The trend that has inclined collectors toward owning and restoring vintage motorcycles has led to more than one precious two-wheeler being resurrected from salvage. There have even been various attempts through the last few years to resurrect nameplates, many of which have been unsuccessful. Only recently has the Indian Motorcycle company been again revamped to make another go at profitability in the coming years. Many of these companies have changed hands numerous times before finally just giving up the ghost. The most recent attempt, by one of Great Britain’s most significant brands of the last century, Norton motorcycles, represents something of a departure from that “build a retro and charge a fortune” mindset. While it certainly won’t be cheap, the new Norton Commando 961 SS takes aim at a burgeoning naked sportbike market and seems to have the necessary look to take on all comers. It’s muscular, lean styling is a sight to behold, genuinely standing next to Ducati and BMW riders and practically daring them to attempt to take on what will hopefully become a production motorcycle by 2010.
For the time being, pricing on the Norton Commando 961 SS has not been released, but Norton motorcycles faithful should need wait not much longer, as Norton Motorcycles indicates in their website that pricing information will be available in Spring 2009. Does that mean that the bike will be available for 2010? Hardly. The new Norton Commando 961 SS at this time is a traveling fantasy, dredging up dreams held long in check by motorcyclists dismayed at the storied company’s downfall to larger competition such as Triumph, and its years of upheaval from the 1970’s until just recently.
The new Norton Commando 961 SS is Norton’s newborn, another try to revive the company, and seems to have all the right things going for it. The Norton Commando 961 SS will be powered by a Parallel twin engine that displaces (as you might guess) 961 cubic centimeters. It will be air cooled, and is reported to make 80 horsepower and 65 lb/ft of torque. A potential problem area might be the fact that Norton engineers opted to utilize carburetion rather than fuel injection, when fuel injection is quickly becoming the standard (and expected) when purchasing a high-end motorcycle. A five-speed gearbox and chain final drive finish off the drive assembly, with little special to distinguish itself. Perhaps in a misguided attempt to believe that high-end purchasers of exotic limited-production motorcycles enjoy spending time tinkering in the insides of their collectors pieces, engineers working on the new Norton Commando 961 SS strove to make the engine as accessible and easy to work on as possible. While this is a noble thing to do, there simply aren’t very many do-it-yourselfers out there anymore.
The Norton Commando 961 SS features everything else you could possibly want in a naked sportbike- the fuel tank capacity is good, weight is low at just 415 lbs, and while the only color available is black, that really is the best look for a bike as menacing looking as this is. Yellow just wouldn’t do it justice.
So is the new Norton Commando 961 SS enough to pull Norton back from the ashes of restructuring, changing hands multiple times, and the Wankel engine? Only time will tell, but from the looks of the Norton Commando 961 SS, things are looking really, really promising.