P55B "F1 Sports" alias
The F1 Sports was the swansong of Norton
Rotary motorcycle production, representing the peak of the development at
the time. It came about through the frustrating experiences of German
importer Norton Motors GmbH in emissions testing, and the main ideas were
outlined in a fax from Joe Seifert to Richard Negus in 1991.
Starting with an idea derived from David Garsides SAE paper on the
development of the rotary engine in combination with the fact the
Commander had no emission problems, the return to SU carburation was the
cornerstone of development. The other main change was to rid the
motorcycle of its beautiful but problematic bodywork, replacing it with
something that not only already existed, but furthermore gave the
motorcycle more street credibility- the factory racers tank/seat unit.
This allowed to take off the fully-enclosing main bodywork, and, using the
front part of the F1 fairing, getting far more air through, and out of, the
motorcycle. Richard Negus once said the main expense in making the P55B
prototype was the 300 Pounds the first hand-made petrol tank cost-
everything else was already there. This, obviously, does not take into
account how many hours Richard and Bob Rowley spent on other things not
apparent to the casual onlooker, the main breakthrough being Richards idea
to mount the carburettors higher up, above the radiator, to get some cool air to them.
The end result was a motorcycle that sold on a subscription basis, every
single one being snapped up immediately, and the last one (No.66) actually
being built in Germany from new parts, as the factory in Shenstone had run out.
The F1 Sports or "TT" is now considered to be the best and most desirable model of all
Rotary Nortons, if not off all rotary engined motorcycles.
The frustrating thing was, that these motorcycles were only built as an
exercise to use up unshiftable parts originally bought in for F1
production- thus making Midlands Bank some more money, but never with the
seroius intention to make any more after the original stash of parts was used up. This was not
aparent to the directors of Norton Motors Ltd, nor to their trade
customers, until it was too late, i.e. after the last bike had been produced.
In order to explain the inexplicably low retail price at the time- in fact
a price that was not only far too low, but also uncalled for as all bikes
sold instantly-, rumours were placed with the press that as parts dried up
from the original left-over high-price parts (PVM wheels, Brembo Brakes,
White Power supension components), these were to be replaced by
cheaper Yamaha-sourced items. Whilst this was then faithfully repeated,
and still is in all publications about Norton ever since ("The F1 Sports
was built with cheaper parts" etc), this was, in fact, never done,
the only bikes using these FZR1000-sourced "cheap" components being the
non-functional F2 prototypes.
||The P55B- Everybody should
have one, but there are only 66 bikes out there! But for the front
fairing the bike could easily pass for a works racer replica. A bike
that can be ridden very fast in production trim, as was shown in a
German Battle of Twins Championship round in Speyer in 1992 where a
production bike, actually ridden to the race course that morning,
made 12th place in the race (in a field of 20), only to be put back
on normal road tires and to be ridden home, 300 miles
away, the same night. The very same bike was later loaned out to a
novice rider, who was very taken with the unproblematic, docile
engine, good brakes and predictable handling- a real "Jekyll-
Few came in the "JPS" colours, most were plain black, and
German market machines (23 out of the 66 made) had red transfers and were