Norton Motorcycle For Sale

The Norton Motorcycle Company was founded in 1898, beginning as a manufacturer for bicycle and motorcycle parts. The next logical step was to start producing their own motorbikes, which they did in 1902. Norton bikes were manufactured with third-party engines for the first six years, but Norton debuted their own motor in 1908. They would make all of their own motors from there on, and Norton bikes even won several major race events.

Production stopped temporarily during World War I when the British economy went to a war footing. But Norton resumed motorcycle deliveries within six months of the armistice, making its first deliveries in April of 1919. During this time, they focused on long-stroke, single-cylinder engines. These models were loud and vibrated intensely. But they were far more reliable than most other engines of the time, making Norton a household name in the British Isles.

Before World War II, Norton motorcycles also continued winning races. A Norton bike won the Isle of Man Senior TT in 1924. It was the first time a winner averaged more than 60 miles per hour. Norton would go on to win this event nine more times over the next fourteen years.

In 1936, Norton won a contract manufacturing motorcycles for the British military. What began as a small peacetime operation turned into a mainstay of their business during World War II. By the end of the war in 1945, over 100,000 Norton military motorcycles had been produced, nearly a quarter of the total for the British Army.

Norton Motorcycle Buyer’s Guide

Following World War II, Norton once again found success on the racing circuit with newer V-twin engines. However, the company focused a lot of time and effort on producing prototype track models, and their core business suffered. Without military orders to bolster their finances, they soon found themselves in trouble.

In 1953, Norton was sold to Associated Motorcycles, who shifted production from Birmingham to London and built much-needed fantail frames and a more modern gearbox. This post-upgrade period, starting in 1962, is the era that produced the most popular Norton motorcycles still in circulation.

The two most common models are the Commando and the Atlas. The Commando, in production from 1967, is a full-sized cruiser with a larger motor. The Atlas is closer to a street bike, with a smaller engine and frame.

Like many other American and European motorcycle brands, Norton ran into difficulty in the 1970s. Facing increased competition from more reliable, affordable Japanese bikes, their orders dried up, and the factory doors closed permanently in 1975.

The Best Places To Buy A Norton Motorcycle

Unless you own a time machine, the only way you are going to buy a Norton motorcycle is by finding a used one. There are numerous Norton models, especially if you count the ones produced before World War II. However, most of these models are extremely rare, and they are available only at exorbitant prices or at the occasional auction. In most cases, when people buy a classic Norton motorcycle, they are purchasing a Commando or an Atlas.

You may also have heard that there is a new Norton company making new Norton models. We will address that as well.

Classic Norton Commando

The Norton Commando is the definition of a late 1960s cruiser. It sits higher than a modern cruiser and looks more like what we would call a street bike today. But the aesthetic is already present, from a design loaded with chrome and leather to a wide set of handlebars.

The original Commando was produced from 1967 until Norton’s demise. Early model years utilized a 745cc motor, which was later expanded to 828cc in 1973. The pistons also boasted Hemi heads, a standard feature on Norton bikes that is not common elsewhere.

During its lifetime, the Commando sold approximately 60,000 units. It also won the Motor Cycle News Machine of the Year award every year from 1968 to 1972. Nowadays, you can find one for around $6,000 used, although you will need to pay more if you want one in mint condition.

Classic Norton Atlas

The Norton Atlas was initially launched in 1960, a full seven years before the Commando. The first year, the original 650cc version, called the Manxman, was released in the United States only. In 1961, the full-sized 750cc Atlas was released.

Conceived initially as a high-powered bike, the Atlas’ ambitious engine design caused Norton’s engineers some serious headaches. The original prototype had run very smoothly for a safe, comfortable ride. However, with the 750cc motor, vibration became excessive. As a result, you didn’t want to push the throttle past 5,500 RPM.

Throughout the lifetime of the Atlas, numerous changes were made to the engine to improve performance, at great expense to Norton. These costs, along with many other factors, helped put Norton out of business. Ironically, the Atlas is now considered a classic and can be bought for as little as $8,000, although $10,000 is more realistic for a bike that is in good condition.

Relaunched Norton Motorcycles

When Norton ceased production, the brand itself did not disappear. Instead, it was acquired and reacquired by a handful of companies. It resurfaced in the early 1990s in Oregon as an American manufacturer, and a handful of bikes were produced before that company failed.

Eventually, in 2008, a UK businessman named Stuart Garner would purchase the rights to Norton. He built a new factory at the Donington Park racetrack and sold a re-release of the Norton Commando. Despite reaching speeds of over 130 MPH, sales were slow, and the model was discontinued.

Other offerings included a re-released Atlas and a pair of 1,200cc, 200 hp bikes called the V4SS and V4RR. A handful of V4s were sold, while the new Atlas never even went into production before Norton stopped production again in January of 2020.

In theory, you can buy a re-released commando or even a V4, but you will have to keep a close eye on auctions and be prepared to pay a small fortune. You can also register to be notified if the Atlas, V4SS, or V4RR ever goes back into production.