5 Mar 2011

My eleventh bike was a Norton Commando

My 1974 Norton Commando MkIIA

The most attentive and/or bike-crazy readers of this blog may be saying: "hey I've seen this one before, this guy is cheating!". And they would be right for the first part, as I did show it before on this blog, concerning my vows for the year of 2011, which focused on getting this bike, which I used to own and have recently re-purchased, modified a bit.

Here is some information on this project:

The 750 Norton Atlas engine, gradually increased in capacity to 828 cc, is one of the most beautiful of  British bike engines

Although I have recently bought this bike back from the friend to whom I sold it some years ago and who refrained from using it much, I initially owned this machine for a number of years back in the late 1980's and early 1990's.

At that time I had it totally rebuilt (the machine I purchased was in a sorry state and I am no mechanic) by a specialist near Paris called Jean Souper. And he did a fanastic job on it, meticulously rebuilding the engine and matching all the parts so that, unlike most Commandos that came from the factory, this one never leaked any oil! Not being a purist, I had the frame done in grey epoxy and the mudguards painted black. I also had a big tank fitted (from the Interstate model), as this bike was originally the Roadster version with a small tank. I did this because I wanted to ride some distances on the bike, and indeed I took it to Spain (two up) and quite a bit around France. The bike as you see it in these recent photographs is exactly as it was rebuilt back then, just a little worn, but well cared-for as my friend hardly ever rode it. I took pity on the poor thing (the bike, not the friend) and liberated it from his garage, as bikes are made to be ridden, right?

Now, as I explained before, it is currently with Frank Chatokhine, the excellent Norton doctor, to bring it up to date (as far as one can for an almost 40 year-old veteran) with brakes that will actually stop the thing, and one or two other mods. It will reappear in this column in a couple of months  time (hopefully) in its new glory.


  1. So, a commando without oil leaks all over, huh ? First time ever. Sounds like leeches without any blood stains. Still, I share your sympathy for the thing. Pom-pom-pom-pom.

  2. Just took a little care and some elbow grease on assembly. Something called craftsmanship. This was what the English factory workers had lost back in the 70's. Probably on account of the factory cutting corners and costs. Anyway this sort of thing, together with being too late with R&D, made the English motorcycle industry fade away quite fast when faced with Japanese competition. It has sonce revived 30 years later, thanks to the likes of John Bloor (Triumph) and the guy who has just restarted Norton.

  3. No doubt about that, David.
    My friend François Louis, this wonderful music instrument developper – I already alluded to him in your columns – always gives following piece of advice to beginners sax-players: buy a cheap East-German saxophone first, let me dismantle some bits and reassemble everything smoothly ... and you’ll get a far better instrument than your run-of-the-mill – but far more expensive - Japanese tool. Later on, when your skill increases, treat yourself to a quality horn.
    Still, my poor experience in the 70ies was with English girls rather than factory workers ... and I have no complains as to their dedication to the job !

  4. Waiting for a factory girl, Luc?

  5. Yes and I See my whole world on the backseat
    ‘cause her knees are much too fat
    Still she wants a joint, seeing she wears scarves instead of hats
    Her zipper's broken down the back
    but she knows how to treat a john
    Please, save me from waiting for
    that girl who turns me on!

    Nice meddley, is it not?