As Seen on TV: 1974 Norton Commando

1974 Norton Commando R Rear

Aside from rakish good looks that embody the best of the era, this particular Norton Commando appears to have had a bit of a brush with television fame, having been built by a shop that featured on Café Racer TV. While café racers in general have become a bit cliché of late, they still have a classic look and style that I think will endure well past their brief second moment in the sun. Unlike stretched out, chrome and candy-flamed choppers, café bikes hark back to a nostalgic era and, aside from the occasional example sporting below-the lower triple clamp clipons, they are actually rideable.

1974 Norton Commando Dash

Differences between Nortons of this period are largely down to relatively minor cosmetic details: they all featured the 828cc [“850”] parallel twin, although some models were more highly tuned than others. And all featured Norton’s interesting “Isolastic” engine mounting system.

As Nortons increased in displacement to keep pace with their competition, the vibrations of the compact, but not particularly smooth, parallel-twin became an increasing problem. Dominator and Atlas riders simply lived with the increasing “character” of the powerplant, but by the time the Commando came around, Norton felt the 750cc engine would need something more than the relative sponginess of the human body to absorb vibrations.

1974 Norton Commando L Rear

The most obvious options were unacceptable: rubber-mount the controls and reduce feel or redesign the engine and bankrupt the company. So Norton chose a middle route: they mounted the engine, transmission, and swingarm on a system of rubber bushings. This solution works very well, although it needs to be set up carefully and maintained in order to work correctly: worn Isolastics can cause scary handling problems.

From the original eBay listing: 1974 Norton Commando

Up for bid is my 1974 Norton Commando 850.  This bike was originally restored by The Classic Bike Experience (featured on Cafe Racer TV) in Essex, Vermont approximately five years ago.  This is the original “GUS” bike that got everything started for CBE.  There is a complete written documentary of their restoration of this particular Commando located on the Classic Bike Experience’s website under the heading CBE Cafe Bikes. 

I purchased “Gus” in October 2009 from Jack and Nick.  Since purchasing, I have changed/upgraded several things more to my liking.

I have the original Amals, the original coils, and the original bronze clutch plates.  

I have put approximately 1600 gentle two lane country miles on this bike since the original CBE rebuild five years ago.  I don’t know how I managed to leave that information out of the original listing, but it is definitely information that needs to be in the listing…

I have tried to make this bike as reliable as a 40 year old motorcycle can be.  It generally starts on the first or second kick.  It gets attention everywhere it goes.  I have started avoiding gas stations with other motorcycles and crowds because I know I will be stuck there talking to people.

1974 Norton Commando L Engine

Starting bid is $10,000 with no takers as yet and only one day left to go. That’s a pretty penny for a Norton Commando and perhaps the seller is attaching a bit too much value to the “celebrity” status of its builders, but I’m still sort of surprised there’s been no interest at all. This is a very nice example with thoughtful upgrades, meticulous maintenance and documentation, and a visual record of the build itself.

Seems worth it to pay a bit extra for such a nicely put together machine.


1974 Norton Commando R Side

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