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15th August 2005

Norton P11A on Display

Danger! Danger! Photo of a seriously gorgeous classic motorcycle this way: brace yourself...

The folks at the National Motorcycle Museum must have heard that we're fans of the AMC hybrid desert sleds - those highly-prized desert racers from the late 1960s which were created by the amalgamation of the AJS/Matchless chassis and Norton Atlas engine. The NMM got in touch this week to reveal their latest exhibit, the stunning, freshly restored P11A you see here.


The 1968 P11A was the second version of the 750cc Norton Atlas-powered scrambler with a Matchless G85CS Reynolds 531 frame made for US cross-country racing. To suit it for street cruising as well, the P11A has a roomier seat than the original 1967 P11 and pillion footrests, while the upswept silencers have detachable baffles. The 1968 machine also carries the Norton Villiers 'green blob' logo on top of the fuel tank.

Since the catastrophic fire in 2003, when over 400 machines were badly damaged, the Museum staff have worked flat out to recreate and improve upon the original exhibits. This latest P11A is just one of several hybrids on display now, and it joins a Norton N15CS, a 1967 P11 and a very rare 'Berliner Blue' P11A in the revitalised halls.

Old bikes never die, they simply end up in Birmingham.

The latest addition came from its restorer, Mike Bell, who is preparing a full set of 750cc Norton desert sleds in tip-top condition for the NMM. Mike built the P11A from boxes of dismantled parts which were in a very poor state.

Mike, an Armstrong-Siddeley Motors and Rolls-Royce trained engineer, imported it to Britain from North America along with a number of similar machines in need of restoration about 20 years ago. Some cycle parts had to be made from scratch and care was taken to get every detail correct. The restoration was thorough, both inside and out - these bike's aren't simply being prepared for static show. Even the crankshaft sludge trap was cleaned out as part of its rebuild. One more P11, a 1969 Norton P11A Ranger, is presently being prepared by Mike Bell for the Museum.

The desert sled display is just a small part of the NMM's collection of over 675 bikes, many of which had to be restored or replaced after the fire.

Visitors who knew the original displays will be amazed by how closely the recreated exhibits echo their earlier counterparts - although the labels and descriptions have definitely improved, giving more detail about the models and their development. It can take all day to inspect all the bikes, and we advise that you make use of the café facilities to rest yourselves at regular intervals, otherwise a trip can become something of a blur!

Random Nortons on

The NMM is open every day except Dec 23rd to 26th, from 10am to 6pm. Find it next to the NEC at the A45/M42 junction at Bickenhill, east of Birmingham.

  • Phone 0121 704 2784

    Admission costs £6.95 for adults; children from 2 to 15 £4.95; Senior Citizens £4.95 and a family ticket (2 adults, 2 children) is £20.

    P11A photo courtesy of the NMM.
    Additional photos courtesy of Roland Brown.


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