BY TOM WHITE
The Norton P11 was built for the U.S. market only as a purpose-built California desert and scrambles machine. The project started in 1966 when West Coast Norton distributor Bob Blair asked U.S. Norton importer Berliner Motors to see if AMS (Associated Motor Cycles) in England would build a scrambler based on a Norton Atlas engine in a Matchless G85CS frame. The Matchless G85CS was a single-cylinder, 500cc machine that was having success in European motocross. Blair thought that the more powerful Norton twin would be perfect for faster and smoother American scrambles races (in the pre-motocross days of American offroad racing).
Blair’s mechanic, Steve Zabaro, said, “The Matchless single-cylinder engine was long in the tooth. We imported 70 of these, which was most of the production. They sold out immediately, but there wasn’t a lot of horsepower. The factory didn’t think it was possible to fit the Norton twin into the G85 chassis and said they wouldn’t do it. We decided to do it ourselves. We took a Norton N15CS Atlas engine and a G85CS chassis and built the bike in about three weeks.
“Mike Patrick tested the machine and loved it, so we shipped it off to AMS to replicate. We rushed to have the machines built for the 1967 selling season. Even at the time I realized what we were building was a dinosaur, because lightweight Husqvarna and CZ two-strokes were already showing up in Southern California.”
The production P11 (with easily removable street gear) became the bike to race in 1967. Mike Patrick won the #1 plate in desert racing for two years in a row on a P11. Though never intended for the motocross events that were just getting started in America, the P11 was raced by Mike at the Hopetown Grand Prix against the European motocross stars. He soon found the limitations of the 750cc twin.
WHAT THEY COST
Suggested retail was $1339. Production was just over 500 units, and most sold in America only. A fully restored P11 will set you back $25,000, and expect to pay over $10,000 for a restorable core bike. Our Early Years of Motocross Museum example is a 99-pointer, and as Norton fans say, “It’s an 11 on a scale of 10!”
The 1967 P11 was the only scrambler that Norton made. By 1968, the P11 was replaced by the P11A, which was more of a street bike, with low pipes and extra weight. In 1969, all concessions for offroad riding were removed from the P11 Ranger.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
P11s came with cool-looking high pipes, short mufflers, aluminum fenders, a solo seat and twin Amal Concentric carburetors. The shocks were covered Girlings, and the forks had rubber gators.
Try Walridge Motors in Lucan, Ontario, Canada, at (519) 227-4923. E-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.