Chip's '72 Combat project

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Jan 15, 2008
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I do not mean to draw any traffic from this forum, but it is a lot of work to cross-post all the photos and text from one forum to another, so I'm going to provide a link to one of my Delphi forums so that anyone who is interested in a step-by-step Norton refurb/restoration project can "ride by" and have a look.

By the way, Chip is the guy that invited me over here to check out some of the Norton tech info; that has proven to be a really nice lead, you folks over here are true afficionados of the Norton marque.

Anyway, here's the link to the thread- Chip's Combat Project
Always interesting to read about other people's rebuilds ! All nice standard stuff there and no horror stories.

Do you think that those crank-cases are original to the motor ? I had always assumed that they were the 1973 MkV type. My Jan '72 750 has those cases as well (unstamped) so I assume that no-one could be bothered to stamp a new number after a blow-up.

They're supposed to be the strongest 750 cases I believe.
They appear to be original cases.

From all the pix I've seen on old Britts and Atlantic Green, anyway...
I hope there are lots of parts not shown in those pictures. Otherwise you'll have to donate your labor to keep that one under $10K.
I'm over $10K on my 850 build now and I'm not paying myself anything. And what I started with was a lot nicer than the photos I'm seeing of this poor bike (although mine was missing lots of parts too).

The $10K budget doesn't seem realistic for this one. Is that what the client told his wife it would cost? :lol:

Looks like you have your work cut out for you. The before and after photos should be something to see though!

As stated in another thread, I have parts sources I've been dealing with for over 15 years (with reseller discounts), and a few subs (paint, chrome, polishing) that get a bike a month from me (on average), so my cost is as good as anyone can get.

I've been doing this on a hobbyist basis for over 25 years, so I know I'm not missing anything. The bike was virtually complete and rolling when I received it, so I am doubly sure.

Not all parts will be new, many are re-plated, refurbished or simply cleaned up and re-used. Also, I am building a custom wiring harness from scratch as I do on all my projects unless the client states he wants an original or aftermarket wiring harness.

A few items are still on order including tail light, mirrors, tires, exhaust clamps, sidestand, data plate and other stuff, so not shown yet. New rims & spokes are in the works as well.

I guess I could snap pictures of the spark plugs, jugs of oil, light bulbs, etc., but I don't think that's really necessary.

Nope, nothing missing...
How many hours labor do you estimate? What are the plans for the engine and tranny?

At the other end of the spectrum, CNW wants $22.9K with an "intact" donor bike.

You will sub out the paint and polish? Grand Paul if you can do this for $10K my hat is definitely off to you!

On the other hand I guess part of it is what the owner expects. Getting it back on the road and "presentable" is one thing. A full tilt rebuild/resto is another.

I'd love to see the pictures and story in progress.
I generally find that I spend less than US$5000 on parts and sub-contract work for a complete restoration, almost regardlesss of the condition of the bike. I must however point out that items like chroming, polishing, painting etc. are quite cheap here in HK for decent quality. For me a project bike like Grandpaul's is preferable to one in better condition, because the seller will general accept less money than one that looks complete, but a bit untidy. Such things as spokes, wheel rims, exhausts etc. need to be replaced whether they are slightly tarnished, completely rusty or missing altogether, so I think the trick is to get the original project at a good price. I have noticed that parts prices have gone up recently, so I may have to re-evaluate my costs on future projects. I would also not undertake this work commercially as I suspect you could make more at an hourly rate flipping burgers at Macdonalds. I also think that picking up a 'good' Commando for anything less than $10,000 is a bargain and prices don't seem to be keeping up with inflation, which is good for those of us who can't stop buying the damned things!
Ron L: Go to the 1st post in this thread and click at the bottom where it say's "Chip's Combat Project"; that will take you right to the thread on the Delphi "Vintage Bikes" forum.

Matt gets $20K for his work because it's the best around. I get less, because it's less than the best. It'll be totally reliable, as new, and cosmetically excellent, with high quality upgrades, and some old parts that have been cleaned up and won't look out of place.

I'll leave it to Chip if he wants to share his budget figures, but the $10K figure is "in the ballpark".

My labor at the end of the project usually works out to about $25 an hour, fair for the client, okay for me, but it's got to go up eventually. I'm estimating between 120 - 140 hours for the total "hard" project, not including pictures, forum updates & project documentation binder.

I've been in business a bit over 2 years now, so I'm getting some exposure and have been seeing an overall increase of work to the point that I can ease my rates up a bit closer to "the market" and still have more work than I need. That's likely to happen by summer, which will be just in time because I intend to air condition my shop; the Shop Cool evap cooler is nice, but I NEED air conditioning, or I can only work a few hours a day.

By the way, nicely mirror-polished parts arrived today, the picture is on the Delphi forum.
I apologize if I offended you with my comments. That certainly wasn't my intention. I know the amount of labor it takes to bring a bike back from the condition of the one you are working with. Like, Dave M, my 850 Interstate, 850 cafe racer and '68 Fastback were all under $5K each. However, I did all the work except paint and chrome myself, and have collected a goodly amount of NOS parts at reasonable prices over tha last 25 or so years. The '68 Fastback began as a bare set of engine cases. It now is disassembled for paint, but 100% complete.

$25/hr is pretty cheap labor in these parts. Especially for someone who knows British bikes. One of the reasons I don't like to work on other people's bikes is I have a problem drawing the line. If someone wants new bearings in a tranny, I hate to put it back with bushings that are sloppy or gears with chipped faces. Then when you go back to the owner they don't want to spend the money on a new set of bushings or a only want to buy one gear rather than the matched pair. Oft times I wind up cutting my labor so we can fix it "right". This truly becomes a "labor of love".
Ron, no offense taken. I typically take a "hit" on my labor as well, mainly due to the fact that once I set a fixed price, it stays fixed to the end of the project. So, if little stuff crops up, or I overlooked something, it's my loss, not the client's (try that just about anywhere else).

Also, I guarantee my work for a reasonable run-in period and so far I've paid out every penny required to fix client's bikes, even 2,000 miles away (not easy dealing with high priced West-coast shops, for sure). Anyway, it's a small price to pay to preserve my reputation. This one might have to get some re-thinking as well, especially on less than total restorations, as many of the parts are 40 years old to start with!
Hi to all. I’m the owner of the 72 Combat GrandPaul is restoring. I posted a thread on this Forum back in November 2007 inquiring about potential restoration experts throughout the U.S. that could help me out and bring my Commando back to life. It was “Coco” who suggested that I give GrandPaul a look...much appreciated.

I must say that the very first conversation I had with GrandPaul back in November convinced me that he was the person I should go with. Not only was I comfortable with GrandPaul’s technical knowledge, but I was looking for someone with great integrity. My experience with another restoration “expert” I had work on the bike after my accident in 1986 was a very sad story indeed.

I’d be happy to share my experience, answer any questions, or discuss any budgetary decisions GrandPaul and I have made if anyone is interested.

cmessenk said:
It was “Coco” who suggested that I give GrandPaul a look...much appreciated.


So it's my fault! :roll:

I don't know nor have had experience with Grandpaul, but he is over on the BIR forum which I lurk on once in a while and judging by his posts and his shop (which I checked out through a link) he seemed like a straight shooter hence the suggestion. Good memory Chip as I forgot.

I guess Paul can squeeze a 6-pack through the fax machine for my referral. :p

Since we're talking about prices, I should have around $18,000 CAD tied up into my MKIII with Matt at CNW doing the motor/tranny rebuild and Berembo kit with a tank and seat done by Evan Wilcox and paint by the Harpoon on the fenders and side panles. Those of which are the most expensive things I spent or am spending money on for the build.

$10,000 is a good price and I'm sure Grandpaul is doing a lot of this at a fair price because he probably really enjoys what he does. he did mention he is reusing or recycle some parts. I am not. All the old bits got tossed or boxed up. The only thing original that has not been purchased, modified or refurbished on my bike is the foot pegs and guages.

BTW, that bike should be really amazing when it's done. Kudos to Paul and to Chip. I have a friend up here with NOS Dunstall body work like your using, hanging in the rafters of his garage. You should see the bikes he has parked on the floor!
Grandpaul, Your labour rates are very good value for money. Once you feel firmly established I'm sure you will find that customers don't mind paying a rate that is fair to both parties. I repair vintage cars for a living and like yourself will fix a return job at my cost, even if it's not my fault. If your hourly rate is fair then this doesn't hurt so much and is important in maintaining a good reputation. Having said that I don't know what I would do if a customer came back with con-rods through the cases on a Ferrari or Bugatti!
Just a nudge to get Chip's project rolling again after my extended Daytona trip.

We had a mild setback as my jam-packed 65 pound box of nuts, bolts & bits to Cad plating was refused after it arrived at the platers with a small tear on one corner spilling the odd nut & washer. It got back to me looking nearly round, with lots of tape wrapped around it, still spilling small nuts & washers.

I re-packed and re-shipped it in (3) 20 pound boxes, with better wrapping.

Oh well, my plan to squeeze the most out of the "flat rate" USPS box (70 pound limit, believe it or not) is blown to smithereens.

Oh, here's the latest photo of the progress...

Chip's '72 Combat project
How do you guys manage to spend so much on these rebuilds? I thoiught some of the UK 'specialists' were rip off merchants but you must have the monopoly in the USA. Get it over to me and I will do a good rebuild for $6K easily.
$6k??? I can probably do a resto for myself on that budget, but I would not attempt to do a quality resto for a "customer" without some monetary consideration for my time.
I spent $6K on my 750 restoration not including the cost of the bike. I started with a complete original bike that ran (sort of) and was in good cosmetic condition.

So far I've spent $8K on my 850 restoration, not counting the cost of the parts bike I started with. It was missing a lot of parts and most of what was there was bad. I can tell you the cost of all those small bits adds up very fast.

I've done all the work myself except machine shop services and powdercoating. I have not had the bodywork repainted on either bike. Both bikes were completely disassembled and had 100 percent rebuilds from the ground up (they needed it, too). Unlike others on this forum I did not have access to a large stash of parts, so I've had to purchase a lot of new parts. Those new parts are expensive and are getting more expensive every week thanks to the continually-sinking US Dollar. I've also purchased a fair amount of used parts for the 850 from ebay, but quality used parts aren't cheap any more either.

Skeptics are welcome to come out to Colorado and see my receipt stacks!

Back to the build after nearly a month-long timeout for racing at Daytona.

Installed camchain & geartrain for same with rubber faced camchain adjuster, plus refurbished oil pump.

Chip's '72 Combat project

Chip's '72 Combat project

Free advice - don't "test fit" the crank pinion without the back plate and triad spacer, it's a MOTHER to remove otherwise!

We're awaiting the imminent arrival of 60 pounds of Cad-plated bits & bobs, all component and sub-component assembly work is pending fasteners, etc. from this batch!

Got in the freshly skimmed and drilled front brake rotor, it looks a treat and should provide slightly better braking due to cooling effect; also get a few ounces of unsprung weight shaved off as a side benefit.

Chip's '72 Combat project
Concerning the cost to do a restoration in the UK, I can believe $6K, that's $12k over here.
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