1974 Norton 850 Commando
Why do I have this feeling that as soon as I clean out a few bikes in my barn that a Norton someone else doesn’t want is going to have a new home. Lately I seem drawn, pulled, pushed (?) to vintage Norton’s. I have been part of a race team running Norton’s, I have ridden Norton’s on the road, I have rescued a Norton off the side of the Hiway, posted numerous Norton’s on this website, and spent time with the CEO of Norton Motorcycles…the planets must be aligning themselves to give me no choice but to become a Norton owner. But which Norton?
I will say that my first choice would probably be an 850 Interstate, my last choice would be a Hi-Rider…boy did Norton screw up there!!!. I wouldn’t choose a Combat Commando because there were too many issues with that motor that I don’t want to deal with. A standard 750 would be just fine. A ‘Fastback’? No, I just can’t get used to that tailpiece.
I like the 850 because even though the 750 has a bit more responsive motor (quicker throttle response), the tuning of the 850 motor made it easier for me to ride fast. Why do I like the Interstate model? I like the shape of the tank and I can ride more miles before stopping. And riding the Norton, I want to put a bunch of miles on each ride.
Norton’s also make perfect Cafe Racers, my absolute favorite is the John Player Norton replica model of 1974, Norton’s factory Cafe Racer. The JPN was / is a beautiful motorcycle, the twin headlight fairing actually reminds me a lot of the fairing on my ’95 Triumph Daytona Super3…good designs never go bad.
The 850 Commando’s had a respectable 60hp, a top speed of around 115mph, and it weighed a pretty svelte 420 lbs. In 1974 it was still kickstart only but that really wasn’t a problem, in ’75 the bike came with an electric starter that was at best, a bit ‘dodgy’. I’ll take the kickstart model thank you. The ’74 model came with a disc brake in the front but retained the drum in the back. You still had the Isloastic engine mounting system which you really need to maintain regularly and knowledgeably. If you set the system too tight the bike vibrates; if you set it too loosely, the whole system becomes sloppy and can dangerously affect handling. When it is set right though, it is a wonderful system.
I found a really nice 850 Commando on ebay this morning that has had a very modest cafe’ treatment. The seller went the Dunstall route, which is normal when you own a Norton, the fairing, the mufflers (which look and sound great), foot controls and a nice set of Tommaselli handlebars, the stock seat was retained. The owner did keep the original parts as well…lucky you. The Commando has also had a good going over with important maintainance items.
This is a really nice bike and if I only had the room…
For more info and more pictures, click on the pics below.