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Old 05-15-2013, 10:08 AM   #16
Steve G.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HapHazard View Post
Resuscitation, not rebuild or God forbid restoration!

I bought this 1974 Commando Roadster about 10 years ago:


(Pic is after I did a bunch of stuff, like replacing the all-white-wiring with a repro harness, ceramic coating the Dunstall mufflers, installing the NOS taillight).

The PO had the bike painted all metallic blue (fenders, frame, instrument housings - even the triple clamps!). He had a cut-down Lucas taillight on it that sat at an odd angle, so I replaced it with the NOS piece, but I really don't care for it (looks, or the way it shakes with the bike's vibration), and may try another Lucas-style replacement. I really like the look of original polished stainless fenders, but the monochrome look isn't bad. The bars are probably higher than original, and I might get something lower and less Fastback style.

It ran, will run, has been the Queen Of Garageland, but I want to start using it a bit again (around town, day trips of 50-80 miles) and would like to update it a bit in terms of reliable performance.

Here are my requests for recommendations:

Carbs: The Amals have worn slides/bodies (idle races to 2000rpm when warmed up). I found a new set of two Mikunis with manifolds (but no throttle cables) for a very friendly price, but wonder if having the slides redone for $80 per carb, http://amalsleeve.com/index.html or buying the "new generation" Amals on EBay for $310 a set http://www.ebay.com/itm/Norton-Trium...af98fb&vxp=mtr might give a acceptable and more "appropriate" result?

Ignition: It has points. I want to change to electronic. I'm leaning toward the Pazon Sure Fire:
http://www.ebay.com/itm/170252715975...84.m1438.l2649
if that, should I replace the coils? With what?

Front Brake: Is stock and works as well as you'd expect - poorly with bad feel. What options are there to improve it's performance? (I'd like to keep the master cylinder to maintain the original switchgear).

Tires: The tires on it are younger than I am, but that's nothing to brag about. It seems that Dunlop K81's are about the only thing that comes in 4.10x19 front and rear. I've read lots of confusing talk about Avons in metric sizes, but nothing that makes me want to experiment. Are there other (good) choices besides the Dunlops?

Any other areas to consider?
I'm not looking to do this as cheaply as possible, or throw massive amounts of coin at it, either.
What 'ya think?
Thanx!

I'm still a fan of Amals hanging off of a Norton. And I've seen limited success with rebuilding/sleeving old ones. Just buy a set of new ones, pre-jetted to your bike, they work great.

Ignition,,,Boyer-Bransdon EI is pretty good stuff, inexpensive, hidden, set it and forget it. New copper core plug wires must be used whatever you decide. Carbon core wires will last only months with the vibration this engine is capable of. And with coils, exact cosmetic replica and German made PVL coils are the only way to go.

Brakes,,,,,yes, all it takes is money here. From re-sleeving the stock master cylinder to a smaller size, to all out Norvil disc/caliper combos, it's all a matter of MONEY!!

Tires. OEM used Dunlop K81-TT100s. I see no reason to change. Modern tire compounds have made this tire better than original, and certainly exceeds the capability of the bike. Some guys go for Super Venoms, which are very good. But they don't have that classic look. Use good quality Metzeler tubes, avoid Kenda/Cheng Chin etc. , and renue the rim/spoke covers.
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Old 05-15-2013, 10:15 AM   #17
caponerd
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Quote:
Originally Posted by R-W View Post
Rejuvinate it, restore it, keep it parked, just don"t SELL IT!

In the past 4 years my restored Norty's have gone up thousands while
my bank savings account has done nothing and my real estate values have gone in the tank. (Thank you Mr Obama).

Harley's... all over the place for sale. (and cheap)
Norton's... maybe 8 on FleaBay U.S. at any one time.

Keep it and love it baby!

I love it when people blame the current president for something that happened the year he was elected!
Can you say "non-sequitur"?

Best to stick with motorcycles on a motorcycle forum. At least we agree on that!

[edit]
Before I'm accused of trying to politicize this thread; OP, my opinion is that everything you've mentioned would be worth doing.
I don't own a Commando, but I do have two Royal Enfields, a 1966 interceptor and a 1958/9 Indian Tomahawk, and have done some updgrades to the Interceptor to take advantage of newer technology. It was worth it.

caponerd screwed with this post 05-15-2013 at 11:47 AM
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Old 05-15-2013, 05:25 PM   #18
HapHazard OP
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Doug Matson View Post
I have my MK III down right now. Frame off to powered coat and motor is waiting for me to get time to put it together. Try JS Motosport for carbs and motor parts. I have a custom made head (FullAuto), JS light weight pistons, Carillo rods, custom lifters, Beehive valve springs and a stage 1 JS cam, JS twin 34mm carbs, and lots of other parts. The forks you can use LandsDown Enginering for adjustable sliders. OldBritts has many custom parts they also use PowerArc ignitions, Colorado Norton Motorworks has great parts also. I have their Brembo brakes front and back along with a hydraulic clutch unit and some stainless steel parts. AccessNorton is a great site for info as was mentioned. Really the only limit is $$$$ and your imagination! Here is a pic of mine just before i tore it down to do the motor, I had already rebuilt the wheels. It was a pile of rust and grease when i got it. It should be a fun ride when I get it back together.
Wow! That's a beautiful bike! (And a lot more involved than "resuscitation"!)

What is that neat polished taillight?
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Old 05-15-2013, 05:39 PM   #19
bill h
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HapHazard: I've been riding my 72 Commando since 1977 and now that I am old, I can say it is just about right.

Here are some things to consider, I apologize in advance, if you aware of the things I recommend.


Wet Sumping: If the bike sits, it can be as little as two weeks, before starting drain the sump.

Also get a Yamaha 650 PVC valve from Mikes XS and plumb it in the breather, It will go a long way to stop the oil from weeping from everywhere.

Tires: If the tires are old replace them. A tire failure will ruin your whole Norton experience. Old hard tires just don't grip well and are hell in the rain.
I like Avon Roadriders AM26 and have them on my Commando and 650SS.

Clutch Cable: Do yourself a favor and install a Venhill Teflon lined cable. At least lube the current cable and make sure it is routed correctly.


Clutch stack. Check to see that the height is correct and add a shim plate if necessary. Plenty of info about this on accessnorton.

Primary drive : Use ATF fluid in the primary drive

The Venhill cable, ATF fluid and correct clutch stack height are probably the best things I did to improve the bike's rideability. No more carpel tunnel after a long ride.


Electronic Ignition is not a must if it starts and runs well. However. I am now running Pazon on both Nortons and my Triumph T100c. I like the ease of installation and the fact that you can set the timing at a lower rpm than the Boyer.

Carbs: If the amals work use them. But, take them apart and clean the jets and idle passages.

I have a Mikuni VM34 on the Commando.
I like it, the bike starts, idles and makes good power. Most importantly , it idles at a stoplight and doesn't stall. I don't have to keep blipping the throttle.

Electronic Rectifier / Regulator goes a long way to keep everything lighting and sparking

Isolastics. Check the isolastics. I converted to adjustable iso's

Brakes: As others have stated having the master sleeved to 13mm will
improve it. I went to a Brembo master and caliper with a floating disc and it stops , it really,really stops . Which is what I need here in suburban Philadelphia where everyone is talking on the cell phone or texting or doing anything but paying attention to driving.

Oh, that leads me to horns. Get the loudest horns you can find and install them. e.g Stebels


Check the rear drive chain for rust and stretch and wear.

Check the swing arm for play.

Hope this helps

Bill

2002 MZ Skorpian

1972 Norton Combat Commando

1971 Triumph T100C

1967 Norton 650SS
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Old 05-15-2013, 10:10 PM   #20
Doug Matson
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The tail light is off a 66' Triumph that I massaged a bit to fit and polished.
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Old 05-16-2013, 01:25 AM   #21
Quickduc
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Let me preface this with some background info.


My experience with Nortons ended in the mid 80's, pretty much. So, there will be new products/services I'm not up to speed on. Bare that in mind.

However, I was a bike mechanic during the Commando years. Worked at a shop that carried European bikes, mostly, and we worked on anything that rolled. Started in '71. Owned a couple of Nortons. Bought a '71 that I had uncrated and prepped for the original owner. (he sold it when it backfired and caught fire. Fortunately, right in front of the fire dept.

I quit riding after a stroke. Been about fourteen years now.

On to my suggestions for your Norton:


For the ignition setup: The points system can work well with some simple mods.

First, make sure you have good return springs on the advance weights.

Second, toss the original coils. Buy a pair of automotive coils for a V8 from the points era. There were optional high-output versions from some makers. "Standard" brand had a good one that had a gold tone body that looked good. If you ever tried the OEM coils on a spark tester, you would see how pitiful they are, which is why the specified plug gap is so narrow. Usually, new coils came with a clamp mount, and you should be able to use it to mount these in the same area as the old ones, however, they are larger, so make sure they aren't rubbing on the tank. BTW, you could mount these coils anywhere on the bike, as long leads won't effect the output to speak of.

Third, toss the OEM condensers, and buy the matching ones for the coils you bought. This is very important! The reason the original points get eaten by metal transfer is the coils don't match the condensers properly. With this new setup, you will eventually wear away the rubbing block of the points, but the points will still look fresh. Just keep an eye on the point gap, and re-adjust occasionally. The OEM points rubbing block materiel is not up to automotive standards, I suspect.

Fourth, you can now open the plug gap up to the automotive points era spec of .035", or so ( 0.90mm). Easier starting, and running.

More later...
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Old 05-16-2013, 04:16 AM   #22
chasbmw
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Does your bike have a fiberglass tank?

If so you need to seal it before it dissolves in a sticky goo.

Rumor has it that one of the reasons that the combat engined bikes eate their main bearings was that the the ignition timing would drift under vibration due to the poor quality of the points securing screws, fitting a Boyer back in 1973 certainly helped my Interstate retain it's tune. No starting problems if you have decent battery and Boyer have fixed the old problem that timing would go to full advance if the battery voltage was under about 10 (?) volts.
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Old 05-16-2013, 12:40 PM   #23
Quickduc
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In 1971, Norton used a Japanese main bearing on the timing side. There was something wrong with them. I think it may have been the cage. Anyway, the engine would start to knock around the 8K miles range. Every '71 Norton we sold had this engine failure mode. The factory/importer(US) never talked about this officially. I got the story from our district rep from Berliner (the importer) (our shop was in So. NJ). My Norton was the first local bike to fail. On vacation in FL

It was not a catastrophic failure mode, although if you ran it long enough it might have turned into one. I had an oil pressure gauge mounted. Changed the oil at a bike shop, where my friend had the head (or base) gasket changed on his Norton. Discovered, after draining it, that the only oil they had was Castrol, which didn't have a good reputation then, IIRC. We were heading home directly. First gas stop about an hour later, the idle pressure was very low, when it normally would have been around 50 psi. And it had a vibration.

Ran it like this from Ft Lauderdale to Orlando, where I tore the timing cover off and flushed out the metal debris in the engine. Took the oil pump apart and dressed up the surfaces as well as possible (all this in the motel parking lot), and we then continued on to Jacksonville FL, to a Norton shop where a mechanic I knew crated it and shipped it home for me.
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Old 05-16-2013, 12:58 PM   #24
Voltaire
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Hmmm, Japanese bearings....first time I have heard that one.
sounds like one of my suppliers blaming Chinese parts for his equipment failure
My understanding is that they pushed the design of the 1949 Bert Hopwood 500 just a bit to far with the Combat engine, raised the comp with the shaved head, different cam, 32mm carbs and the poor old bearings did no like it so they detuned it and fitted barrel rollers.
I like the growl of my Combat when it hits 5000 rpm

Resist the urge to restore and just ride it, there are too many restored bikes around these days.
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Old 05-16-2013, 08:04 PM   #25
HapHazard OP
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Well, seeing that quite a few folks make a good case for the points ignition, (and it's already there), I put my new battery in, and gave a kick and yep, nice sparks are still there. I will check the advance unit as suggested, though I am still considering Pazon.

Speaking of the battery, is there an improved method or device for holding the battery? When I got my bike, it had NOTHING holding the battery down. I then got the genuine NOS battery bar and a pair of the NOS elastic straps (which were deteriorated and useless). I ended up making up an improvised innertube rubber band arrangement that works, but is much less than great.

Quicduc, I'm sorry to hear that your riding was cut short by a stroke! My friend had a stroke a year ago, and is still recovering, but not riding, but is hopeful. I remember the Cycle magazine articles about using car coils to replace weak bike coils. I'd imagine that now some of the aftermarket coils would be an upgrade without the difficulty of mounting two large coils on the Norton (there's not a lot of room on it). My 73 Bonneville 750 developed a bad primary side main bearing on the longest trip I ever took with it (to Loudon), I rode it home, but man it was LOUD by the time I got back!
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Old 05-17-2013, 03:27 AM   #26
chasbmw
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Norton blamed the bearing suppliers, but the fault was theirs.....they had got Lucas to save a penny by playing around with the points securing screws......
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Old 05-17-2013, 04:50 AM   #27
Quickduc
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Voltare:

you're forgetting that I was the mechanic that rebuilt most of the bad '71 engines at that shop. My bearing was a Japanese, but I don't think I bothered to check the rest of them. The cage was mostly gone. I think one or two balls were also missing. Hard to tell without the cage holding them in proper spacing. That bearing fiasco had a definite impact on future sales of Nortons.

None of those bikes were Combat engines.

HapHazard:

If you can afford it, I would suggest replacing the carbs with twin Mikunis. The stock Amals are lousy, compared to them. I would not bother with the single Mikuni setup. Better fuel mileage, but that was the only thing good about it. I had a British bike mag with a test of the '76 Norton Commando, and it used a single SU(?) carb. It stated 11% power and 10% mileage increases, IIRC. Ugly bike, all angles and flats, looked like a cheap Yamaha of that vintage. Obviously, that worked much better than the single Mik!

The disadvantage of the dual Mik setup was the fat carbs are splayed apart, and don't allow the stock airbox to be used.

BTW, the stock coils produced around 8kv. The typical car coil was 16-18kv, and the enhanced about 22-25kv. ( IIRC )

A word of caution: Do NOT attempt wheelies with a Norton. The transmission is the weak link of the drive train. If you are lucky, you will only knock a tooth off the layshaft 4th gear. Bad luck will cost you the main case, or most all the internals, or both.

That is why the factory put those damned fibre clutch discs on the 71's. They are designed to have a soft engagement, but they glaze up and start slipping with few miles. Had to soak them in brake cleaner, and scuff them with sandpaper on a regular basis. The fix is to get the original '69 vintage plates. That is a metal plate with little pads bonded to them. Bare in mind, that they make it easier to damage the trans if you are ham handed. The reason is that when you release the clutch lever, when it hits the end of it's travel, the clutch is locked up. It will not slip, unless you are running a fully built performance engine. The glazing problem is why they went with the 5 plate bronze clutch, which is a marginal improvement.
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Old 05-17-2013, 06:49 AM   #28
pommie john
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Quickduc View Post
Voltare:

you're forgetting that I was the mechanic that rebuilt most of the bad '71 engines at that shop. My bearing was a Japanese, but I don't think I bothered to check the rest of them. The cage was mostly gone. I think one or two balls were also missing. Hard to tell without the cage holding them in proper spacing. That bearing fiasco had a definite impact on future sales of Nortons.

None of those bikes were Combat engines.

.

What bearing were they using on the drive side? They'd gone over to superblend by then surely?

I use a Japanese ball bearing in the timing side with no problems so far. I think it's an NSK . But most people, I think, use a superblend on both sides.
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Old 05-17-2013, 04:07 PM   #29
Quickduc
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John,

The OEM drive side bearing was not a barrel roller type (superblend) in those engines. Replacements were, FAG brand. Funny name, sticks in my mind. That went in both sides. Damned expensive bearings! As to what the original bearing was, I think it was a roller, but I'm not positive. My recollection is that it was noticeably different from the timing side bearing, which is why I think roller, but I wouldn't bet the farm on it. Some of my memories are fuzzy, whether due to brain damage or age related is unknown.
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Old 05-17-2013, 06:44 PM   #30
Voltaire
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I think the Superblend came in during the Combat fiasco, when bikes were being sent back to the factory to have the motors rebuilt.
The bearing was the symptom, the problem was trying to make a 1949 500 into a fire breathing 750, the low gearing and young fellas thrashing them.
I don't thrash my Combat as I have a mental image of the bolted up crank flexing and trying to get out of the crankcase....
My airhead BMW racer on the other hand I run to the redline of 7500 happily.
The early 70's must have been a fun time to have been around in the bike industry with the Japanese invasion.
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