bike purchase question

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Jun 13, 2008
Hello to all, new on the site, but a bike fanatic I am. Found a Norton fastback, doesn't run, needs some work. I read a few other postings on buying a project versus the resto deal. I am thinking of working a deal to get it running and ridable, and then finish the minor details myself. What does a good condition running/ridable cost, as compared to a bike that just needs some basic work? I've looked at different sites, and the prices seem to bounce all over the place. Some of my friends have suggested ebay, stating you will see what people are paying for them now. But I cannot stand ebay, been burned, etc. Anyway, I could use some help here. Thanks for any help!
first this forum is the place to be. read as many posts as you can. there is nothing cheap about a commando. the more bits it comes with the better. even if they are aftermarket you can make up some of the cost selling those.

i suggest you get some photos and post those on the site. anything that has been out in the weather has to be cheeeep. nortons dont like to be ignored. a commando will take you and your pocket book where ever you want to go, or will let it.

good luck.
kevin said:
anything that has been out in the weather has to be cheeeep.

I'm not so sure about that any more? Here's a Commando brought back from the USA to the UK that looks as if it's been out in the weather?: ... :IT&ih=008

And it sold on eBay today for £2,000GBP ($3,893USD)
The Colour description = "Brown" amused me!

A Triumph offered by the same seller in a similar condition only made a rather more realistic £887GBP, which I would still consider to be too much.
And it sold on eBay today for £2,000GBP ($3,893USD)
I guess he figures the cylinder head would sell for $1600! :roll: :lol:
I have some more pics coming to me; probably will be Monday before I get them. I know the bike needs a new swingarm, rear fender, and set of gages. The carb needs to be cleaned too. It has been inside a warehouse for a few years; kept dry I believe. The previous owner had it for 20 years. I put a refundable deposit on it today so I don't miss out on this one. Price is 3K; I have 2 pics now, but cannot figure out to post them. Need some help here.

I also stopped and talked to the Service Mgr (Tim) at the local Honda dealership. He's a good person I've talked to in the past. It turns out he is a classic bike fan too. I talked to him about the bike, gave him the info that I currently know. He told me if it is what I am describing, then it is worth the price. He also said he would be more than happy to help me, allow me to get the bike shipped to his shop initially, and told me he would make contact to a good friend of his who works on and restores old bikes. Things are getting better.

Thanks for the replies. I am sure I will have more questions in the future. I will continue to read the other postings here and update as I get more info.
A few pics and website listing here

This may help get some idea if this bike is worth the asking price. Try this link: ... o-92644254

I did ask about how many calls have been received on this bike, and was told they receive quite a few all day long on all of their project bikes. So I was smart and put a refundable deposit down to hold it for awhile. If anyone has some time, please look at this and tell me what you think. I've been wanting a norton for awhile, but don't want to get a pile of junk for lots of cash. THANKS! :D
By European standards, that's not silly money but those early Plumstead models are not common and are probably among the most expensive to rebuild 100% as original.

The fuel tank looks too new compared with the rest so could be a recent replacement added for sale and conveniently stops us seeing if this is an early gussetted frame which you don't really want.

My feeling is that if you just want a Commando (750 or otherwise) you might be better off looking for a later version with more parts interchangeability and availability. If you want an early Fastback though then it's worth looking at. Are you able to view the bike ? I'd want to see it in the metal personally.
Re: A few pics and website listing here

68Norton said:
I've been wanting a norton for awhile, but don't want to get a pile of junk for lots of cash.

Hi: I am sure I am not the best person to advise you on this, but here's my take on it. The bike is offered at $2999. I had my tank and side panels painted about a year ago and it cost $850, so you can expect the same I would think for the tank and tail section. The bike you're looking at needs fenders. swinging and gauges. The gauges are at least $500 when rebuilt. With one thing and another I think you'd be lucky if you could get away with less than $3000 worth of parts. Then there are tools you have to buy, etc. etc. If you don't have the workshop facilities to rebuild stuff yourself you will find that brit-bike mechanics don't work cheap!

Here's a link to a bike that sold for $5400. ... 248634882&

I know you said you don't like ebay, but it's just for comparison.

Alternatively, here's one here in So. Cal for $6500 on Craigslist.

As many others have said, you can buy a restored bike for less than you can buy a pile of bits and restore it yourself. If you want the satisfaction of working on your bike and bringing it back then expect to pay a lot of cash along the way.
Lots of questions answered, and I defintely appreciate it!

I do not know if this bike has an early gusseted frame, but will ask. What are the benefits/downfalls to this type of frame?

The other issue is I am not going to be able to see the bike prior to purchase, so I may hold off until I can go see it. Call me old fashioned, but I like to put my hands on something before I buy it.

I have been looking online at different sights, doing some research, pricing, etc. It seems the early model Nortons' are getting to be hard to find. Is this correct? I see lots of Triumph,BSA, some Vincents, and also some Enfields, but not many early model Norton fastbacks. If I do find one they cost an arm and a leg.

I think I will continue to look out there; I have some time before I have to give a defintive yes or no answer. Plus I am waiting on some pics and additional questions.

Again I want to thank everyone for the help. I've been around motorcycles for about 15 years, and have learn you can always rely on an avid motorcyclist! :D
I think it was our own Debby who said, all too truly, that with Nortons the purchase price is best thought of as a down payment....
I think that you can get a better bike than this for $3,000. There was recently one on Cycle Trader and then subsequently on E-bay for about $3500, that had an incorrect tank, exhausts etc, but it had paperwork, was on the road and a runner and could be used and enjoyed, then upgrading as time and funds allowed. I think that a non-running project bike has to be less than $2,000 (much less if possible) to make sense. The only way I would pay slightly higher is if the bike was a rare model. Corona 850 has the right approach in costing-out needed parts and factoring these into the equation. On this basis the one I saw for $3500 requires at least $1,000 to acquire and paint a tank and the side panels, and a several hundred more for an exhaust system, putting it slap in the middle of the cost of an average runner.
68Norton said:
I do not know if this bike has an early gusseted frame, but will ask. What are the benefits/downfalls to this type of frame?

There are no benefits, the tubes around the headstock fractured and broke even when they were new, so the design was hurriedly changed.

Any early frame that does not have the extra bracing tube below the main tube really should be replaced. Thanks again to norbsa for the photo:
I think it was our own Debby who said, all too truly, that with Nortons the purchase price is best thought of as a down payment....

No truer statement was ever made! Debby, you are a vertiable fountain of wisdom. Wisdom, no doubt, gained from experience.
Just as a wild guess, I'm seeing at least $5k to$6K in parts and machining to get that bike on the road. That's if you do most the work yourself.

Tires/wheels and labor to lace: min $600-$800

Transmission rebuild parts: min $350.00

Gauges: min $500.00

Engine/primary rebuild (your labor): Min $800.00

Tools/manuals: Min $250.00

Fork rebuild w/ tubes: min $300.00

Fastback tail section : $250.00 ????

New carbs: min $250.00 (single Mikuni)

Exhaust system: min $400.00

Isolastics: min $250.00

I think these costs are very optimistic.

It looks like EVERTHING needs to be replaced/rebuilt on that bike.

I don't think I'd pay more than $1500.00. If you looking for a project, that bike qualifies. I wouldn't worry about it getting sold out from under you for $3000.00

Don't waste your time with a rust bucket bag of bolts. Sellers always want way too much for their junk. The time, effort , and money do not warrant paying 1500-2000 for a load of crap. Many people do, but in my opinion they need their head examined. Start with a good rider at a reasonable 3-4k price and you will be way ahead of the game. Lord knows there is enough stuff to do on a good running example of the marque.
If it's strickly a money issue, there are any number of Commandos with $10,000+ invested that can be purchased for less than $7,000.

I like the idea of starting with a good running, complete bike, especially if this is your first contest.
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