The Norton Commando Bible: All Models 1968-1978
Peter Henshaw, author of “The Norton Commando Bible: All Models 1968-1978,” has written more than 60 motorcycle books, including no less than a dozen of those in Veloce’s “Essential Buyer’s Guide” series, is the former editor of Motorcycle Sports and Leisure magazine. He has written too many articles to count.
As if that weren’t enough evidence of his authoritative background, for this book, he enlisted the additional expertise of a range of Norton experts and former staff. Those contacts, in turn, led to the acquisition of not only unique insights, but rarely seen photos and graphics.
That extensive work and research has resulted in an enlightening and entertaining book on one of England’s most iconic motorcycle models.
Henshaw reveals that the Norton Commando wasn’t actually expected to become a powerhouse in the British motorcycle scene, let alone around the world. He explains:
“In mid-1967, Roger Dennistoun Poore had a problem—coming up with a new flagship for the motorcycle devision of Manganese Bronze Holdings (MBH) in less than three months.”
And, “The answer was seen as a purely temporary stopgap—take the existing 750cc Atlas engine, find a way of taming its legendary vibration, and get the result onto the Norton stand at Earls Court in just 11 weeks time. A year or two later, an all-new DOHC 750 twin would be ready, and the stopgap, having served its purpose, would be unceremoniously dropped.
“That ‘stopgap’ was the Norton Commando, and far from serving for a year or so, would stay in production for nearly a decade, keeping the Norton name alive virtually single-handedly, and giving rise to a legend.”
Henshaw relates that the prospective new flagship engine was an 800cc DOHC parallel twin codenamed P10, with unit construction and a five-speed transmission, designed by Charles Udall in the early 1960s. The engine, once prototyped and set for testing proved to have serious problems with the cam chains failing, oil leakage, heavy weight and no improvement in performance over the Atlas engine it was slated to replace. In the end, the P10 prototype engine became a museum piece.
All that led to the use of the existing Atlas engine in a new chassis with the engine, transmission and swing-arm all unified in the Isolastic rubber-mount frame. Henshaw provides a detailed retrospective on how the Commando came be be as a mixture of compromise, existing parts and innovative thinking.
Henshaw recounts the Commando’s rise as a popular machine, model variants, racing success, advertising approaches and the struggles of Norton Villiers Triumph to remain viable.
The extraordinary detail of the narrative backed up by 163 color and black and white images, advertising art and technical information makes The Norton Commando Bible All Models 1968-1978 a book any Commando owner or fan, any Norton fan and most any motorcycle history buff would want to have in their collection.
- Title: The Norton Commando Bible All Models 1968-1978
- Author: Peter Henshaw
- Published: 2017 hardcover, 144 pages, 8.0 x 10” pages, 163 color and black & white images.
- Publisher: Veloce Publishing, Parkway Farm Business Park, Middle Farm Way, Poundbury, Dorchester, DT1 3AR, England
- ISBN: 978-1-78711-006-9
- MSRP: U.S. $55; U.K. £35