Named for combat, the silhouette of this road-roaring machine could easily be confused with a weapon of war. These superbikes were so well-suited for speed that the racing community coined the phrase “unapproachable Norton” specifically to describe Commando motorcycles.
History of Power
In an attempt to better compete in the racing industry, Norton hired an engineer from the car-manufacturing giant Rolls-Royce and developed a totally unique, rubber-mounted engine frame capable of significantly reducing the vibration of the frame and increasing handling.
This first model became available to the public in 1969, when it was marketed as a racing bike. The line quickly took off and now there are five major generations for the history books.
Designed to Dominate the Road
The original Norton Commando 750 sported a 745cc displacement engine with a 9.0:1 compression ratio and 58 horsepower at 6,800 rpm. The four-speed chain suspension and telescopic forks on the chassis helped support this monster at speeds of 115 miles per hour.
Timeline of Versions with Changes
Considering the Commando’s 40-year-long history of conquering the roads, it’s no wonder that it’s gone through five different generations.
- Norton Commando 750 (1969-1972)
The engine for the first three generations of Commandos was almost identical in the design of its general mechanical parts. It sported an air-cooled, four-stroke, parallel twin-cylinder design with a push rod and two valves per cylinder.
- Norton Commando 750 Interstate (1972-1975)
For the 750 Interstate, Norton added a wet multi-plate clutch, replaced the front drum brake with a single disc, and made a few other minor changes to the design to improve overall comfort and handling.
- Norton Commando 850 Interstate MK3 (1975-1978)
This generation saw the introduction of an electric starter to the Commando series as well as further improvements to the braking system and an increased displacement size of 829cc.
- Norton 952 Commando (2005-present)
In 2005, the engine displacement was further increased from 829cc to 952cc and the compression ratio was brought up from 9.0:1 to 10.1:1. Horsepower also increased significantly to 80KW, and designers managed to set the standard torque firmly at 70.1 pounds per foot.
- Norton Commando 961 SS (year-year)
The 2006 model of the Norton Commando 961 SS included a newly designed air-cooled, parallel twin-cylinder engine with push-rod valve actuation and a displacement value of 961cc.
The Commando in the News
The biggest story in the news regarding Norton Commandos is the fact that, as of 2013, Norton has finally begun shipping models to the United States after about 40 years of not even considering doing so. Norton has claimed that the manufacturers are still struggling to meet demand and satisfy the massive waitlists for new models.
Commandeering the Silver Screen
The various generations of the Commando model have appeared in countless films and TV series since first being made available for purchase in 1969.
Many celebrities and actors famously rode on the back of one of Norton’s Commando as a theatrical symbol of power, freedom, and rebellion over the past several decades.
The Commando’s Squads
If you’re looking to meet up and chat with like-minded people about your affinity for Norton’s motorcycles, particularly its Commando series, consider joining this Facebook group where you can associate with thousands of other auto-enthusiasts.
Norton Commando – One Mighty Machine
Over the past nearly four decades, the Norton Commando has done more than idle into the annals of history. It has roared its way down the asphalt and speed directly into the halls of fame for classic superbikes, motorcycles, and scooters.