Norton P11a Ranger
Atlas | Matchless | 750cc N-15CS Special | AMC
The above 1968 Norton P11A Ranger (Lot S79 at Mecum Auctions' Chicago Sale, June 2016) is what you get when you plug a 750cc Norton Atlas engine into a (modified) Matchless G85CS (Competition Scrambler) chrome-moly rolling frame. The demand for this "lighter, lower and faster" piece of "dynamite on wheels" (aka Project 11, hence P11) came from Southern California, USA where desert racing was booming. The first P11 was prototyped in 1966. The production version appeared in 1967. The last models were built in 1969.
The majority of parts required to build this factory hot rod came right off the shelf at the Associated Motor Cycles factory in Plumstead, London. The frame and forks were, however, strengthened. Bespoke items include the exhaust system, engine plates and various brackets. A Matchless cast aluminium primary cover replaced the standard (and leaky) pressed-steel item as fitted to the Atlas. There was no headlight or tail light on the P11. The ignition was via coil capacitor. Carburettors were Amal.
In 1968, the P11 became the P11A. New parts included four different petrol tank and oil tank styles in steel or aluminium. A road legal version called the Ranger was also produced with high and low-level pipes. And if you want to know more about these bikes, you need to talk to numerous AMC/Norton marque experts. But don't expect a consensus. As with the details of many classic bikes, confusion is the rule rather than the exception.
The P11A Ranger above is said to be correct in every detail from the small aluminium fuel tank to the mid-level pipes with shorty mufflers. The estimate was $13,000 - $15,000. But on the day, it fetched just $8,000.
▲ AMC, Norton's parent company, had been flirting with various hybrids badged under the Norton or Matchless brands. Cue the 750cc N-15CS Special and the 750cc P11A Scrambler. Similar bikes, but with very different personalities and appeal. Prices can vary widely, and there are more than a handful of homages rolling around to confuse the already confused buyer. Beware.
The short-lived reign of the 750cc P11/P11A/Ranger (such as it was) came to an end when a new breed of desert two-stroke racer appeared. Moreover, the day of the Norton Commando had arrived as a long-awaited solution to the Atlas engine's vibration issues. In January 2015, Mecum flogged a 1967 750cc N15CS for $14,000 (see the image immediately above). Look for Lot number S25.
Read this story in its original context: Sump Classic Bike News, June 2016
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