Norton Commando 750 Production Racer


Make Model

Norton Commando 750 Production Racer


1968 - 71


Parallel twin cylinder, 4-stroke, OHV


745 cc / 45.5 cu in
Bore x Stroke 73 x 89 mm
Compression Ratio 10.25:1
Cooling System Air cooled


2 x Ø32 mm Amal GP carburetors


Boyer electronic ignition


Electric and kick

Max Power

52 kW / 70 hp @ 7000 rpm


5 Speed Rod Quaife gearbox, close ratio

Final Drive


Front Suspension

Telescopic forks

Rear Suspension

Dual shocks, swingarm

Front Brakes

Drum later models Single disc

Rear Brakes


Front Wheel

3.60 x 19" Aluminium

Rear Wheel

4.10 x 19" Aluminium

Fuel Capacity

22.7 L / 6 US gal


182 kg / 400 lbs

Top Speed

211 km/h / 131 mph

Road Test

Road Test

The Life and Times of the Yellow Submarine The Norton Commando Production Racer: More than a Café racer, less than a GP bike.

When some wealthy collector finally builds the ultimate motorcycle museum and designates one wing as the Hall of Influential Motorcycles, it's not likely future visitors will see a Norton Commando Production Racer there. By most of the accepted methods of the definition, the bike simply wasn't that important, especially outside Great Britain. It began life as a race-shop project, was launched as a marketing gimmick and, after a brief spurt of dominance and popularity on the British and European racetracks, went the way of other, suddenly uncompetitive racing machines. Which is to say, into oblivion and numberless pieces.

And yet there exists reason to think otherwise of the bike the British press instantly christened the "Yellow Submarine" on its debut at the Racing and Sporting Motorcycle show in London in a freezing January in 1971. The substance of the reason—bolstered by a healthy dose of 20/20 hindsight—is that the Commando Production Racer exists as one of, if not the ultimate development of the motorcycle format the British were to stamp as their own after World War II. This Production Racer a box-stock, genuine factory-built device, not some "prodified" aftermarket machine could well be considered the Ultimate British Vertical Twin.

Assuredly, there are Triumph Bon-nevilles being sold as new even today. But even the most wide-eyed Bonnie fan will have to admit that actual development of that machine stopped well before the workers' co-op began building the bike in the mid-Seventies. Only Norton, of all the British bike manufacturers, attempted to come to grips with the inherent vibration of a big OHV vertical twin, and thus only Norton's Isolastic-framed Commando, designed by Bob Trigg and launched in 1968, can be said to have dragged the venerable old vertical twin into the postwar world. Thus by the ineluctable process of logic, if the Commando street bike was the last word in vertical twins from Britain, then the Production Racer was the exclamation point at the end of the sentence. It was the fastest, best-handling, lightest and quickest Commando you could buy.

A few performance figures from its era underscore the last point dramatically. A stock Commando SS (a high-pipe version sold to Americans looking for "street scrambler" machismo) consistently knocked off 12.6-second, 100-plus mph quarter-mile times in magazine tests of the day. And when Tony Murphy took a '72 Production Racer to Willow Springs, former Norton factory rep Brian Slark reports, he got the bike around in less than 1:40. Considering that the lap record at the time the absolute lap record, Slark further notes—was around 1:36, the motorcycle had to be taken very seriously indeed as a racing machine.

In England, nobody had to be told. Built in batches by Peter Inchley's famous "Long Shop" race department team (the name comes from the long Nissen hut the shop called home, a building dating from the time Thruxton Circuit was Thruxton Aerodrome, home to a B-17 bomber wing of the Eighth Air Force), the Production

Racers were at first hard to come by. By late 1971, the Marketing Department at Norton had allocated enough to the race shop to insure that any production-race grid in England would show at least a dozen bikes and more often than not, that one of them would win the race. Some of this was due to simple saturation—nobody else at the time built a race-ready production racer for the class—but most of it was due to the quality of Inchley's work.

To turn the street bike rolling-chassis that got delivered from the Andover factory to the Long Shop into a Production Racer, Inchley and development engineer factory racer Peter Williams had fine-tuned the original Wally Wyatt project racer of 1969 considerably. Making use of the Long Shop's proximity to the Thruxton circuit (as in: It's in the front yard, mate), Williams and Inchley used run-it-and-see development as well as the tried and true engine tweaks known to work on the old Atlas 750cc engine. The few bikes that emerged from the Long Shop (estimates vary from less than 100 to less than 200 and documentation might as well be nonexistent) proved the worth of the work, because in 1971, '72 and most of '73, they virtually owned their class in England and Europe. Only the arrival of the Kawasaki Z-l and the curing of the Honda CB750Kl's handling ills finally put them on their trailers.