• One of fewer than 140 ever made • Twin rotor Wankel engine • Fully rebuilt by former Norton Development Engineer • 811 miles covered since rebuild
To capitalise on the success of its RCW588 works racing bike, Norton decided to build a road going version, the F1. The brochure, included here in the photographs, showed that it was marketed in a way that would be hard to imagine today with sponsorship from a cigarette company and the tagline ‘Son of a Bitch’ (the race being the ‘Bitch’).
That it was closely related to the race bike is plain to see, however one describes it, with the frame, adjustable suspension and engine all benefitting from hard-earned lessons on the racetrack. Brembo brakes provided impressive stopping power and the water cooled twin rotor rotary engine is unusual but undeniably effective.
While exact production figures are hard to nail down, it seems that no more than 140 were built, making this a rare and sought after bike.
The current owner is a Norton enthusiast who has a small collection. Having advertised his desire to own an F1, he bought this one from a private seller in the West Midlands. Although it had covered only a limited number of miles, he wanted it to be in the best possible shape and decided to commission a full rebuild courtesy of Richard Negus, former Norton engineer and renowned race engine builder.
The full list of work is outlined on the two page invoice which is shown in the photographs but, in summary, every area of the bike was checked and everything rebuilt or replaced with genuine parts. This even included the clocks, partly due to wear on the old ones and partly because the aim was to make it feel like new. (The old clocks are included as proof of the mileage).
Having returned looking extremely shiny, it has only been lightly used, largely for visits to the owner’s club at the Norton factory, when that was still a thing. Now with a house renovation devouring funds at a much greater than anticipated rate, the owner is looking to reduce his collection and so is offering it up for auction.
The bike is accompanied by a folder of invoices and memorabilia including the aforementioned brochure and invoice, magazines featuring the F1 and a spare set of decals. There’s also the original owner’s manual and an illustrated parts catalogue based on a draft which was never officially released.
The current MOT expires on 26 March 2022 and while the V5 in the vendor’s name in the photographs is a photocopy of the old version for his previous address, the updated version has now arrived from the DVLA.
There’s no two ways about it, with the autumnal colours complementing the decals and finish on the front disk, the F1 looks absolutely stunning. Presented in immaculate condition, the attention to detail in the restoration process is immediately apparent with only some light tarnishing to a few bolts and the exhaust and some light stone chipping to the radiator betraying its age.
A peek beneath the bodywork reinforces the first impressions with the componentry all looking in tip top condition. The paintwork and decals are also very fresh. This is a bike that is sure to make its next owner very proud.
Given the level of work that’s gone into restoring all aspects of this F1, it’s no surprise to find that it runs very well indeed, though it really needs to be used more regularly than it currently is in order to keep it in prime condition. Evidence of this is the few small remnants of oil staining on the exhaust which show that when the bike has not been used for an extended period that upon start up, it does lose some. However the owner assures us that this is consistent across all the Norton rotaries that he’s owned and that it’s not an issue if it is ridden on a regular basis.
On the road, it runs very smoothly and makes a distinctive sound which is addictive, particularly at high revs. With 94bhp it pulls well and certainly isn’t for the faint hearted but it is a very flexible engine and makes for an enjoyable ride. With so few miles since its rebuild, it’s ready to go.
Norton’s rotary-engined period was a turbulent time for the company but a successful time on the racetrack and this is your opportunity to own the road-going close relation to the race bike. Given tiny production numbers and enthusiastic owners, they rarely come up for sale.
This example has been comprehensively restored and rebuilt and is ready to be enjoyed to the full. Surely a sound investment as well as a chance to experience the unusual experience of riding a rotary-engined bike, you should be able to bid on this F1 with your heart and your head. What’s stopping you?
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1990 Norton F1
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