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The Commando "Production Racer"



1970 Proddy Racer- later ones used a different front mudguard, oil tank and silencers

The standart Commando formed the basis of the just over 100 Production Racers that were built by the Race Shop in Thruxton. 

These were not called "Norvil", but "Production Racer" (nicknamed "Yellow Peril"). The name "Norvil" was only used once in a brochure for special racing parts issued by Norton for privateers like a certain Mick Hemmings, who wanted to convert their standart road Commando to go racing.

As a production racer, the bike had to be road legal, so had lights and silencers. Whilst the engines were very special, being hand-built with some blueprinting of components and a few special components inside, plus in some cases very special carburettors, the rest of the bike used mostly standart components. 5-speed gearboxes were an optional extra, the rear brake was ventilated but otherwise standart, the front brake used one of the first "floating" discs introduced to Norton by Peter Williams, and the racing headsteady (again a Peter Williams design, Andover Norton has the original drawings signed by him) made the whole chassis far more rigid in the twisties. 

The engines pumped out in reality what the "Combat" models claimed on paper but never delivered. In his book, Peter Williams says (wrongly), that Combat engines were built to Production racer specification. This is not true, from a component, as well as production point of view- all Racer engines were hand-built in the Thruxton Race Shop.

The front brake was very effective for the time (though, as was the fashion, used too big a bore on the master cylinder). The total weight was not much less than a standart Fastback.

It is interesting to note, that within a couple of years most "featherbed" based racers disappeared from the tracks, whilst Commandos won races; the sucesses of the works team as well as of private teams like the Richard Negus equipe showed the potential of such modified or bought of-the-shelf racers against the supposedly superior featherbed chassis.

In closing, a message to the fans who want one to ride on public roads: Don't! I did, and it is no fun. I spent three days in the Alps on mine once, and nearly had to be lifted off the bike afterwards, but I have ridden the bike on the track several times and that is fun. The long first gear (5-speed box), riding position and general layout for fast riding make it a bad idea in todays congested traffic. Goes some way to explaining why one sees so many "Cafe Racers" offered for sale..........

If you are offered a "Genuine Production Racer", the safest way to find out if it is a genuine one is to check in the production records. Andover Norton has the microfilms that the Science Museum made of the original despatch books, as well as some originals that others do not have. We can check if it is a genuine one, so can Norman White and the N.O.C..

Historical note: the name "Norvil" was never used by Norton in the Commando days- bar in that one brochure. There was a legal dispute between two prominent characters years ago about the ownership of that name, the most amusing argument of one side being that Mike Jackson had sold the name for a nominal sum to them. Quite frankly, neither was Mike at the time in a legal position within the Norton empire to sell it, nor had Norton ever registered the name and/or used it in a substantial way, so ownership or copyright would have been hard to claim even for Norton themselves.

Towards the end of the Production Racer's Production, Norton offered a "750 Racer" alongside it, with full fairing and megaphone exhaust. Not many were built, but we know of a couple at least. These bikes were listed in the despatch records as "AMA Racer". 

1973/74 saw a final attempt to sell 750 Commandos to would-be racers. This model was called the "TX750" (as was a Yamaha model at the time), which was short for "Thruxton Club Racer", after the circuit near which it was being produced by the few characters left over from the works race team. The bike, however, came too late. By then the TZ Yamahas in their 351cc form were far more competitive in the 750 class, being far lighter, and few TX750 machines were made, fewer if any raced in earnest. I know of several nearly-new TX750s, but not of one that was worn out in racing!


TX750. Picture shows a restored example