The vintage motorcycle isn’t just a piece of machinery; it’s a piece of art. New York's Guggenheim Museum made that official: It once had an exhibit, called “The Art of the Motorcycle,” that celebrated classic bikes as some of the finest examples of functional artwork ever created. Today, two-wheeled enthusiasts grumble: Why can’t we have new bikes that look as good as those classic café racers?
Norton Motorcycles Ltd. has heard us. And the legendary company is building new editions of one of its most heralded models, the Dominator.
Norton was once known for its Manx 500-cc single-cylinder race bike—but by 1961, chief engineer Doug Hele recognized that it would need more power to stay competitive. He built a race bike based on the company’s Dominator 650-cc twin-cylinder street bike that was dubbed the Domiracer. Hele’s souped-up street bike finished third in the Isle of Man Tourist Trophy race in 1961, losing only to the Norton Manx factory race bikes. Excitement over Norton bikes would grow for decades.
By 2012, though, the Norton brand needed a reboot. Seeking to rekindle the fires of the company’s glory days, it built 50 modern 961-cc twin-cylinder Domiracers, to an enthusiastic reception. Now Norton has gone in the opposite direction of the original bike’s genesis by developing a street-legal edition of the track-only Domiracer.
It’s called the Dominator, and it lists for $30,900. A limited-production $38,600 Dominator SS features details like a delicious hand-welded aluminum fuel tank in place of a standard plastic tank. Both versions are a beautiful combo of a vintage-style, air-cooled, parallel-twin-cylinder engine with modern components.
In addition to the carbon-fiber bits, the Dominator features state-of-the-art Brembo radial-mounted disc brakes, Öhlins inverted forks, and a single Öhlins rear shock suspension. The Dominator does roll on old-style wire-spoke wheels, but they mount on modern Dunlop high-performance radial tires—putting its 83 horsepower to the road.
Tell the Guggenheim: Artistry is back.
Photos by Eric Maillet