New Norton Commando is based on the 1960s original but has been thoroughly updated. Former race star Keith Zeeman has been appointed the agent for the new-era Nortons. Picture: Denis Droppa

Zwartkops - Many a silver-bearded biker (and perhaps one or two younger ones) will remember Norton, an historic marque founded in 1898 as a manufacturer of bike parts that grew into one of Britain’s best-known motorcycle brands.

Among its most famous models was the Norton Commando of the 1960s and ‘70s which was several times voted Britain’s Motorcycle of the Year. Unfortunately, like many British bikes of the time it also had a reputation for leaking oil and breaking down, and the brand went into liquidation in the late ‘70s.

It was raised from the ashes in 2008 by UK businessman Stuart Garner, who bought the rights and began producing modernised versions of the Commando at his Donington Park factory.


Now the marque has become available in South Africa with former motorcycle racer Keith Zeeman at the helm as the official importer, offering two models from his shop in Oakdene, Johannesburg - the Commando Cafe Racer and the Commando Sport.

While its styling is distinctly nostalgic, the new-generation Commando has all the nice modern bits that today’s riders expect, including a fuel-injected engine with electronic ignition, front and rear disc brakes, and most importantly electric start – the original Commando had to be kick-started into life. There’s also a multi-function display with mileage, trip meter, battery voltage and time.


The rear suspension is the old-fashioned twin-shock style but is adjustable for compression, preload and rebound, as is the front suspension. The air-cooled 961cc parallel-twin engine blends old-school pushrod valve actuation (as per the original Commando) with modern fuel injection and an environmentally-friendly catalytic converter. Its outputs of 58kW and 80Nm are hardly superbike-challenging but offer good low-revving commuting grunt, while the determined rider should be able to squeeze out a top speed of about 210km/h.

Here’s the kicker.

These bikes ain’t cheap; you’ll pay around R270 000 for this piece of modernised nostalgia. If you’re still interested contact Keith Zeeman on 079 393 0173.

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