Tagged: Commando

Old Yellow: 1971 Norton 750cc Production Racer for Sale

1971 Norton Commando Racer L Side

Phil Schilling was an ex-racer most famous for being the editor of Cycle magazine and for his involvement in the creation and racing of the classic hot-rod Ducati named Old Blue. But as with any good motorcycle enthusiast, his tastes were varied, and apparently this bright yellow Norton Commando production racer was built to his specifications.

1971 Norton Commando Racer R Side Engine

Norton’s old-school approach to motorcycle construction may not have been cutting-edge at the time, but means that they’re relatively simple to work on, many parts are interchangeable between models [see: Triton], and plenty of the reliability issues can be addressed with updated parts or regular attention. And while many bikes at the time boasted more advanced specification and design, Nortons were fast, powerful, and handled well.

1971 Norton Commando Racer Dash

A steady increase in displacement to keep Norton’s power competitive with rivals and appeal to US buyers meant unacceptable levels of vibration. Parallel-twins are extremely compact and far simpler to manufacture than v-twins, but they do tend to vibrate more when not fitted with modern luxuries like engine counter-balancers. By the time the Norton twin was punched out to the race-legal 745cc likely found in this bike, vibration was enough of an issue that a solution was needed. Instead of rubber-mounting the bars, pegs, seat, and anything else that might interact with the rider, their innovative Isolastic system used a system of rubber mounts to insulate the engine itself. It works great when properly set up but, like all rubber bushings, they need regular attention: worn Isolastics can mean scarily unpredictable handling.

1971 Norton Commando Racer Kick

From the original eBay listing: 1971 Norton 750cc Production Racer for Sale

The ex-Phil Schilling 1971 Norton Commando 750cc Production Racer, Fully Documented, to AMA 750 Spec, 1 of 1!

Frame #: 145102 Engine #: 145102

Its innovative vibration-beating Isolastic frame enabled the Commando to prolong the life of Norton’s aging parallel twin. Launched in 1967, the model was an instant hit with the motorcycling public, being voted Motor Cycle News ‘Machine of the Year’ for five consecutive years. A true ‘skunkworks’ project, the Production Racer was introduced for 1971 and hand-assembled at Norton race manager Peter Inchley’s famous ‘Long Shop,’ a hangar at the old Thruxton air base. A homologation special built for little more than one season to qualify for various 750cc road racing series, the street-legal ‘Proddy Racer’ was the fastest/quickest Commando made, capable of 130mph as delivered with a list price double that of standard Commandos. Credit for the performance goes to the blueprinted engine, meticulously assembled with high-compression pistons, factory 3S racing camshaft, ported cylinder head, larger valves and polished internals, good for at least an additional 10bhp over an assembly-line Commando. Handling likewise was improved upon thanks to test rider Peter Williams, also an excellent development engineer, who could simply throw open the hangar doors and commence to hot-lapping the adjacent Thruxton race circuit. It certainly did the bike’s credibility not one iota of harm when Williams and co-rider Charlie Sanby took a Production Racer to victory in the 1970 Thruxton 500 endurance race.

While records aren’t definitive, it is believed that fewer than 200 Production Racers were made, perhaps as few as 120.

The example on offer here, is a tad more special than the average, incredibly rare Norton Proddie Racer. The bike was built for Executive Editor of Cycle magazine and famed racer, Phil Schilling. A great collector of classic machines, Schilling sensed the collectability of the Norton, so had Peter Williams personally build him the ultimate iteration of the ultimate Commando.

The engine is much wilder than that of the standard Production Racer, with a host of trick parts. The engine was built to the same specification of Williams’ AMA750cc Class Special with Norvil ‘Triple S’ cams, high 10.25:1 compression pistons, big 32mm Amal Concentric carbs and twin megaphone exhausts. A Quaife five-speed gearbox replaced the standard item.

Fork sliders and internals have been reworked for superior damping, while the swingarm bushing was totally revised, and the arm itself was lengthened. A 6-gallon gas tank replaces the standard Production Racer item.

The bike was extensively tested by Peter Williams on the Thruxton track before delivery in August of 1971.

This amazing piece of Norton history is accompanied by a letter from Norton Villiers’ Chairman, R. D. Poore to Cook Nielson at Cycle magazine discussing the delivery of the “Schilling Norton”, original spec sheets from Norton, and the magazine article, scans attached to the listing.

I have confirmed the factory records, which say that Engine/Frame number 145102 was recorded as a racer, dispatched to Berliner, the US distrivutor, on August 4th, 1971.

This irreplaceable historically significant bike has been on static display in a very prominent collection of high-end motorcycles, and, as such, some re-commissioning will need to be undertaken before returning to the track.

There’s very little time left on the listing, with a Buy It Now price of $29,000. That’s obviously huge money for a Norton Commando but, if the seller is to be believed, this is a one-of-a-kind motorcycle and would easily cost that much just to build a replica, ignoring the historic value. It’s tough to put a value on such a rare machine but, with no offers yet, this one might be priced just a bit too high. Certainly, the link to Schilling is pretty cool, but collectors seem to value actual race history and that may be affecting the sale on this one. Hopefully, the right buyer will find and prep this bike for some vintage racing. It’s what Phil would have wanted I’m sure.

-tad

1971 Norton Commando Racer R Side

Ahead of Its Time: 1974 John Player Norton Commando for Sale

1974 Norton Commando JPN Fairing Front

You’d be forgiven for not realizing that this very strange-looking John Player Norton Replica is, under the skin, a Commando: buyers didn’t know quite what to do with this at the time, either. It’s a bit of an evolutionary “missing link” in terms of sportbike design, effectively bridging the gap between earlier bullet-like dustbin fairings and modern designs as seen on the first-generation GSX-R750. Cutting-edge design unfortunately cuts both ways: while theoretically new ideas should excite consumers, manufacturers always run the risk that their revolutionary machines will actually alienate their core audience. Take the Pierre Terblanche-styled Ducati 999 for example: the bike was, in virtually every way, an improvement over the beloved 916 and the design was a complete departure for Ducati. The 999 is finally, grudgingly being accepted as a classic design but when new it was too much of a departure, too new, too alien to be the follow up Ducatisti were waiting for. And sales were disappointing.

1974 Norton Commando JPN R Fairing

The John Player Norton Replica suffered a similar fate. Named after the famous British tobacco company, the few made didn’t find an audience at first and some languished unsold for years. Keep in mind that the whole concept of collectable motorcycles is relatively new, and few people were interested in race-replicas or limited editions. On the upside, if the odd styling captures your imagination, this should offer no real challenge to ride and maintain: aside from gearing changes to take advantage of the bike’s improved top-speed potential, the bike is basically a stock Norton Commando.

1974 Norton Commando JPN L Tank

It uses the 828cc version of Norton’s famous parallel-twin engine and four-speed box found in the 850 Commando. A short-stroke 750 was also available for buyers that planned to race their machines in the US, although I’ve never seen one come up for sale and I’m not sure exactly how many of the 200 total machines took advantage of this option.

1974 Norton Commando JPN L Seat

From the original eBay listing: 1974 John Player Norton Commando for Sale

Very, very nice John Player Special. These do not come up very often. Many, many more vintage motorcycle available…

The seller then goes on to list a number of other vintage machines they have available. Which is great, but a bit of that space could have been used to answer some questions about this machine: does it run? What work, maintenance, or upgrades have been done to the bike in question? Aside from the fact that it has 12,465 miles on it so we know it’s not been sitting its whole life, we’re left to guess. I’m sure the seller is probably expecting prospective buyers to ask appropriate questions. But although these are pretty rare, with just 120 shipped to the US, they’re not impossible to find, and many buyers want to do their initial research without having to reach out to the seller. It’d also be great to see some better pictures of this very distinctive machine, although the close-up shots do show some great detail and give a pretty good idea of the overall condition.

-tad

1974 Norton Commando JPN L Fairing

Faster! Faster! Supercharged and Fuel Injected 1974 Norton 850 Commando

1974 Norton Commando SC L Side

Introduced in 1967 and displacing 745cc’s with pre-unit construction that was rather unimpressive in specification, Norton’s Commando was a development of the Atlas and distinguished by its simple but effective “Isolastic” engine-mounting system that allowed for the needed increase in displacement without the associated increase in paint-shaker vibrations. The Commando’s rakish leaned-over engine was largely a visual update to the engine, although Norton also claimed an improved center of gravity and increased space for carburetors and airbox.

1974 Norton Commando SC L Engine

So for vintage biking fans, the Norton Commando has it all: decent power, classic good looks, a great soundtrack, and tons of aftermarket and community support. All it really needs is a bit more poke and something to make it just that bit more exotic so it stands out in a crowd.

1974 Norton Commando SC Dash

Kawasaki have gotten a lot of ink recently with the introduction of their supercharged H2 and H2R bikes. While there have been a number of production turbocharged motorcycles, supercharging generally seems to suit motorcycles a bit better: the performance is more linear and the plumbing is much simpler.

1974 Norton Commando SC R Rear

Simply: a supercharger is generally belt-driven off the crankshaft and works as an air pump to cram more fuel/air mixture into the engine than would be available at normal atmospheric pressure. Technically, a turbocharger is also a type of supercharger, but is driven by exhaust gas instead of a belt, meaning power is determined by throttle-opening and revs. Turbos are a great way to get “free” horsepower, but since turbos are driven by exhaust gasses, you have to route all that air from the exhaust to the turbo and back into the engine. Something that’s generally not such a big deal with cars, but often difficult and very inconvenient on a bike.

1974 Norton Commando SC Oil Cooler

This particular Norton 850 Commando is fitted with a period Drouin supercharger unit. Period tests saw north of 100hp, up from the approximately 60hp produced by the stock unit. Early versions used a side-valve carburetor that apparently leaked, so this later, fuel-injected setup should be a big improvement.

From the original eBay listing: Supercharged and Fuel Injected 1974 Norton 850 Commando for Sale

A 1974 Norton 850 SC Commando with 13,669 original miles. A series of tasteful custom features adore this wonderful street bike. They include the following; Competition Fairing, Full instrumentation Package, Wickedly Beautiful Black Paint, Corbin Gun Fighter Seat, Carry On Tool Kit, Light Weight Front Fender, Back Dated & Vented Front Drum Brake, Custom Oil Lines, Twin Oil Coolers and the incredibly Rare Drouin Super Charger with Fuel Injection. 

The Drouin unit, Slide Throttle Fuel Injection unit and the Instrument Package were after market item that could have been purchased in the 1970’s, through the Norton dealer. The Drouin Super Charger and the Slide Throttle Fuel Injection unit are fully operational and produces amazing and quick 100 HP. The Fuel Injected Slide Throttle system was the very last iteration of the Drouin Super Charged series intake systems, therefore, being the most advanced and powerful. Upon riding this custom Norton there is sense of amazement in the additional torque and power that comes from the bike. It runs properly and smoothly. The shifting in precise and positive. The brakes are quite ample in bringing this bike to a halt. The tire have some age on them, but are quite usable. The fuel tank interior has been cleaned and sealed. 

The rear fender has some small dimples and a little discoloring. There is some very minor pitting on the wheels, a 1/8″ hole that had been drilled through the front, between the forks. Otherwise, this Norton 850 SC was shown recently at the prestigious “Riding Into History” Motorcycle show in May and was judged as a first runner up in the all Norton class, next to a very well known, twin engine Bonneville Norton. A spare Super Charger Drive Belt is included with the sale of the Norton, as well as an original Drouin Super Charger Manual.

1974 Norton Commando SC L Rear

Drouin superchargers are desirable period mods should add significantly to the performance and value of this bike. Bidding is very active at this point, with several days left on the auction. I’m thinking this would make for a possibly fiddly, but very rewarding motorcycle. I’d love to hear that classic British twin noise with a supercharger whine laid over the top!

-tad

1974 Norton Commando SC Front

Better Than New: 1974 Norton VR880 Kenny Dreer Commando

1974 Norton VR880 L Side

The original resto-mod, the Kenny Dreer VR880 was basically a vintage Norton Commando with most of the quirks ironed out and all of the character left in. Unlike John Player, Kenny Dreer was an actual person, a vintage bike restorer with a shop in Portland, Oregon that specialized in British and Italian bikes.

1974 Norton VR880 Engine Detail

The VR880 was the culmination of his experience, a low volume “production” machine that was basically a ground-up restoration that featured modern components wherever possible for reliability, and a bored-out motor for thumping British power. The VR880 gave way to the 961SS before financial problems called a halt to the operation.

1974 Norton VR880 Rear Suspension

From the polished aluminum tank and tail to the vented primary cover, this thing just embodies the very best of what people love about classic British twins. I’d just change those very, very ugly white-faced gauges for something a little more traditional-looking.

1974 Norton VR880 Clocks

From the original eBay listing: 1974 Kenny Dreer VR880 Norton Commando for Sale

Up for sale is my 1974 Kenny Dreer VR880 Norton Commando that is all original and in outstanding condition with only 1,138.5 miles. Kenny Dreer built a total of 50 VR880’s and only 5 were built with aluminum tank, sidecovers and rear fender. Mine is one of the 5. I did a lot of research and found out the brother of the original owner of my bike ordered a VR880 from Kenny and had a bad accident and totaled the bike leaving only 4 aluminum built bikes remaining. The aluminum work was hand formed by Evan Wilcox. As you can see in the pictures I have all the original paperwork, the original purchase agreement signed by Kenny Dreer and the Serial number on the purchase agreement matches that of the bike, I also have the dyno test for the bike. The bike still has the original tires from when the bike was built. I believe there isn’t another VR880 with all the paperwork that goes along with it to be found. The bike should be in a museum or with a serious collector.

No arguing there. It’s certainly got a few nicks and bits of wear and tear, but patina is what many people want from a vintage British motorcycle, so that shouldn’t deter anyone from a purchase. As the seller indicates, these are very rare in any configuration and, while the price will be somewhere north of $14,000 when the dust settles, that’s a pretty fair price for a well-tuned and heavily updated Norton.

-tad

1974 Norton VR880 R Side

No Haters: 1974 John Player Norton 850 in Denmark

1974 JPN L Front

In spite of all the race-replica motorcycles named after their riders like this week’s Eddie Lawson Replica Kawasaki, the John Player Norton was not actually named after a particular rider. It was named after the British tobacco company that sponsored Norton’s race teams and the distinctive looks effectively bridge the 1960’s half-fairing sportbike style of the Ducati Super Sport and the later, fully-faired GSX-R750.

1974 JPN R Side

For the most part, it’s a Norton Commando under the skin and features the same strengths and weaknesses of those bikes. The main changes were cosmetic, with the wild, twin-headlamp bodywork and solo-seat tail section. Road-going examples used Norton’s standard 828cc parallel-twin and four-speed gearbox, although an optional short-stroke 750cc version was available for US race classes.

This one looks to be in excellent shape, and is fitted with the road-oriented “850,” rather than the short-stroke engine, and is currently located in Denmark.

1974 JPN L Rear

From the original eBay listing: 1974 John Player Norton 850 for Sale

This is a very, very cool bike.

Up for your consideration is a 1974 Norton John Player 850.  (It’s kind of like a Commando but my boss says don’t call it that…)

From the sales brochure:

“Limited production run of this eye-catching luxury machine for the connoisseur.  Powered either by the high torque 850 unit to provide outstanding flexibility for the highways or by the 750 c.c. short-stroke high output engine as a base for competition.  White fibreglass fairings give the same aggressive appearance as the machines which carried the Norton name to yet one more victory in the 1973 Isle of Man T.T.  This model offers the ultimate in exciting high performance motorcycling combining style with comfort, speed and safety.”

“Features Twin double-dip headlamps with halogen light units if required; high output alternator with twin zener diode charge control.  Rear set footrests, brake and gearchange pedals; clip-on handlebars.  3½ gallon (15 litre) steel petrol tank.  Access to flip cap through quick-release cover in the styling.  Access to steel oil tank by lifting seat panel.”

This bike comes from a good a respectable home where it has accrued only 12,198 original miles over its lifetime.

1974 JPN Dash

While somewhat awkward in appearance, the JPL has undeniable presence and is historically significant, an evolutionary step to the sportbikes of today. Approximately 200 are believed to have been made in 1974, their only year of manufacture. At the time, they were not especially desirable and were difficult for dealers to unload but this, as so often seems to be the case, simply makes them rarer and more valuable now.

There’s very little time on this auction, so move quickly if this strikes your fancy!

-tad

1974 JPN L Side

Clean Commando: 1969 Dunstall Norton 750

1969 Norton Dunstall R Front

Today, we have a very clean Dunstall Commando 750 . The seemingly modular nature of British motorcycles of the 1960’s allowed for a dizzying number of permutations: compact singles and parallel twins from Norton and Triumph fitted to frames from either manufacturer, with non-unit gearboxes that allowed additional installation flexibility… And that’s before outside companies like Dunstall and Rickman got into the act, with purpose-built racing and road machines so different from the donor bikes that they were sometimes considered manufacturers in their own right.

1969 Norton Dunstall L side

After getting his start customizing and then racing a Norton Dominator in the late 1950’s, mating the twin-cylinder engine with a Norton Manx gearbox and frame, Paul Dunstall parlayed his unlikely success with the hybrid machine into a business producing a range of tuning parts for British twins.

Instead of focusing on frames like other British businesses, Paul Dunstall tuned engines and offered a range of bolt-on parts to improve performance, as well as completely built machines based on various British brands.

1969 Norton Dunstall Dash

Although complete bikes fit into general “levels” of performance and customization, there were many options in the Dunstall catalog, and no two bikes are exactly alike. This particular bike has twin discs at the front, although the seller does mention that the original drum is included with the sale, so you can make that switch to old-school aesthetics if you like. The twin-disc set up was available from Dunstall, so the current set up is period-correct and should provide reliable stopping if you plan to ride rather than display the bike.

1969 Norton Dunstall L Foot Control

The original listing includes details from the build sheet regarding the engine and options for the rest of the machine: 1969 Dunstall Norton Commando for Sale

Here we have a Genuine Dunstall 750 Commando that that received a complete restoration early this year.  I purchased this bike from the original owner who in 1981 completely disassembled it.  It remained in boxes since 81′ until I rescued it in 2011.  This is an original bike that was ordered from Dunstall’s 1968-1969 Catalogue.  I have the original build sheet that was provided to the new owner upon purchase.  You will also see a picture from a motorcycle magazine in the UK that featured a 69′ 750 Dunstall just like this one.
 
First I want to say that corners were not cut during this EXTENSIVE AND ALSO EXPENSIVE restoration.  These early frames had a weak spot where the top frame meets the neck.  They would crack and the factory had a recall on them.  This frame was not one of the bikes that received the upgrade so I had a professional welder do this.  Pictures of the upgrade are also available (before and after).  I replaced the red plastic brake lines for more modern braided lines.  Plastic red lines are also included.  Also included is the original early Dunstall Decibel 2-2 exhaust system. These are very rare and earlier than the famous 2-1-2 system.  They were originally black so I had the mufflers ceramic coated.  The pipes need new nuts and collars soldered back on.  They are are in pristine condition.  The seat covers still wears the original leather on top.  I had my upholstery guy remake a new cover using the original top side leather.
 all sides and red bead are new.
1969 Norton Dunstall Rear Hub
With five days left and bidding up to $7,900, there’s still plenty of time to get in on the action, and I’d expect bidding to go a good bit higher: this bike is in excellent condition and represents a high-water-mark for Dunstall in terms of style and performance. While Dunstall continued into the 1970’s and added Japanese manufacturers to its range, the Norton-based machines have a definite cachet.

-tad

1969 Norton Dunstall Cockpit

The tale of two John Player Nortons

$_57

Norton and their Winning Ways were making a comeback in the 1970’s, and with the backing of John Player Tobacco Company, they were back on the track. The Norton Atlas had grown into the Norton Commando, and with the addition of a rubber isolation system, the vibration was tamed, and with a total of 850cc, the Norton became a Super Bike, again. These two John Player Norton’s may be “paint editions” and not have the twin headlight fairing to emulate the JPN endurance racers, but you are getting possibly the pinnacle and swan song Norton.

$_57 (3)

From the first seller

For sale is my 1975 Mk.3 Norton Commando John Player paint edition. The bike has had a full engine rebuild with forged JE pistons, Black Diamond valves, Superblend bearings, re-sleeved Amals, Boyer ignition, new camshaft, upgraded starter wiring, and new British made peashooter mufflers.The iso’s were also rebuilt….Bike has new British made stainless steel rims with new spokes in stock size and has new Dunlop Roadholder K81’s with maybe 1000 miles total since I mounted them….The bike was repainted very nicely in it’s stock JPS paint scheme. The seat cover is in nice shape but the foam should at some point be replaced or better yet, upgrade to a Corbin seat.

$_57 (2)

Both of these bikes offer electric starters. These were first offered in 1975, also introduced in 1975 was something that wasn’t new, but something required by the Design Company that is the United States regulation committee. They said that all motorcycle have to have the brake on the right, and shifters on the left. This Design Company that was the United States ruined a lot of good designs, both motorcycle and automobiles.

$_57 (4)

From the second seller

1975 Norton Commando John Player Edition. Numbers Matching, Excellent original condition,  down to the black cap silencers and very well maintained. Includes detailed service records since new. I purchased this from the original owner who bought the bike new from the Norton Dealer in MN. The mileage and paint is original with service records to back it up. Starts and runs excellent, doesn’t smoke and the carb is tuned to idle at that perfect Norton low rumble. The electric starter has been rebuilt and upgraded to the 4-brush starter, it works great (it will also start first kick, if you prefer to kick start it). The original air box, tool kit and service manual will be included in the final sale. I put about 400 trouble free miles on it last year.

$_57 (5)

Now it was difficult to get a sense of the difference between the full fairing JPN replica racers and the John Player paint edition, but I was able to find the below numbers for performance. The key may be in that the JPN full fairing seems to have been offered for 1974-75, and the electric start from 1975-78. The Tobacco Company left the Norton racing effort rather quickly and it would make sense that they would not want to advertise a sponsor that was no longer sponsoring Norton. Something else that these two auctions might give is a sense of how much buyers value original pain. At the time of this writing the first Norton John player with its re-paint has 9 bids up to $5700. The second Norton John Player with its original paint has 30 bidders up to $10,000. BB

John Player Norton Commando
Years produced:
 1974
Total production: 200 (est.)
Claimed power: 50hp @ 5,900rpm
Top speed: 115mph (est.)
Engine type: 828cc air-cooled OHV parallel twin
Weight (dry): 435lb (198kg)
Price then: $2,995
MPG: 40-50

 

$_57 (6)

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.

-tad

1974 Norton Commando R Side

1973 Norton Commando Interstate

1973 Norton Commando Interstate R Front2

My recent “blue” theme continues this week with a very, very clean 1973 Norton Commando Interstate. The different Nortons of this period are largely differentiated by cosmetic and ergonomic details: they all used the same 828cc engine although some models did feature a higher state of tune.

1973 Norton Commando Interstate Engine

As Norton increased the displacement of their classic twin through the Dominator and Atlas models in order to keep pace with their competition, vibration of the parallel-configuration became an issue. Instead of rubber-mounting the controls and blunting feel, or redesigning the engine, which was not economically feasible, they ISO-lated the engine, transmission, and swingarm from the rider with their “Isolastic” mounting system.

ISO-late and e-LASTIC. Get it?

This system of rubber mounts works very well, and the bike displays excellent period handling and very good power, although it’s important to keep the system in good nick and set up properly: too tight and the twin’s characteristic vibration will rear its ugly head. Too loose and handling can deteriorate significantly.

1973 Norton Commando Interstate Clocks

Translated from the original Capital-ese eBay listing: 1973 Norton Interstate 850 for Sale

Wonderful 1973 Norton, 850cc Interstate Motorcycle
I am the original owner of this like show room wonderful piece of motorcycle nostalgia
The bike has 10 thousand miles, has been garage kept, is a wonderful royal blue color
Runs excellent- ready to ride

The listing may be pretty vague, aside from letting us know that this wonderful motorcycle is wonderful, but the pictures speak volumes. A couple are pretty dark, but the do show off the seller’s garage which, although slightly cluttered [Peek-a-boo, C4 Corvette!] looks to have a spotless floor. Which, as a Norton owner means he replaces the various gaskets weekly, has a full time cleaner for the floor, or the bike has never been started.

Ever.

The bike is spotless as well and looks like it may have actually been licked clean prior to the photographs being taken…

1973 Norton Commando Interstate R Rear

But an original-owner bike, with 10k miles? It’s no surprise that the reserve hasn’t been met yet at $5,600. There’s three days left on this auction, and this bike surely deserves to fetch more than that.

-tad

1973 Norton Commando Interstate L Front

1970 Norton Commando 750 Short-Stroke Production Racer

1970 Norton Commando L Side

The rakish Norton Commando epitomizes everything that people love about classic British motorcycles: they’re sporty to ride, handsome to look at, and very involving in both the good and bad meanings implied by that term. These parallel-twin sportbikes are durable and reward their owners with character and performance, but famously require careful regular attention: weekend tinkering is all part of the experience although, unlike some of the more obscure bikes sometimes featured here, maintenance and performance parts are readily available.

1970 Norton Commando Cockpit

Introduced in 1967 and displacing 745cc’s with pre-unit construction that was rather unimpressive in specification, the machine proved to be popular and successful on road, track, and in the press. The Commando’s distinctive leaned-over engine was largely an aesthetic change from the earlier version fitted to the Atlas, although Norton also claimed an improved center of gravity and increased space for carburetors and airbox.

1970 Norton Commando Engine Detail

More revolutionary was the bike’s “Isolastic” frame that used a system of rubber mounts to reduce the significant vibrations of the parallel-twin powerplant. While effective, the system does require careful set up [see above under “weekend tinkering”] for optimum performance: too little movement and you might as well rigidly mount the engine, too much and you get sloppy handling.

When properly adjusted, the system gave excellent handling and comfort, but vibrations still plagued the Commando throughout its production run, since everything attached to the engine was still subject to significant stress: all of the tropes about parts vibrating loose, cracking, and falling off apply here.

1970 Norton Commando L Rear

This one appears to be well maintained and features a number of very nice period-appropriate modifications. The seller provides a pretty comprehensive list of the work that’s gone into it. From the original eBay listing: 1970 Norton Commando Short Stroke Production Racer

This Norton was built around a 1970 title and frame. It has a brand new old stock 750 short stroke engine 80.5mm stroke 77mm bore. Has a new Quaife reinforced shell 5 speed all new bearing. New kickstart shaft. Kickstart is straight up rare original. (not a featherbed) New inner cover. R camplate. Engine has all the rare parts RH7 head with 9/32 in stem oversize valves. Nimonic ex valves. New springs, rockers and rocker spindles. Pistons by Omega, steel rods, new crank. Hi pro cam. New lifters. New bearings.. Carbs are new 34mm Mk2 with cable operated chokes, not the Mickey Mouse on/off type. All new lines and cables. New Doherty quick throttle smith drive.. Inst were rebuilt and are both spot on. New inst cables. (Norton has only gone 25 miles) no leaks..

When the British biking industry fell on hard times in the 70’s and 80’s, Norton was one of the victims and, in spite of various attempts to resuscitate them, remain in limbo. A shame, given the resurgence of the modern classics sold by Triumph, Ducati, and others. Surely, there’s room for one more?

Update! One of our readers wrote in with the following bit of information about this machine:

FYI – This Norton is from Ron Fraturelli, one of the best Norton guys in the
country who was a Norton dealer and race bike builder back in the 70s.

http://nortoncommando.com/
http://www.accessnorton.com/ron-fratturelli-nortons-t10790.html

Thanks for the information!

-tad

1970 Norton Commando R Fairing