A bit of Norton Waffle (or Dribble?)

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Dec 24, 2007
Hello Norton fans, In my previous post I enquired about what to look for in buying a used Norton Commando. I was being lazy and hoped someone would just tell me but alas I was to give my fingers a work out on the internet. I found what I thought was good advice on "captain nortons web site" (this site may help others looking for similar infromation). In regards to what model- 1974 onwards (the latter the better). I guess this would be true for most makes? Although if I had an earlier model I would not complain or would I? Locally there is an unmolested 750 for $7000 (about$6000 us). I see a later model advertised for the same amount over East- low miles too if it wasnt so far I would probably buy it. Maybe I should not talk prices it appears an avoided topic (to some extent) a bit like asking someone their age, however I like knowing what things are bought and sold for - I remember seeing the Norton Commandos new in Perth/Vicpark in 1975 they where about $3300 ($3800 us) a great looking bike I was 15 at the time (yes Im 47, 48 on the 12th) my friend decided on a Honda 750! maybe just as well I might have pinched it. Stay Happy & Ride Safe-Ron
Ron, Any good commando will be a pleasure to own and run, The concensus about the later bikes being better is simply because by 1974 the model has been around for quite a while and Norton had sorted out most of the outstanding issues with the bike. Almost any regularly used Norton will probably have had the the various mods such as Superblend bearings etc. already fitted. A good 750 is reckoned to feel a bit lighter and quicker handling, an 850 has more torque, more weight and is a bit more stable due to different steering head geometry. The price issue is by no means taboo, but most people are reluctant to make any statement on the value of an average machine because there is almost no such thing, especially within our worldwide community, comparing prices from Australia, to Hong Kong and to the USA is meaningless. For what it's worth my own observation is that in the UK 3,500 pounds will buy a useable well-sorted 750 with a 500 premium for the same condition 850. In the USA bikes often go for between $5,000 to $6,000. Rarer models and bikes with numerous desireable upgrades will go for much more. The price you quoted sounds reasonable if the bike is good, only you will be able to ascertain that this is the case. I personally would pay a premium for a bike with desireable extras, as a perusal of any Norton spares catalogue will show that a front disc brake upgrade for example, can cost anything from 500 to 1500 pounds if you have to buy it new. So Aus $1,000 doesn't go very far, but might be the difference in price between two otherwise similar machines. My advise is to be prepared to wait, to look around and to travel to find the right bike. Good luck.

When I first saw your post, I went to my local maps trying to find Greenbushes, Washington. We have some unusual place names here, so Greenbushes didn't initially raise a flag.

There's one town, called "Tenino" which was originally a railroad motive power depot where west coast trains between Los Angeles and Seattle did an engine change. The depot is 1090 miles from Sacramento, and the Union Pacific identified their depots by the distance, hence "Ten-Nine-Oh" became Tenino.

It wasn't until I read the thread that I realized "WA" was Western Australia and not Washington State USA

Thankyou Dave for the helpful Commando information I will advertise in our Big smoke- Perth and see what comes of it. the 850 also sounds the better choice for pilion. I will still take a look at the local 750 and check it for modifications but will wait until I bump into the owner- dont want to appear to keen. Sorry about the WA Frank Im not sure how to change it. Thanks for the bit on Tenino, there is an area down this way called Piano Gully in the days of horse and cart it was the means of transport to get the piano from dance hall to dance hall a bit to much drink one night for the driver and the the rest is history! Someone did tell me how Greenbushes got its name but I cant remember, I do know it had nothing to do with greenbushes- its a small mining town about 500 people some rare minerals are mined here one being Tantilum. (If only it was Washington!) Regards Ron
Re: Norton/Greenbushes

Ron said:
Sorry about the WA Frank Im not sure how to change it.

If you want to change that?
Log in, click on *Profile* at the top of the page, change the information in the *Location* box, and then click *Submit*.
Ron, if you are thinking 1974 and later perhaps it is the MK111 model you are interested in. I think the MK111 actually showed up in 1975, however any bike after engine#325001 (frame F125001) is a MK111.
Some changes/ that occurred with the MK111 are;

Vernier adjustable isolastics (can be added to earlier bikes, not sure of expense/effort required)

Electric start (needs four pole upgrade to work well)

Disc brake at rear

Crankcases strengthened from earlier 850 type.

In addition there are many little changes that I am learning of. Recently I was told that the MK111 850 was given a stronger crankshaft than the pre
MK111 850s . Also, I was told that there was an upgrade to one or more transmission seals that occurred with the MK111. British /Italian does the necessary machining to include this upgrade whenever they rebuild an earlier transmission.

I opted for a MK111 Interstate as I needed the big fuel tank for range (300 miles) and I saw the MK111 changes as improvements. I wouldn't rule out an earlier bike though. Also, as has been pointed out, some (but not all)of the MK111 changes can be done to the earlier bikes.

All other things being equal, as pointed out the 850s tend to bring a few hundred dollars more than 750s. Also, I think the MK111 850s tend to run a bit higher than the earlier 850s. When I was looking it seemed the Interstate bikes also cost a bit more than the Roadsters, such is the demand for the larger tank/greater range. The Roadster tank looks quite nice but only holds 2.5(or 2.7 depending on which book you read) Imperial Gallons, so you must plan for refuelling at about every 120 miles. This is very problematic on a long trip, especially in the wilds of Canada where fuel is often more than one hundred twenty miles away.
Personally I also like the look of the big Interstate tank and really like the fact that it holds 5.5 Imperial gallons.
My bike gets 60 MPG at 70 MPH, so I know it will still have about one half gallon of reserve after 300 miles.
The roadster would have the same one half gallon reserve at just 120 miles, not far enough for my type of riding.
If I had found a nice Roadster that fit the bill, then I would have purchased an Interstate tank for it. Used Interstate tanks can be had on Ebay, but seem to command quite a price.

Three years ago I paid $4800 US for a very nice 75 MK111 Interestate.
It was ready to ride, although I have done a few minor repairs over the last three years.

I now think that was a fairly low price for it, although prices have risen some in three years

There is a photo of the bike near the bottom of the photos page> (under my name, Glen Breaks)

Thankyou Glen for the information. I have picked up some useful tips on the forum along with other information. Your Norton looks good in classic black and I can see the benifits of the larger tank that would also be quite handy here with our distances between fuel stops in the country. With no leaded fuel (here anyway) do you add an additive? Some of my early vehicles do ok on BP 98 octane but this is not always available. I also took a peak at your Vincent very nice, I had ridden a friends Comet some years back and could see how you could get into trouble before getting to really know the bike. Regards Ron
Just use the best unleaded you can get, additives are not needed. The valves and the seats are made of the same stuff good as it gets.
Ron, from the receipts that came with the bike nothing has been done to the valve seats other than a grind some years ago and the valves are still gas tight.

I suspect the unleaded problem is one that shows up after a very large mileage. This might be more noticeable with a car than an old British motorcycle since we tend to rebuild these things before the mileages get all that great.

When I rebuilt the top end of the Vincent I had the original bronze valve seats drilled out and austenitic iron ones installed. These are correct for unleaded. There was no sign of serious wear on the 60 year old original bronze seats, which had been running on unleaded for a number of years.

Yes, you can get into trouble with a Vincent twin (four out of 181 crashed at the IOM this year) as they are deceptively quick. When you are going fast on the Norton, it really feels like it, however with the low revving tall geared Vincent I often find I am doing about ten MPH more going into corners than I would on the Norton.
Someone I went to college with had a Vincent twin. He and a friend (on a 650 BSA) were riding up the A1 (UK Great North Road) and stopped for a hitch-hiker. He chose to ride on the back of the Vincent.

After about a half hour at 90 mph or so on a flat section, they started climbing the hills on the Scottish border. The BSA was behind the Vincent as the speed dropped on the hills. At about 45 mph, the BSA rider was amazed to see the hitch-hiker stand up on the pegs of the Vincent and step off.

Both bikes stopped as the guy rolled into the ditch. He was just banged about a bit, not seriously hurt. His explanation was that it seemed to be going so slowly, he thought he'd better get off and push.

Vincents can definitely be running a lot faster than you think!
Your story made me laugh Frank, I posted a similar story in General Discussion as I am getting off the Norton Commando track. I see a couple of Commando's coming up on Ebay, a 72 / 750 that appeared in fair condition sold for $8050 Au recently. A local 750 at $7000 is looking better. Interesting to see what the 850 Mk11 interstate sells for (on Ebay) it needs a fair bit of work and I dont think the John Player colours are original as they appear to rough?
Hi Ron,
I am in the "Big Smoke" Perth WA (Oz) and I have a bit of an interest in Nortons.
I suspect that good ones are hard to get now, but don't give up, they are out there! I have been looking for one for a while for the brother in law, and have viewed a couple of real overvalued bikes.
I cannot help you find a bike, but i can help to assess one if you need help.

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