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Norton Rotary Development (6): Norton Prototypes

The 1990 Birmingham Show saw the biggest Norton Stand ever- all stops had been pulled, as the Management of the day, headed by Philippe Le Roux, was desperate. The financial situation of Norton Group PLC was grim; Le Roux and his team of asset strippers had singled out the wrong firms at the wrong time to be asset stripped, and the cash crisis was imminent. The poor relation in Norton Group PLC was the motorcycle side of the business, always handy to rouse interest in investors, so this was presented like never before. Two new models were shown- the "P56" production racer and the "water-cooled Classic". Both attracted virtually no interest, and were later sold off. Generally speaking, the 1990 Show was a disaster for Norton, virtually no orders being taken, export still a model away (only the F1 was of interest in export markets, and that did not meet any civilized emission standards), and soon Le Roux and his boys were to disappear and the banks to take over to sell the few assets that were left.

This is the "Water Cooled Classic"  on the Birmingham Show stand- without the windscreen, and with the holder for the speedo cable still in place! Apart from the watercooled engine, it also used the Yamaha parts of the "Commander" series- Yamaha forks, wheels, brakes and switchgear in place of the Italian components on the P41/P43 Interpol II and Classic series.
 The "watercooled Classic" was virtually a Commander with body parts from the old Classic. This picture shows the bike in its current state, i.e. the windscreen was fitted by the owner.
The author bought the P56 prototype from the factory that had no further use for it. It was soon broken up for spares for various projects (the forks are now in P55 0001). The bike was a total mock-up, with a standard production P55 engine in a standart production P55 frame, fitted with a race fairing in pearlescent colours, and wildly optimistic graphics that  pretended it was a never-to-be-reached evolution of the then works racers. 
The P56 was supposedly equipped with an oil seperator to get the oil back from the total-loss lubrication system; it sported a fake injection system, again something that was constantly annouced to be imminent by various exponents of the racing team, but never materialized. It is doubtful if the hardware to do the job properly, i.e. direct injection into the trochoids, was known to anybody at Norton Motors at the time. The only system capable of doing it with the necessary pressure and speed was one developed at an East German university, originally for two-stroke engines, and at that time known only to a few experts in the West.