The evocative Norton Commando has to be one of the great icons of British motorcycle design, with its long, slender lines, slim tank and engine tilted forward at a jaunty angle, and gently upswept exhausts, it has always looked as fast as the performance figures would tell. At its heart is a free-spinning, torquey 750cc vertical twin, producing 58bhp mated to an AMC gearbox, mounted in a frame designed by former Rolls-Royce engineer, Dr. Stefan Bauer. He and the team beat the vibration produced by the engine, by installing it with a rubber mounting system to isolate the engine from the frame. These “Isolastics”, as they were named, completed an impressive package, heartily received by the press and buying public upon release at the Earls Court show in 1967. The bike was to be voted “Machine of the Year” by Motor Cycle News magazine for five consecutive years.
The machine on offer here, hails from a substantial southern California collection, meticulously refurbished to be an “on the button” rider. Literally.
The starting point was a super-original, matching numbers example. Over the course of ownership of a couple of years, the bike was extensively gone through, including a full inspection of the engine. Deemed to be in fine condition, all was needed was a general check of all internal systems, oilways, etc. Paperwork accompanies the bike, stating a full engine rebuild 2,000 miles ago. After a good service and tune up, the bike ran well with no smoking and the very minor of oil leaks. The intention for the project was reliable rider. A single carb conversion was installed with a Mikuni carb for great reliability with no loss of power. An electronic ignition was installed along with an anti-sump valve. Cables were replaced as needed, fuel lines replaced, and a fresh pair of tires fitted. A high output charging system together with a large Shoral lithium battery ensures electrical systems work as they should with lighting better than a standard candle.
For real rider confidence and pleasure, a Colorado Norton Works electric starter kit was installed. To ensure utter reliability, the transmission was also completely rebuilt with a Barnett 850 clutch kit.
The tank was repainted by a local expert with gorgeous gold pinstriping and Norton logos… at considerable cost.
The result: in all honesty, the best riding Norton Commando I have ever ridden. The clutch is light and as smooth as a modern Japanese bike. You slip in to neutral and having turned on the gas and activated the choke lever on the carb and then press the button. YES, you press the button. The bike fires immediately. Slip in to gear and the bike pulls like a train. Power is plentiful and immediate. It shifts through the gears like butter and then the brakes. With expectations of standard 50-year-old British bike stoppers, it will shock as it pulls up like a modern bike. Lights are bright and all controls are silky smooth. This machine has been dialed in perfectly. A truly exhilarating ride. Certainly a well-presented motorcycle, but the bike is a must-be-ridden-to-be-believed machine. Inspections enthusiastically encouraged.