1966 Norton P11 Prototype Replica

It was 1966 when Bob Blair and his mechanic/parts manager Steve Zabaro worked together to blend components from two motorcycles to create the prototype of the 1967 Norton P11.

| September/October 2010

1966 Norton P11 Prototype Replica
Engine: 745cc air-cooled OHV vertical twin, 73mm x 89mm bore and stroke, 7.5:1 compression ratio, 52hp @ 6,200rpm
Top speed: 113mph (period test)
Carburetion: Two 1-1/8-inch Amal Monoblocs
Transmission: AMC 4-speed, chain final drive
Electrics: Lucas K2F magneto
Frame/Wheelbase: Dual-downtube steel cradle fabricated of Reynolds 531 tubing/57in (1,448mm)
Suspension: Teledraulic forks front, dual Girling shocks with adjustable preload rear
Brakes: 7in (178mm) SLS drum (fins removed from hub) Akront WM2-19 rim front, 8in (203mm) SLS G50 magnesium hub with WM3-18in chrome steel rim rear
Tires: 3.5 x 9in front, 4 x 18in rear
Weight (dry): 345lb (157kg)
Seat height: 32.75in (825.5mm)
Fuel capacity: 2.7gal (10.2ltr)

History is a subjective experience. Stories of the past are told and passed along, but details get lost with the passage of time. It’s not often that the record can be set straight by talking to the people directly involved — the history makers themselves. But this is exactly one of those cases.

It was 1966 when Bob Blair and his mechanic/parts manager Steve Zabaro worked together to blend components from two motorcycles to create the prototype of what would become one of the most legendary classic Norton motorcycles - the 1967 Norton P11.

New Jersey-based Mike Berliner, sales manager for Berliner Motor Corp., acted as an intermediary between the creators of the American prototype and the engineers at Norton. While Blair died in 1996, both Zabaro and Berliner are alive and well, and they remember the story of the Norton P11.

In the beginning

Bob Blair was the proprietor of ZDS Motors in Glendale, Calif., and was the West Coast distributor for the now legendary Berliner Motor Corp., which imported all manner of exotic foreign motorcycles to the U.S. ZDS stood for Zundapp, Ducati and Sachs — all brands imported by New Jersey-based Berliner. When Berliner took over Norton for the North American market in the mid-1960s, Blair agreed to distribute the English-made brand for them on the West Coast.

Offroad desert racing was hugely popular in the western states at the time. The machines used in competition needed to be powerful, light and fast. American enthusiasts built their own “desert sleds,” and there were also factory-built offroad bikes competing in desert races, such as BSA’s Spitfire Hornet and Triumph’s TR6. Associated Motor Cycles (AMC) had an entire slate of dirt-friendly competition machines, including the AJS 18CS and 31CS, the Matchless G12CS and G80CS, and, in 1964, the Matchless G15CS and the Norton N15CS (CS for Competition Spring frame).

2/14/2018 4:12:12 PM

I heard a very similar story my whole life!? Only I heard it from my father. I saw my father assemble a Norton P11 in the late sixties when I was a little kid. He told me he mated a matchless G85 with a Atlas 750. My father Leland B Winstead owned motorcycle sales and service of Grass Valley California. I saw him carrying the frame back to the shop. He told me he sent an unfinished prototype to England and the sent back a pretty unfinished bike back. Now there may have been others involved i dont know all the complexities of the day. My father also worked with sheet meta forl the F102 aircraift at McClellan Af base and lathe work for litton tube development. So he was technical and skilled. My dad was tall 6 foot 5 and he wanted a scrambler that he could ride and the Norton P11 fit the bill but the high pipes always burned my legs when I rode on the back as a kid. My dad also worked on Ducatis Triumphs and BSA bikes. The last bike my dad owned was a Ducati 900 monster. He then died of stomach cancer in 2008. The Ducati reminded my dad of the P11.

2/14/2018 4:12:10 PM

My father Lee B Winstead of motorcycle sales and service. Grass Valley California built the first Norton P-11. He mated a 750 Atlas to a Matchless G-85. He sent the prototype to England and was angry because they sent the bike back just as he built rather unfinished. My father worked and sold BSA, Triumph Arial square fours and Ducaties. My dad raced the bike for several years several second place finishes never a first. Fellow rider and friend Kenny hatch can also testify to this.

9/22/2015 3:30:57 PM

In 1980 I was a bike assembler and 4 stroke service mechanic at Mike Patrick's Yamaha of Corona, CA. His son Donnie wanted to get the P11 running so the chief mechanic and myself cleaned the tank, carbs and points. I rode that bike down the street and through a large field 1 block behind the dealership. It plowed through everything, like riding a deep V hull boat. Couldn't imagine a 400 mile scramble, much less a get off. Those men were tough.

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