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
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.
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..
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.
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
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