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Norton Rotary Development (5): Norton Prototypes

Dennis Poore had originally opposed the idea of watercooling the Norton Rotary. However, as power increased, so did the temperatures of various engine components and, with them, the rate of component failures. The answer was watercooling, which was tried on this P51 prototype in the early eighties. The bike was, in effect, a pretty standart P41 (Interpol II) minus the angular fairing and painted a bright and friendly black. The bike was loaned to the then German importers for some high-speed testing on unrestricted German autobahns, on the understanding it was not to be given to the press- which was the very first thing they then did! This led to disenchantment between the two parties and, eventually, to the appointment of a new German importer.
This motorcycle led to the "reverse flow" P52/P53 "Commander", which proved to be a very reliable machine with its new water-cooled engine.

The picture shows the P51, the first water-cooled Norton Rotary in 1984. Germanys "Motorrad" magazine was quite impressed with the machine's performance, but not with its styling- an unfair, in fact rather childish comment on an experimental "hack" that was never to be sold in this form anyway! "Classic" owners take note of the rear light assembly- it was a leftover from an earlier project!
The engine was markedly different to the later production ones; the waterpump was an early design that was known to give problems. The pictures were taken in Germany in 1984, just before the bike went back to the UK, never to be seen in this form again. The author remembers riding it that summer and being impressed by the power increase against the "Cooke Neilsen" he had ridden some months before.