History is a cyclical thing. Take Norton Motorcycles, for example. It’s a company that has weathered plenty of ups, downs, and sideways struggles, along with allegations of financial malfeasance throughout more than one administration.
While that history is well outside the scope of this piece, suffice to say that the ignominy of the Stuart Garner era wasn’t the first time that Norton administrators found themselves in murky waters as far as the law was concerned.
Today, though, we’re here to talk about a completely different Norton, from a completely different time. Joe Seifert owns a 1990 Norton P55 F1 rotary prototype race bike, which was apparently the first one ever to leave the Norton factory in those days. As he tells the story, he had some kind of deal with then-Norton owner Phillippe Le Roux that saw him take delivery of this machine before the production version was quite ready to roll out. (Le Roux was later convicted of deception related to persuading shareholders to invest more money in this particular iteration of Norton, but that conviction didn’t happen until 1998.)
Seifert’s particular P55 F1 raced in Germany, and is fondly remembered by most who were alive to see it in person. One thing they remember most of all is the unique sound—which definitely sounds unlike any other bike. You’ll get to hear it at the end of this video, as Seifert does take it for a short little blast to give everyone an auditory treat.
Along the way, Seifert talks a bit about ownership, pointing out some of the more interesting features of this particular machine. As with any racing bike, it’s seen its fair share of upgrades along the way. Only around 140 P55 F1s are believed to have ever been made, which makes them pretty special to begin with—but Seifert’s machine is probably among the most special of all.
While the stock bikes had a five-speed gearbox, Seifert says that his P55 was upgraded to the six-speed gearbox out of a Yamaha OW01. Somewhere along the way, he also acquired a Norton P56 prototype, Seifert says—and transferred the experimental WP front fork from that machine onto his racebound P55.
What’s the finished machine like to ride? Obviously, as all people must do, Seifert has put on more than a few years since 1990. So, it’s probably not a surprise to hear him say in 2022 that he feels this bike is a bit too fast for his capabilities, because it’s probably a bit much for many everyday riders. It’s a unique piece of motorcycling history, and one we’re glad has been committed to video for more enthusiasts to witness.