1969 Norton 650cc Mercury

1969 Norton 650cc Mercury

Norton’s featherbed frame is universally credited as just about the best through the 1960s. It gave confidence-inspiring, smooth handling characteristics – almost like a featherbed, one could say. Married to Roadholder front forks, the set-up proved itself over and again on the road and the all-important racetrack. Norton added the first 650cc twin to the arrangement in 1960 with the Manxman, succeeded the following year by the Dominator. The Dominator SS variant sported 49bhp with plenty of torque and soon became a legitimate rival to the Triumph Bonneville. This masterpiece was renamed Mercury for the 1968 model year.

The motorbike offered

This fully matching numbers (frame, engine and gearbox) 1969 Norton 650cc Mercury on offer here comes from a local enthusiast and collector. Originally built by an amateur restorer, with accolades and trophies abound, as a rider, the bike was given a full, sympathetic mechanical rebuild. The engine was recently fully rebuilt by British bike guru, Dean Collinson, and it shows. This is a truly magnificent motorcycle to ride. It starts easily, idles perfectly smoothly and has incredible low-down grunt. It is fast and utterly smooth with negligible vibration through the bars and footrests. The frame absorbs road imperfections like a Rolls-Royce, but it handles like a sportbike. Most notable is the clutch and the gear shift actions, which feel like a modern Japanese bike – buttery smooth. On test ride, I had to check I had actually changed gear – the action was almost unnoticeable. The front brake lever has the action of a modern Japanese sportbike, too, pulling the bike to a standstill with the efficiency of a much younger machine. Fine riding with no erroneous noises or squeaks, the bike instills immediate confidence and is a joy on the open country lanes with a perfect deep and throaty musical accompaniment.