When owners say their second-hand vehicles are ‘as good as new’, the reality is usually far from it.
But this classic motorcycle being sold at auction in November definitely lives up to the claim, with it still being packed inside its original delivery crate.
The Norton Commando is already a highly-collectible vintage motorbike, but this 1977 example will likely be in huge demand having never been unpacked in it 43-year history.
Time-capsule motorbike: This 1977 Norton Commando 850 Interstate has not been unpacked from its wooden shipping crate in its 43-year life, making it hugely desirable to vintage motorcycle collectors
The unique opportunity to buy the ‘time capsule’ Norton – which will remain in the manufacturer’s packing crate for the sale – will be offered at the H&H Classics auction at the National Motorcycle Museum, directly opposite the NEC near Solihull in the West Midlands, on 14 November.
The bike is estimated to sell for £20,000 to £30,000 and remained in a shipping state since it was made, with the front wheel removed and the exhaust silencer also packed separately into the wooden box.
The 1977 850 Interstate – notable for having an electric start as well as a kickstart – is one of the final examples of the original Norton Commando, which features an 828cc air-cooled parallel-twin engine, a four-speed gearbox and a top speed in excess of 115mph.
The contained motorbike even has its original storage packing, including the cardboard box that sits over the top of the crate
You might be wondering why a motorcycle built in Britain – with production of Norton motorcycles at the time taking place in Wolverhampton and Small Heath, Birmingham – is being sold in a shipping container.
That’s because it was sold to a customer in Belgium in 1977, with the dispatch documentation even included in the November sale.
The bike remained untouched and unpacked from the time it arrived with its first keeper to when they decided to part with it.
It was subsequently sold and transported to a buyer in Holland who shipped it to Spain before it was recently purchased by the vendor and returned to the country where it was made.
This is how the Norton Commando 850 Interstate would look if it was unpacked and assembled
Left: The 828cc parallel-twin engine has not been turned over. Right: The front wheel is detached from the forks for easy storage in the wooden unit
That means it has had three owners in four different countries in its 43-year history.
However, not one of these collectors removed it from its crate, let alone rode it.
‘They were simply happy to admire the bike and imagine its potential’, according to the selling auction house.
Mark Bryan, head of motorcycles at H&H Classics, said: ‘Every now and again one of these remarkable things appear in the collecting world.
‘This particular instance is quite amazing. How on earth has everybody over 43 years managed to restrain themselves and not un-crate this bike?’
Records show that the Norton was originally shipped to the first keeper in Belgium on 18 October 1977
The motorcycle has been consigned by Kevin Maddocks, who has been a long-time Norton fan and collector.
‘Imagine how excited I was when I recently heard of a 1977 Norton Commando 850 Interstate that was still in its original packing case – 43 years old and still ‘brand new’. I just had to buy it and I tracked down the owner in Spain,’ he explained,
‘The Spanish collector, who owned 98 bikes, had bought it 10 years earlier at an auction in Belgium, after the owner of a Belgian motorbike shop passed away.
‘Apparently he had kept it in his store room, in its original packing case, for about 35 years and for some strange reason refused to sell it to anyone!’
The bike’s auction sale includes three sets of keys, manufacturer’s advice sheets for the dealer, owners manual, service book, plus even a small spray can of Norton chain lube – possibly the last in existence
The Commando was produced by Norton Motorcycle from 1967 until 1977 and has become a very collectible two-wheel machine in recent years. It was originally a 750 but the engine capacity was increased to 828cc in 1973
He added: ‘Since owning her I have never really touched her – she would look even better if I could give it a spring clean but to do it properly, I’d have to remove her from the packing case.
‘Everything is there; three sets of keys, manufacturer’s advice sheets for the dealer, owners manual, service book, plus even a small spray can of Norton chain lube!’
Mr Maddocks said his intention was to show the motorcycle at events across the country and display it in museums, but the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has seen his circumstances change and he’s been resigned to selling the timewarp bike.
Compared to some of the ‘barn-find’ classic cars we’ve seen sell for staggering sums in recent years, this untouched collectible will be a worthy addition to an motorcycle collection.