▲ 2019 Norton Atlas Ranger. This funky street-scrambler is one of two modular bikes built on a common 650cc parallel twin platform. The other is the Nomad roadster (images below). Norton canvassed a lot of public opinion before settling on the designs. Sounds like the right idea. In theory. But Phil Vincent of Vincent Motorcycles tried that long ago, and (famously) discovered that few riders actually bought the (Black Knight) finished product. Let's hope Norton fares better...
2019 Norton Atlas range
Ranger | Nomad | 650cc | Parallel twin | Scrambler | Roadster
You could argue that Norton is taking an unnecessary risk by saddling its new 650cc, liquid-cooled twins with the Atlas name; notably the scrambler style Atlas Ranger (image immediately above) and the roadster style Atlas Nomad (image immediately below).
After all, there are still plenty of old school Norton diehards who, with much justification, will immediately associate the Atlas name with the 750 (745cc) air-cooled pile driver built between 1962 and 1968—a machine famously accused of being capable of loosening teeth (and brand loyalty).
And there's no denying that. The original Atlas really was something of a beast if you wound it tight and left it on full tilt for extended periods. But buyers (especially in the important US market) liked the idea of a seven-fifty British muscle bike, and Triumph's 750 (744cc) T140 was still a few years away when the Atlas morphed into the 750 (745cc) Commando. So the choice at that time really came down to the Norton Atlas or Royal Enfield's 750 (736cc) Interceptor (both air-cooled parallel twins).
However, with careful fettling, tuning, setting up and coaxing (and favourable atmospherics), the '62 - '68 Dominator-based Norton Atlas had a lot going for it; such as brute power (at around 50bhp), a smooth delivery (if you worked the gears right) and plenty of torque. And there were plenty of individuals and companies willing to base their specials on the Atlas platforms (albeit with the aforementioned tuning and fettling). As a result, Atlas fans were offered a variety of bait. And tempting it often was.
▲ Norton Atlas 750cc. Built between 1962 and 1968, the text on this brochure page reads: "The Mighty Norton Atlas. The machine which develops more power throughout the entire range than any other available. Real beefy power to give you searing acceleration and effortless top speed cruising. Yet, at the same time, having the flexibility required for about-town riding and sidecar work. A choice of handlebar is available—the higher western type illustrated or the usual flat bar. Rev-counter extra."
But that was then, and this is now. And evidently, Norton is happy (or at least prepared) to dust off the Atlas moniker for another public airing.
Both bikes (the Ranger and Nomad) are built around a common platform. The engines, as we understand it, are drawn heavily from Norton's V4 racer and utilise many of the main components (pistons, con-rods, cylinder head, valves, etc). This modular approach will naturally keep the price down and simplify the production line.
Specifications: Norton Atlas Ranger
As for the prices, it looks as if the Ranger will be asking somewhere around £12k. The Nomad, meanwhile, will come in at around two grand less. For the UK market, Norton is talking about just 250 of each bike. The first machines should be available come May 2019. It's not yet clear how many, if any, bikes are targeted at the rest of the world.
The technical specification for the Atlas Nomad, incidentally, is much the same, so it seems that the extra cost for the Ranger lies mostly in the "scrambler" add-ons.
Nevertheless, Norton's head honcho Stuart Garner has proved himself to be resourceful, dedicated and determined. We'll be taking another look at these bikes when we see them up close. And you can do that at this year's Motorcycle Live event at the NEC, Birmingham, 17th - 25th November 2018.
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