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1974 John Player Norton Commando 850cc


  • A UK supplied example of this special edition racing tribute Norton Commando
  • One of only around 200 made and less than 80 thought to have remained in the UK
  • In a highly original condition and diligently preserved and maintained

The Appeal

The Norton Commando was a successful and popular motorcycle in the traditional British bike tradition. So much so it was Motorcycle News’s “Machine of the Year” every year between its launch in 1968 and 1972. During the early 1970’s Norton ran a factory racing team that competed and enjoyed success in Formula 750 events. The team was sponsored by John Player to promote their John Player Special cigarette brand.

To capitalise on the success of the race team, Norton produced a limited-edition variant of the MK2 Commando styled in tribute to the race bikes. Norton originally planned a 1,000-unit production run. In the end, however, only around 200 were produced with 120 of these being directly exported to North America.  
This Commando is a 1974 model, which was originally registered in 1975. It presents in a highly original condition with all the key John Player Norton parts present and correct. The current owner has been a fastidious custodian of this rare motorcycle to the point of even removing and preserving the now unobtainable black chromium exhausts and silencers. This fine motorcycle is in an eminently useable condition and ready to use and enjoy immediately.

The History and Paperwork

  • Factory records suggest this Norton was manufactured in July 1974
  • It was first registered in October 1975 
  • It is believed to have been a UK supplied bike and has remained here since
  • The current owner acquired the motorcycle in 2015
  • It was bought from specialist dealers Spinning Wheel Classics
  • They serviced and lightly recommissioned the motorcycle before delivery
  • The current owner took delivery of the Norton in 2016
  • At this point the odometer was reading 35,090 miles
  • The Norton has since been garaged and diligently maintained
  • Very little use has been possible, however, resulting in the reluctant sale
  • The current owner has added just around 100 miles in his ownership
  • There is a good level of paperwork included with the Norton
  • This includes the V5 in the name of the current owner
  • This categorises the Norton as a Historic Vehicle
  • As such it is MOT and VED exempt in the UK
  • Various earlier MOT copies are included in hard copy
  • An original John Player Norton riders’ manual is also present
  • A letter is included from the Norton Owners Club providing additional provenance
  • Some additional John Player decals are included as is a John Player Norton key fob
  • The owner also alludes to a file of invoices and receipts going back years

The Interior

  • The riding environment of the Commando is an object lesson in simplicity
  • The single saddle is finished in immaculate black vinyl
  • This is arranged into horizontal box pleats 
  • A racing riding position is promoted by the fitment of rearsets and clip-on handlebars
  • The folding foot pegs are finished with ribbed rubber covers
  • The rear brake pedal is finished with a machined alloy grip
  • The clip-ons are steeply raked, and feature rubber finished grips
  • The alloy grip bases accommodate some of the motorbike’s controls
  • These are inscribed with the Lucas name and part number
  • The low Perspex screen affords a degree of wind and weather protection
  • A pair of white on black Smiths clocks nestle under the screen
  • A trio of warning lights are also present
  • The kick start and gear lever are both finished with rubber end pieces 
  • Twin, oblong chrome backed wing mirrors are fitted

The Exterior

  • The John Player Nortons were styled in tribute to the factory race machines
  • This included the abbreviated Avon fairing that sweeps down to partly cover the engine 
  • This is fitted with twin six-inch headlamps redolent of the endurance racers
  • The single saddle sits ahead of the faired in rear section
  • A fibreglass, Norton badged cover dresses an elongated Roadster steel tank
  • The fibreglass bodywork is finished in bright white
  • The lower sections of the fairing feature red and blue decals
  • The rear panel is finished with Union Jacks affixed between red and black panels
  • The frame and side panels are finished in gloss black
  • The rear mudguard is a chrome item with the front one finished in white
  • The black exhausts and silencers are replacements
  • The former were sourced from Andover Norton
  • The latter are black annular discharge items from Armours 
  • The originals have been preserved by the owner as are now irreplaceable
  • These are pictured and are, of course, included with the Norton
  • The overall condition of the Norton is excellent considering its age
  • Some minor surface cracks are noted and reported to some of teh paintwork on parts of the bodywork/stickers and appear to go no deeper than the paintwork itself or stickers, which can easily be replaced
  • This tends to be normal for fibreglass panels of this age

The Mechanics

  • The Commando was fitted with an 828cc engine across all models from 1973
  • This was marketed as an “850” and is the engine fitted here
  • This is a parallel twin with 2 pushrod valves per cylinder
  • This is an air-cooled unit that breathes through 2 Amal carburettors
  • In this configuration it was originally rated at 60 bhp at 6,200rpm
  • Power is delivered via a four-speed gearbox
  • The 850 Commandos were all fitted with a single front disc
  • The alloy side plates of the engine are in excellent order
  • A new 13 mm Andover Norton front brake master cylinder is fitted
  • New brake pipes have also been fitted
  • The front calliper has been overhauled and fitted with new seals and pads
  • The fuel tank was cleaned out and sealed with an ethanol resistant liner 
  • This helps to mitigate against modern fuels
  • New petrol taps were also fitted by the owner as a precaution
  • All work has been undertaken experienced British motorcycle mechanics
  • The owner reports the mechanical condition as “excellent”
  • He attests to it starting easily and running well with 
  • The high-quality handling one would expect is noted


The Norton Commando was produced for over 10 years with a total of around 60,000 being made during that period. Despite a relatively basic specification it went on to become a motorcycling icon of the 60’s and 70’s with the powerful engine and light weight giving the model true sporting potential. The John Player Norton is an exponentially rarer iteration of the MK2 Commando with as few as 80 thought to have originally remained in the UK.

This motorcycle looks to be a fine example too. It appears to be in a highly original condition with all the requisite John Player Norton parts and data plates present and in great condition. There is even some valuable provenance provided by none other than the Norton Owners Club. The Norton is reported to be in an excellent mechanical condition and ready to ride and enjoy. What are you waiting for? Bid today to be the next owner of this vanishingly rare Norton.
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Vehicle specification
  • Year 1974
  • Make Norton
  • Model Commando 850
  • Colour White
  • Odometer 35,185 Miles
  • Engine size 850
Listing Details
  • Seller Type Private
  • Town Ringwood
  • Location Hampshire
  • Country United Kingdom

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