Of all the bikes over the years, the Norton F1 is known today as one of the special ones – the best of the best. Many people remember that smooth scream as the bike rounded the corner, the lovely noise that emitted itself from the twin mufflers. The F1 has a unique exhaust sound that makes it stand out above all the rest. Every sportster bike wanted to be a Norton F1, and every rider wanted to own one.
Norton had tried out a few different bikes with rotary-engines throughout the 80s and 90s, but nothing really came to a head. Even up until today, their best rotary is, of course, the F1 – this bike is legendary after all. When it first came out in the late 1980s and early 1990s, it cost a pretty penny – but that didn’t stop riders around the world shelling out and buying them. These bikes sold like the proverbial hot cakes and, in 1989, the RCW588 Norton F1 won the F1 series for Britain.
The bike was born because of Philippe Le Roux’s desire to develop a racing scheme for Norton, and Le Roux saw the potential in marketing a racing bike as a roadster. Alongside him, the design team from Seymour-Powell had the job of styling the bike and incorporating the P55 engine and gearbox. Of course, the rest is history. The design that was birthed in Le Roux’s mind, and took shape with the design genius of Seymour-Powell, is one for the history books. This creation is legendary, and every biker knows and remembers the bike’s release with the utmost fondness.
Racing was the name of the game with this bike, but it was built for the roads as well, and that’s what made it unique at the time. The styling was sleek and futuristic, dark and mysterious. The bike was black with stunning decals of gold, and Norton used a development of the motor in their Commander to make it purr like a kitten on the roads.
The Norton F1 was released in 1989 with a liquid cooled twin chamber rotary engine. Its max power was a whopping 95hp 69.9 kW @ 9500 rpm, amazing in its day. On average, this gem rides at top speeds of around 145mp/h. However, despite all of the hype surrounding the bike, there were a few glitches – mostly with the F1’s engine.
A rotary engine is not an easy thing to build and the money just wasn’t there with Norton at the time. In spite of this, the bike did incredibly well. In fact, a Norton rotary engine set the 307/km/h British Motorcycle land speed record in 1991.
So what happened after the release of the Norton F1? Despite the hefty price tag, all of the units were taken off of Norton’s hands easily. These bikes sold like nothing else, and many of them went to people from the London party scene who wanted a sleek and fast bike that could go on roads as well as the track.
After approximately 130 F1s were sold, the company decided it was time to go on to the next stage of the F1, called the P55B. This was an upgraded version, which also sold very well, but, while this is true, nothing can compete with the celebration and hype that surrounded the creation and release of the amazing F1. Bikers around the world still talk about the beauty and sleekness of this machine, and they still say that the Norton F1 is ‘never to be underestimated’.