A Norton restored - Kawasaki Versys Forum
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post #1 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-01-2018, 05:55 PM Thread Starter
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A Norton restored

1972 Norton Commando, Combat engine, the bike I'd lusted for since it's inception. Found a low mileage one in '78.

Adrenaline-fueled rides followed. The torque, the sound and the power were irresistible. Predictable hoolie behaviour followed.
A few years later, a nasty collision.

The ruined motorcycle sits in a barn for over ten years, rusting away. My injuries heal and then domestic life gets in the way of motorcycle action but eventually, the nagging guilt of having abandoned my beloved Norton wears away at me.

Penance prooved to be very expensive. I couldn't be satisfied.

I stripped that wreck down to the bone and replaced everything with stainless steel, alloy, electronic and every available aftermarket upgrade. Spent way too much, top drawer all the way but the result was intoxicating.
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post #2 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-01-2018, 06:32 PM
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Holy Smokes Smiley! That's amazing! I'd love to see that rolling on the county roads this Summer!

Always trust your cape.
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post #3 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-01-2018, 06:45 PM
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Awesome story! I wonder if I will ever bond with a machine like that.

I have yet to find the machine that has the looks that I could stare at forever and the ride that makes me never want to stop.

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post #4 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-01-2018, 07:43 PM
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I bought a 74' 850 Commando in 1976 and rode the beast until 1982............great bike. I don't really miss it though........I had to work on it every weekend in order to ride it all week, and I had to ride it all week. It was my only transportation. The only bike I still wish I had was a 69' BSA 441 Victor.
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post #5 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-01-2018, 08:03 PM
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441 Victor

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I bought a 74' 850 Commando in 1976 and rode the beast until 1982............great bike. I don't really miss it though........I had to work on it every weekend in order to ride it all week, and I had to ride it all week. It was my only transportation. The only bike I still wish I had was a 69' BSA 441 Victor.
One of the best dirt bikes ever made. I was talking about that over Christmas, a close friend had one, several times he pulled into our gravel driveway, hit the kill switch while traveling forward, the compression of the bike would on several occasions drive the wheel in reverse. His older brother had a hot rod in a garage that was located on a heavily traveled street, the garage was one of those unique properties that were never developed, just a 3 car garage. Many times we would be shooting the breeze and every so often a few big displacement Harley bike riders would stop by to look at the hot rod and comment on this weird looking bike. Naturally we all needed entertainment from time to time, many times at the expense of these big bike riders. So this is how it would go, dude says what is that thing, response;' a dirt bike, want to try it out? And Dave would start it up, off the dude would go, we all stood watching, knowing once he went to do a U turn he would stall it, 19 out of 20 times it would stall, and then the entertainment, eventually one of us would go down and retrieve the bike, before the guy destroyed it.
So for those not in the know, at the time I weighed 180 LBS, I could stand on the kick start without it moving, also nothing like not knowing when to stop, otherwise you would end up with a nasty bruise on your right leg from the oil filler cap while trying to kick start it. We use to let the Victor lead the way, that way we were able to pick up all the parts that vibrated off the bike. Now that is what you would call a thumper!! Where I lived there use to be a place called the Heidelberg hill climb, that bike won it hands down 3 years in a row or so my memory says, lots of fun times those days.
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post #6 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-01-2018, 08:09 PM
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The 70’s Norton’s have to be one of best looking bikes ever made. My roommate in collage had one. As good looking as they were they were a maintenance nightmare. Electrics were shirt, fuel leaks, the pipes broke off oil leaks etc. nice restoration.👍
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post #7 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-02-2018, 06:24 AM Thread Starter
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Holy Smokes Smiley! That's amazing! I'd love to see that rolling on the county roads this Summer!
Wish it could be, however, I sold that Norton years ago after putting about 15000 miles on it. I had a second Commando in the first generation Fastback style too. I also sold that one to a friend who restored it.

I loved the Nortons but the maintenance eventually got to me. They were reliable (excepting the broken crankshaft episode) but I spent too much of my riding time adjusting etc. I had a full-time business then and spare time was precious.
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post #8 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-02-2018, 10:13 AM
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Ah Smiley, your Norton brings back fond memories. While stationed at Ramstein AB, Germany, in the late 70s - early 80s I owned a '75 850 Commando Interstate and it was a jewel. Well, a British jewel at best - perfection does not go hand in hand with a positive ground electrical system by Lucas.

It even featured electric starting which, with a warm engine on a mild day and judicious tickling of the Amal carbs, would actually fire the engine. But once running it was a wonderful experience and what a sound it made - music to the ears. However, the boffins at Lucas apparently wanted to make riding a Norton a memorable experience so now and then the engine would quit for no apparent reason. Coast to the edge of the road, hit the starter button and it would fire and run perfectly. I decided it was just taking a short rest break.

In the company of an original Goldwing, a 750 BMW, and a Renault Le Car baggage vehicle, we rode from southwest Germany, through Belgium, across England and ended up in the Isle of Man for the Manx Grand Prix. Two weeks or so later we returned via a different route and, much to my surprise and delight, the Norton was the only vehicle that ran without a single problem. It never skipped a beat. Apparently, being British it didn't want to embarrass itself while on native ground, especially on the Isle of Man.

The icing on the cake, so to speak, was being mentioned on Manx Radio because of our bright green US Forces Germany license plates. Great fun and great memories.

Before returning to the U.S. I sold the bike to a friend who really lusted after it and paid more for it than I did. That was a mistake. Oh well. Hope you enjoy your beauty for many years to come.

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post #9 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-02-2018, 01:50 PM Thread Starter
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Arion, I'm jealous now; I've always wanted to see the Manx GP, take a bike there on the ferry, ride around the circuit and sit in pubs drinking ale and listen to the bench racers. Maybe when my lottery investments pay off!

Mid 90's I rode on a rally with the local vintage club up to Manitoulin Island. I don't remember why but I rode my Concours that week. Of all the Brit iron there guess which bike came home on the chase vehicle trailer? my Concours... dead ignitor. I never lived that down.
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post #10 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-02-2018, 04:07 PM
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Arion, I'm jealous now; I've always wanted to see the Manx GP, take a bike there on the ferry, ride around the circuit and sit in pubs drinking ale and listen to the bench racers. Maybe when my lottery investments pay off!

Mid 90's I rode on a rally with the local vintage club up to Manitoulin Island. I don't remember why but I rode my Concours that week. Of all the Brit iron there guess which bike came home on the chase vehicle trailer? my Concours... dead ignitor. I never lived that down.
Smiley, I do hope your lottery investments pay off. Over the years I've come to appreciate the Manx GP more than the IoM TT. The Manx seems a bit more laid back and the island isn't as crowded, although compared to other times of the year it's still packed pretty tightly.

Although the island is rather small, it's stuffed with fascinating things to see and do - Peel castle, Castle Rushen, Rushen abbey, the Lady Isabella (the enormous Laxey tin mine water wheel), the Calf of Man, Niarble where one can stand on two continental shelves, and many other worthwhile offerings. I absolutely love the place. Why? In part because the Manx say that from the top of Snaefel (highest mountain in the island) one can see six kingdoms - England, Wales, Scotland, Ireland, Man, and Heaven. Beyond that I have ancestors from the Isle of Man, although not terribly reputable I'm told.

I took my charming bride to the island several years ago (her first visit, my fifth) in September to specifically avoid the millions of motorcyclists and wanna be racers. We had a grand time touring the island and even stumbled upon several stages of the IoM portion of the European Rally Championships. The most fascinating stage was conducted along the promenade in Douglas at night. Spectacular it was.

You know, it seems I just can't communicate in a few words. Oh well. Cheers and best of luck with your lottery investments.

Arion

"Plan? Plan! There ain't no plan."
Pig Killer, Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome

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post #11 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-02-2018, 04:47 PM
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1972 Norton Commando...I stripped that wreck down to the bone and replaced everything with stainless steel, alloy, electronic and every available aftermarket upgrade. Spent way too much, top drawer all the way but the result was intoxicating.
You "done good" Smiley!

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...So for those not in the know, at the time I weighed 180 LBS, I could stand on the kick start without it moving....
When I raced a TT500 (177#) I had no problem kick-starting it, but a friend who weighed about 200# could stand on HIS starter w/out it moving. It'd pi$$ him off to watch me start MINE first kick.

When I drag-raced I used to kick-start "Wild Thing" (which had 12.5 - 1 "Power-Sphere" pistons, until the time I damaged my knee when the "sprague-clutch" in the kick-starter failed, and I came down HARD on a straight leg.

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...You know, it seems I just can't communicate in a few words. Oh well. Cheers and best of luck with your lottery investments.
KEEP IT UP, Arion.

Your "ramblings" are worth the price of admission...!


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post #12 of 20 (permalink) Old 01-03-2018, 10:24 PM
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Tremendous job!

“Life should not be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside in a cloud of smoke, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming "Wow! What a Ride!” Hunter S. Thompson
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post #13 of 20 (permalink) Old 04-10-2018, 08:43 AM
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Beautiful work Smiley. I had a 71 Commando. What a great bike. Several buddies had the 750 and a couple of guys had the newer 850. Man we used to terrorize the streets back then.

I was still actively racing flat track and scrambles back then as were a couple of buddies so all we knew was WFO on the gas. Amazing we all survived those days...Lol.

Are you riding your black beauty of does it just sit around to look at?

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post #14 of 20 (permalink) Old 04-10-2018, 02:26 PM
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...Are you riding your black beauty of does it just sit around to look at?
You GOTTA admit - there's a lot of crap out there to 'decorate' your home w/, so having a Norton in the living room (WITHOUT oil, of course!).... - - : - -

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post #15 of 20 (permalink) Old 04-10-2018, 02:27 PM
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Oooh, so nice to read. I had a couple of Nortons in the early seventies. 1969/70 Commandos with the larger side panels are my cup of tea.
My first one was yellow. Some years ago I decided to buy me a Norton again, and make it look like my first love. So I did, and here she is...
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post #16 of 20 (permalink) Old 04-10-2018, 02:58 PM Thread Starter
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Are you riding your black beauty or does it just sit around to look at?
Sadly, I sold it. See post #7
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post #17 of 20 (permalink) Old 04-10-2018, 03:29 PM Thread Starter
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Oooh, so nice to read. I had a couple of Nortons in the early seventies. 1969/70 Commandos with the larger side panels are my cup of tea.
My first one was yellow. Some years ago I decided to buy me a Norton again, and make it look like my first love. So I did, and here she is...
Nice machine, Anders. That front drum brake is classic.

Norton memories are still strong. I particularly remember Dick Wilson's Shakespeare Cycle, an old-time Norton/Bultaco bike shop near Stratford. Wooden oil-soaked floor along the front counter. The smell that motorcycle shops once had, that only come with age like a fine patina on old furniture.

Dick raced a short-stroke Norton on the dirt track (flat track) circuit. He was fearless.

Drop by with a six-pack and Dick would entertain with really good stories. If you needed to piss after the beer, the "washroom" was in the back corner of the workshop: a funnel attached to a hose that ran out through the wall to drain outdoors. Priceless memories.

I always meant to take my camera and photograph him in the shop. I always swore that next time I would do it. Sadly, Dick was killed by a cage driver who ran a stop sign. Dick was on his Norton riding to the 1993 Paris CVMG rally. The next time never came for either of us.

His memory was honoured the following year. I have a laminated copy of this hanging in my garage. My garage is very much like his shop: old, wood walls and smells like motorcycles. Drop by with a six-pack. The washroom is outside, around the back.
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post #18 of 20 (permalink) Old 04-10-2018, 05:54 PM
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Nice machine, Anders. That front drum brake is classic.

Dick raced a short-stroke Norton on the dirt track (flat track) circuit. He was fearless.
So sorry to hear about your friend.

I raced Ascot half mile back in the early 70's, probably the same time frame that he did.

Man I will never forget watching Jody Nicholas on a bullet fast Norton dominating the expert main just about every Friday night. It was poetry in motion.
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post #19 of 20 (permalink) Old 04-11-2018, 09:14 AM
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Oooh, so nice to read. I had a couple of Nortons in the early seventies. 1969/70 Commandos with the larger side panels are my cup of tea.
My first one was yellow. Some years ago I decided to buy me a Norton again, and make it look like my first love. So I did, and here she is...
A good friend had a yellow 750 just like yours. Always loved that beautiful yellow. Mine was black and I am not a black man...I mean black is not my favorite color on a bike or a car...Lol.

I enjoy a machine with eye popping colors on it. Gray's and Black's just don't get me very excited.

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post #20 of 20 (permalink) Old 04-11-2018, 09:27 PM
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Bought a 2018 Indian Springfield Dark Horse in January. They also sell Norton motorcycles. Expensive, very nice, and look very fast.



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