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The 1970 Norton Commando 750S was distinguished by its high-set exhaust pipes sheathed in perforated heat shields. See more motorcycle pictures.

The 1970 Norton Commando 750S motorcycle was the old-line British motorcycle maker's game attempt at a sport bike that would fend off Japanese rivals. The 1970 Norton Commando 750S motorcycle was good, but not good enough.

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Norton was one of the first British motorcycle manufacturers, having offered what was essentially a bicycle with an engine attached as early as 1902. Larger machines followed, most powered by proprietary engines built by Peugeot of France.

The Norton name is steeped in racing history; the company won its first contest in 1907. A dizzying array of motorcycles followed: large, small, two-stroke, four-stroke, some with engines made by Norton, some with proprietary units.

By the 1920s, however, most Norton motorcycles were powered by large Norton-built four-stroke singles, and racing victories continued.

It wasn't until after World War II that Norton ventured into vertical twins. The first was the Dominator, whose 500-cc overhead-valve twin would form the basis for Norton's big bikes for many years to come.

In 1953, with finances tight, Norton became part of Associated Motor Cycles (AMC), where it joined AJS and Matchless.

Two years later, Norton motorcycles went on sale in the U.S., where its 500-, 650-, and later 750-cc twins gained a strong reputation for power and handling.

In an attempt to recapture some of the customers escaping to other machines, Norton created the Norton Commando motorcycle for 1968.

By combining a strong frame, 750-cc vertical-twin engine, and rubber mounting points, the Isolastic System was born. By reducing vibration, it was hoped that this model could successfully battle the newcomers from Japan.

Aside from the Isolastic System, much of the Commando's hardware was common to other Norton models. At the front end, Roadholder forks were lengthened and held eight-inch, twin-leading-shoe brakes.

Out back, the Girling shocks could be adjusted to one of three settings to optimize comfort and handling. The time-tested vertical-twin engine featured cylinder heads, push rods, and connecting rods made of aluminum.

The Norton Commando motorcycle appeared in several configurations during its lifetime, and the "S" model arrived in 1969. Its distinctive high exhaust pipes with heat shields set the Norton Commando 750S motorcycle apart from other Commandos.

More importantly, the S stood for Sport, and magazine reviews raved about the new levels of performance. But despite its 125-mph capabilities, the Norton Commando 750S model slipped into oblivion during the 1970 model year, though the Commando line itself continued on into the mid-1970s.

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