When Philippe Le Roux took over the
semi-dormant Norton Motors Ltd he found an exhaustively tested product in
the form of the Interpol II, but nothing to sell to the man in the street.
The answer of the marketing man in this case- and Bloors Triumph did the
very same some years later- is to come up with a "First Edition"
bike to be snapped up by the collectors. The answer of the
production manager was to take an Interpol II and, with radical changes to
styling but as little change as possible to the actual well-tested core
motorcycle, produce a fully evaluated but, to the eyes of the public,
completely new model.
||The Classic was not just a
"Collectors Item", it was in fact a very nice
The low centre of gravity made it feel lighter than it actually was,
and devoid of all the police equipment and fairing it was a pretty
quick handler on twisty roads. In the British tradition, it had a
functionally well-constructed centre stand that dug into the tarmac with its
footstep in every lefthander- some things never seemed to change-
"They all do that, Sir", as
old Norton Commando and Triumph Bonneville riders can tell you!
So the Classic is in fact nothing but a glorified
Interpol II with nicer looks and without a fairing. As such, there are
some high-mileage examples about that have done phenomenal distances with
minimum fuss, but there are also some low-mileage lemmons around, the
problem being storage- a rotary engine is prone to corrosion when laid up
for long periods without the necessary precautions. By the time it is
started up after a long period in a possibly damp environment (unheated
garage), things will go seriously and costly wrong. Norton Motors, being
aware of the problem, sent out a service release about how to prepare a
Classic for storage. 100 Classics were built, as well as one
prototype, and several more were later made up by private owners from
Interpol IIs- the giveaway always being the engine/frame numbers, which on
Classics run from P43LE001 through P43LE100.
At the Birmingham Show in 1989 Norton showed a prototype "Classic
Mk2" with a watercooled engine as a teaser for the public. Norton was
in deep trouble financially, and the show did not bring in any orders that
would justify a production run. The bike was sold off, and that was it-
but for a standart Classic that was converted to watercooling in the
factory some time later.
||This picture actually
shows a P53 "Commander" in the foreground, but it is not
only nice to look at but gives an idea how much smaller and lighter
a "Classic" is in comparison. The "Commander"
was the bike for the long-distance traveller- the
"Classic" a fun scratcher for B-roads- even though their
raw bones are not very different.