Happy 50th birthday, Norton Commando!

Ian Kerr reports on a great exhibition staged by the Norton Owners’ Club to celebrate the 50th anniversary of one of the marque’s most successful machines at Ardingly, West Sussex, at the end of October.

Norton Commandos in all their different road-going forms were on display for visitors to feast their eyes upon.

Even though another big classic event was taking place at Peterborough on the same weekend, thousands flocked to the South of England Showground at Ardingly to help the Norton Owners’
Club celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Norton Commando in unseasonably balmy weather on October 28-29.

Boasting a 248cc Blackburne engine, Matchless Teledraulic forks and a period swinging-arm conversion, this Francis-Barnett Stag scrambler was another big draw for visitors.

The now-iconic machine was launched to the public at the 1967 Earls Court Show, and was a great sales success both on the road and in racing, where it achieved many honours.

To the delight of the crowd, some of the racing Nortons were fired up outside.

Although many top riders from the era campaigned the parallel twin, the name of Peter Williams, a rider of note who was also heavily involved in the development of the racing machines, always stood out – and he was the obvious guest of honour at the event.

Peter took along copies of his recently republished and updated autobiography Designed to Race, and joined noted collector Mike Braid, who had some of the machines from his Norton racing collection on display, in a question-and-answer session that went down so well that the testers and designers from the AMC Plumstead factory who’d also turned up didn’t get a chance to tell their own stories. However, they were available afterwards, and were happy to chat and give an insight to what life was like at AMC.

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