an entry level marketing exercize or 'swoop' out the styling like it's trying to be one of its multi-cylinder 600-1000cc stable mates." Imagine what Terblanche could do with a single.... The new Norton does not appear to be a watered-down version of anything. I like that. And further, a BIG performance single version wouldn't miss the mark because it's trying to appeal to the masses. Ultimately, would I buy one if price was kept to 4-digits? Oh ya.

2/17/2011 10:04:10 AM

I really hope that Norton makes it this time, the bike is good enough even at the asking price. I was alittle disturbed by the comment that they are already looking to develope muti cyl bikes. If Norton feels the need to have a second line of motorcycle they should bring back a modern version of the Manx.

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