Banquer 920 – Norton Featherbed with Yamaha Virago Engine and Shaft Drive

Banquer 920 - Norton featherbed frame with Yamaha Virago power

Banquer 920 - Norton featherbed frame with Yamaha Virago power

With the arrival of spring, the motorcycles for sale listings are exploding and everyone is pulling out the interesting bikes. I saw this one today, the Banquer 920, built by Gwen Banquer. You may remember his name from the Banquer Superior, a Brough Superior look alike with Harley Davidson power.

The Banquer 920 is a combination of a Norton featherbed frame with a Yamaha Virago 920cc V-twin engine and shaft drive. It's probably not the first combination you would think of if you had an old Norton frame without an engine but it looks really nice. From some angles, I think it's gorgeous, plus, you get a reliable engine for all day rides on a bike that appears very vintage. Kind of a neat look, isn't it?

Link: Banquer 920 for sale

Banquer 920 - Norton featherbed frame with Yamaha Virago power

Banquer 920 - Norton featherbed frame with Yamaha Virago power

Comments

  1. Sportster Mike says

    Now that does look nice – better looking than the Sportster/Honda bike the other week
    Course you have to have a Norton frame knocking about.. and most people in England would build up a Triton or a Norbsa

  2. Larry says

    Yes! Rock solid motor (aside from the inherant starter noise) that runs strong all day! It works even better with the XV920R chain drive motor!

    Larry

  3. Josh says

    Seeing as how the whole bottom loop of the frame is gone, isn’t this like 55% of a featherbed?

  4. kneeslider says

    The frame is modified, similar to what is done to the Ducati frame on the Vincati. It’s still a Norton frame to begin with. I’m not sure what the issue is that some of you seem to be pointing out.

  5. Josh says

    It’s just amusing to me, in a Ship of Theseus sort of way. I reckon it’s titled as a Norton so that makes it a Norton.

  6. anon says

    “I’m not sure what the issue is that some of you seem to be pointing out.”

    The ‘featherbed’ name refers to the specific type of chassis design with twin down-tubes that cross over at the headstock, and continue down forming a double engine cradle. This this bike doesn’t have those, so calling it a ‘featherbed’ doesn’t make sense. It’s a purist thing (not that I’m much of a purist mind you, I think this looks all the better for it! – it just no longer has the characteristics of a ‘featherbed’ frame… so it seems a misnomer).

    • Harold says

      The Featherbed frame is NOT a type of frame, it’s a brand, and was manufactured ONLY by Norton during it’s production run, from the early 1950′s to 1968, when they built the first Commando rubber mount frame and forward tilting engine. It was named that because of it’s solid yet comfortable handling and was the company race frame, and every Manx,Dominator, or Atlas, as well as some other engines, were all in them. The Norton and Matchless scramblers used 2 non-featherbed frames for light weight and off-road use. But the frame, which came as a wideline or slimline for different engines, is fairly valuable, especially the Manx Slimline, and cutting out the downtubes makes it worthless, except on that bike. There are 1 or 2 guys making reproduction Featherbeds, 1 for sure in England, and the price is resonable. Every conceiveable engine has been swapped into them, including a Harley WA Army flathead 45.

      • Jerry says

        I lifted this passage from Wickapedia the mention of “featherbed” has always conjured up the image of the following:This invention relates to a new or improved frame for a motorcycle which comprises two substantially parallel rectangular loops each formed from a single length of tubing, and the ends of the tube forming each loop cross and are welded to each other at the top front corner of the loop, the free ends of the tube which extend beyond the crossing point being welded to the side of an inclined head tube adjacent to the top and bottom thereof. The assembled frame is extremely strong for its weight and designed to provide the maximum resistance to any stresses applied to the frame by road shocks or by the driving torque of the power unit. This was patented in 1949.

        • Jerry says

          None the less this bike is art, well executed and inspires me to go in search of a virago as shaft drive is the max. Great bike

  7. The other Larry says

    Just needs an 18 or 19 inch rear rim and “Noraha” or “Yamton” on the tank.

  8. todd says

    Just like Larry said and like I said a few years ago when I posted this picture before: It needs an 18″ rear rim to be complete.

    -todd

  9. Swagger says

    Purists……. wish we had an emoticon for slapping someone “up ‘side the head”……

    seriously

  10. MikeyA says

    Yep, Viragos don’t get no respect!!!

    It’s a shame ’cause the original Virago, with a stressed v-twin engine hooked up to a backbone frame and triangulated swing arm with monoshock, was more inspired by the v-twins from Stevenage than those from Milwaukee..and the 920R/TR-1 were pretty darn good bikes! Unfortunately, Yamaha’s marketing people decided to go after the Harley-dreaming buyers, and their designers had some really bad days…ruined the reputation of a bike with a really sweet motor!

    I’m currently building a “cafe” styled city bike out of a 535 Virago, and I’m a bit surprised that a high class builder like Banquer baulked at re-lacing that hub to an 18″ rim. He did re-lace it to an alloy rim, but left it with the original diameter and spoke pattern. I’ve been wanting to build an 18″ rear wheel, but it looks like I can’t just order a rim and spokes and lace it, I’m going to have to send my hub to a custom builder like Hagon or CWC and have the rim and spokes punched and bent specially, probably have to change the spoke pattern as well, as you can imagine, I’m looking at these photos and asking myself if it’s worth the trouble and expense…

  11. says

    Paul, actually it appears to be a stock Virago frame. It looks very clean and that tank is the Bomb! The 16″ wheel kinda confuses the theme and it appears he had to get a rim laced up to the 700 Virgo hub anyway, could have been an 18 just as easy.

    I’ve seen a lot of SR500′s build ups in the Japanese magazines that had BSA stickers on the tanks and I didn’t understand those either.

    For me, I’d take this bike on a ride to Palomar anytime except without Norton stickers. I’d be proud of the bike, but I hate gettin’ laughed at. :-)

  12. says

    I think it looks great, but I do agree that the proportions would be better with an 18″ rear. Luckily for the next owner, that’s just a re-lace away. I’ve seen another Virago made into a cafe racer and it looks sweet too. Those engines are really nice looking.

    I’m not quite sure what people are getting at about the missing downtubes either. The frame had to be modified for the v-twin to fit. So? It’s still the Featherbed frame, geez guys.

  13. JustJoe says

    Great looking bike…I wish I had the imagination and chops to put something like this together.

  14. anon says

    @ Pheobe: Not to pick on you, but when Ducati removed a cylinder to make the Supermono engine would you say it should still be called a “V-Twin” …um…or “L-Twin – for the purists. :)

  15. Den says

    Looks like a lot of mods to that frame were made, nice work it looks fab’!

    The bike looks a bit like the srv 250 that Yamaha made using the baby virago motor. A beautiful bike that for some reason was only out for a little while, I always thought that Yamaha should also have done the same thing with the bigger engines as well, to me the Virago never got its styling quite right, a bit ugly. Virago does mean shrew!

    http://www.wemoto.com/library/yamaha-srv250-1992/yamaha-srv250-1992.html

  16. Swagger says

    Mule,
    (I dig your trackers!)
    If you look at the rear/upper section from the swing arm pivot back you’ll see the Norton portion of the frame which is grafted to the Yamaha pivot section. I have no idea what’s going on under the tank but the pics hint at some fabricated interface welded to the (probably) Norton top rails. I think he probably used the Yamaha frame portions to account for the Virago shafty swing arm’s requirements.

  17. WRXr says

    Yet another cafe racer. Sorry to say, but this is not featherbed frame. It clearly doesn’t cover the perimeter of the engine but instead looks like it uses the heads as a stressed member.

    Call it what it is.

  18. MikeyA says

    I’ve seen a few other Norton-Virago specials. One was in Richmond VA, another in England, and the builder of that one called it a “Tr1ton”

  19. joe says

    A nice looking bike,and the Virago engine was way underrated after the early problems with the starter motors,many times miss diagnosed by Yamaha service shops at great cost to the owners.I still have one of the original T-1 XV1000 and after I worked out a fix and modified the starter motor,no more problems,the engines are bullet proof.The frame looks like the Virago with the Norton forks and tank added, not a featherbed.Should be called a Yamton or Yamnor?

  20. OMMAG says

    Looks to me like an Atlas front yoke welded to a Yamaha frame.

    Not the most inspired creation IMO …. BUT … it still takes imagination and talent to pull it off.

    I think the end result is pretty good … good enough that I’d like to ride it.

  21. says

    Damn! The more I look at this, the more I like it. I’ve thought of doing my usual Streettracker thing with a Virago many times and they ARE cheap to get as a used one. The problem is the carbs going 2 different directions and all hassled up under the tank. I built up a pretty trick 750 Seca back in the day that used the same shaft set up. Although all the Viragos I ever rode had very clunky drivelines during on/off throttle.
    They had real mushy suspensions which was part of it. This one featured here with Norton forks has the potential for an improved ride, but like the choice of rear wheel size, why did he use the chrome “Spring holders” instead of shocks in the rear?

  22. Thom says

    I would have definitely preferred the XV920 chain-drive motor and an 18″ rear rim… but nice concept. Might be a little off-topic, but a fella in Illinois built an XV920 street-tracker some time back with a concentric swingarm pivot. Beautiful bike. Saw it at Randy’s Cycle. I guess this just reminded me of it…

  23. Sportster Mike says

    Talking about the names (Yamorton) etc I’ve just been reminded that the last Norton with a Yamaha engine in I saw was at the Ace Cafe in London – cafe racer style Norton featherbed frame and an XS650 Yamaha engine bored out to 900cc by Halco – (no pics though sorry). Now that was also a good mix of parts and fooled most people in thinking it was a Triumph special cafe racer and had Yamanx on the engine case (like John Reeds bike from the 70s)

  24. Scotduke says

    It’s a nice looking bike and with trusty Yamaha engine and fairly long wheelbase, I bet it’ll be a nice, relaxed and practical ride to play around on, ride to work and go sctaching with on back roads on any Sunday. Yamaton or Noraha – which sounds better? With no downtubes due to the use of the engine as a stressed member I agree that the whole point of the featherbed frame is gone but that doesn’t make it a bad bike. An ex-colleague had a TR1 and it was a decent looking bike for its day but it handled as if it had a hinge in the middle by the way.

  25. Matt S. says

    WHy doesn’t someone build a “NORABUSA”?That engine has been in evrything from go carts to classic mini’s,why not a Norton.Stop the insanity!

  26. PaulN says

    I’ve owned Virago 920 for seven years now, and it runs like a watch. A new, four-brush starter and an AGM type bettery went a long way toward minimizing the starter *clunk and grind* exercise that is the unholy ritual of starting one of these bikes. Aside from that it’s a fine bike. It just goes and goes and goes.

    I’ve been serisouly thinking about modifying the subframe et al onmy bike, and this is a nice piece of inspiration, especially the exhaust. I’m also thinking of changing out the rear wheel to an 18″. There are plenty of them out there. Once the rear tire is worn out I’ll probably make the swap.

  27. iliveforcurves says

    I thought the featherbed was called that because of the swingarm, not because of the downtubes. “It rides like a featherbed”. Because the engine is being used as a stressed frame member it doesn’t need downtubes. Does anybody here think that this bike or a Vincent or Honda CBX would look better with downtubes?

  28. Ben Sellers says

    My Dad had a 920 Virago. It was a very good bike. This is much nicer to look at though. I never noticed any problems with starting the bike. I wish I had it. I would do something like this with it.

  29. frozen prairie says

    MikeyA, is the 535 Virago hub an oddball design (as in number of spokes or the angle of the spoke flange or something else) ? I think it would look a lot better with the 18 (or19) inch wheel, but that’s easy for me to say when it is you who will have to do all the work !

    Regarding the is-it-a-featherbed? debate, I did a Wikipedia search on the featherbed frame, and it seems it was given that nickname because a test rider said it rode so nicely it was like sitting on a feather bed. Keep in mind that at the time (1949) most frames were hardtails or had plunger rear ends.

    Nice machine, whatever you call it. I’ve always thought that the Virago V-twin deserved a nicer bike to go around it.

  30. MikeyA says

    frozen prairie,
    the Virago 535 hub (which is basically the same as this one and the current xvs650) is a bit of a weird beast, narrow between the spoke flanges, conical with two rows of spokes on the drive side and huge on the brake side. To make it fit in a 15″ hub Yamaha laced it 2x on the drive side and 1x on the brake which is why they have a reputation for breaking spokes! It’s got 36 spokes and theoretically it shouldn’t be too hard to drill an 18″ rim to fit, but since the brake side should be laced 2x for strength, and no one has done this build at any of the rim suppliers I know, it would be a bit risky to punch the rim and cut and bend the spokes just based on calculations. I’m going to bite the bullet and spend 100€ on shipping my hub and having the wheel shipped back, rather than take the risk of wasting a 150€ alloy rim because the spoke holes are off. Too bad there aren’t any custom wheel builders who can punch rims and cut spokes near Paris!

  31. MikeyA says

    By the way, the Featherbed frame took over from the “Garden Gate” plunger. I read that the name Garden gate either came from the rectangular shape of the frame, or the way it seemed to flex like a swinging gate!

  32. todd says

    Ian, that’s a neat cafe virago you shared. Interesting that they used a 16″ rear wheel on the front (and blanked off the brake drum). I have often thought of doing something similar on my free seca – mounting a 18″ rear on the front in place of the 19″ – but the drum brake meant losing one of the brake discs. The stainless brake discs are terrible on the seca but that’s only if you’re slowing down.

    Interesting factoid; Yamaha employed and ex-Norton designer to style some of their bikes (like the seca, maybe not the Virago). Maybe if that designer is still around he would appreciate these Yamatons / Normahas quite a bit.

    -todd

  33. woody eckes says

    As per the 16 inch stock Virago rear wheel; an 18 from a 750 Seca or 650 Seca will fit right on with maybe just a shim washer on the splines that couple it with the rear end. Did that to a 1985 twin shock 700 Virago to lower the rpms at road speed. If memory serves me correct the stock exhaust would contact it but an aftermarket muffler setup did not. The starter problem/official fix from Yamaha with the early 750s/920s/some 700 Viragos at the time was just a band aid fix. The later 1000/1100/750 with a completely different starter/solenoid sidecover works quite acceptably though. I always thought a 750/920 Virago would of made a good back roads bike as in gravel/dirt/county trunk byways. Maybe some day…..Woody Eckes

  34. Azzy says

    My father had an 81 920RH…. couldnt keep the thing running for more than 6 months at a time. It would overheat, eat starters, could never get the valves just right.

    Last we heard of that bike, the new owner took it out a year after buying it, and the starter seized inside the motor.

  35. Boog says

    The small rear wheel…just doesn’t look right for some reason…anyway, I figured that all the Viragos were melted down in China by this time. I haven’t seen one in years. Nice build, tho…pretty cool. I would ride it to the Ace Cafe without hesitation.

  36. MikeyA says

    The Seca wheel would fit, and there is at least one owner on the Virago forum who’s gone that route and it looks quite good, but it’s a cast wheel and that wouldn’t go with this vintage “NorVin” look.

  37. MikeyA says

    I think this was the one that was at Velocity. The Ebay listing gives a link to a Velocity add. I remember it looking good in person, but when I saw it there, there was a Brough SS80 next to it, and I think I got distracted…

  38. Swagger says

    An xs11 pumpkin can be slung onto that rear end for quicker gears of your carving canyons…

  39. says

    That’s a real nice build, and if the part with the VIN on it is a Norton featherbed frame (or a part thereof) then it’s a genuine Normaha…or Notone…or whatever.

  40. Bob Fletcher says

    Well the banquer just showed up at my door.An I’m in love.Gonna need some fiddling to
    make a rider out of it but I’m sure up to it.Three “experts” have seen it and don’t have
    it figured out.Now I’m having trouble telling the truth.18 on the rear,flat slide’s,cams and
    some real exhaust over the winter.What about YORTON

  41. turbodog says

    The XV motor is a nice starting point for all sorts of interesting customs. I’m currently doing one as a “Seca” and another as a full resto-mod (GSXR, CBR suspension parts, whweels, brakes, megasquirt, etc).

    http://public.bay.livefilestore.com/y1pgKu6NuuQpZvVyiNXwmbFaF82XleGFZVrhuNAbJFu2CXJ1hvFksq1aMlQJO5z_Zg_tWGGs2PhhLDBmoUSw0e-JQ/smwasis.JPG

    http://z3yrqa.bay.livefilestore.com/y1pZterBwW0wzdMqmBttn9uhQN4zpiFBo_4hkNwip50rq9rhqmdm3riE6JGIQbkqmj5iECx4fujBvs1UuXPsuZcPn4PuvgKccMk/naked%20left%20side.jpg

  42. DnA says

    Banquer did an absolutely brilliant job here. It took guts to fit a Virago engine into a Featherbed frame. The Virago 920 engine is a torque monster hidden in a boring 80s frame. I remember riding a friends 920 and was blown away by its sheer power. This beautiful example has me thinking about doing a custom 920 of my own.

  43. roger de vries says

    hey joe! i’m interested in wot mod you did to the starter.mine already has a 4-brush setup but has eaten the teeth of the flywheel & idler gear. i really, really dig tr1′s.would not ride anyfing else if i could only get a permanent starting fix. Great bike