Commando Street Scrambler questions

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Jul 22, 2003
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I just acquired a Commando Street Scrambler which I'm sure you know was made for just 8 months in 1971. It is quite rare and I'd like to find out just how rare it is. That is, while I have the serial numbers of the Commandos made in those months and that indicates the total number of bikes made, I want to know how many of those were Street Scramblers.

1. Is there any record or information regarding the model breakdown - Fastback, Roadster, Hi-Rider, SS, etc?
It seems to me that the Fastback and Roadster were by far the most popular models sold so the numbers of those models would be high while the Hi-Rider and SS were not so popular so much fewer of each of them would have been made.

2. Partly because of the few numbers of Street Scramblers produced, there also seems to be a lack of pictures. I'd like to get some pictures to check some items for originality.
Does anyone have or know someone who has an SS?
Does anyone know of any book or magazine with SS pictures in it?
 
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May 21, 2003
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Check the web site http//www.nortoncommando.com .There are some pictures of one in the For Sale section. I have a seat for sale that is the same as the one in the pictures. It came on my roadster but doesn't suit because of the tapered front so I put a new one on. Contact me if interested.
Mark
 
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They must of made a few I have two and I think five came to Alberta Canada. I think that the numbers start a 145 and go to 150 but I have one that that starts at 151 so the last one who knows.The bikes have a few different parts but the early ones have no side stand and no lug as the skid plate was there, they also had a 21 inch front wheel.
The later had a 19 inch. The Norton sales brosure for 1971 has one pictured and if you send me your email I can send you photos of mine.
 
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Are there any actual photos of bikes with a 21" front wheel ?

Model 7 dommies from the early 1950s had a 21" front wheel, and it is very evident in pics that they are taller and skinnier than the usual 19 inchers.
 
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I looked through my books and there is a road test and review of the s/s in cycle guide sept 1971 this has some great photos and also the bike they tested was a early one with a 21 inch front wheel. Look at the bike on my profile and that is a 21 inch now does that look correct,perfect with the high front fender
 

ILLF8ED

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Consider why certain variations of the Commando are "rare" with low production numbers....equals poor sales. I guess that also equals high collectability. I've mentioned before seeing a new SS on the sales floor in 1973 at Bill's Cycles in San Bernadino. Price was $1200 and it wasn't selling.
 
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Old thread
Dont know what year the bike is but this is one of my favorite pictures. Movie came out in 1970 so..........

Commando Street Scrambler questions
 

DogT

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That's a 69/70 S type. Just like mine but hard to tell what color it was.
 
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It's a very common mistake when I talk to bikers about my SS to have them reply with information about the Norton S, the one that Clint Eastwood is riding.

As I'm sure any Norton Commando aficianado knows, the S and the SS are completely different machines.

The SS was a 1971 ONLY creation and not for long that year.
So far I have discovered 12 machines in North America, the only place they were sold.
In my books that's rare!

Also of those, only a handful were original.
A local friend of mine changed a perfectly good Roadster into an SS simply because he wanted one and couldn't find one.
Again, in my books, that's an indication of rarity.

Two points if I may:
1. Rarity is one thing and I believe that the 1971 Norton Commando SS qualifies but, that does not alone guarantee high value.
Just as the SS was not a big seller in 1971 it is still not considered a highly desirable model today, although that seems to be changing
lately. I hinted at a local flea market among a group of Command nuts that I am considering selling mine and I got quite a reaction! It
could be that just as the SS was not well-known in 1971 so is not well-known (even recognized) today.
2. With respect to my friend, a true Norton enthusiast, changing a 1971 Norton from one model to another may be easy and may even be
hard to detect, but I do not ascribe to the practice - I don't like it!!
Either the bike is original or it isn't - IMO!
With the later model Nortons it was easy to do and, if one paid any attention at all to details, it was easy to make the new model
"original". I have all the necessary bits to make my second SS into a Hi-Rider and since the serial numbers overlap, I defy anyone to tell
which is original and which is not. This is a particularly good example since the bikes used the same seat and tank, both of which were
unique to those models. They even shared the same colors. Even without changing serial numbers, I can ride either and each will be
"original". Only I know the truth.

Reviving an 11 year-old thread about a 44 year-old classic bike is no big deal!
We are talking Commandos here!!
 
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Jul 22, 2003
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The serial numbers from Roy Bacon's book, and others, are for the Commando production - not just the SS.
There is no way they made 5500 SS's!

I tried to figure out how many were made by taking the total number of Commandos made based on the production numbers, and then extrapolating the approximate numbers of each model.
It's pure guesswork but with help from previous and later years numbers, I figured out rough percentages that were made and sold for each model. For example, there's no question that by 1971, the vast majority of Commandos were Roadsters. The Fastback was still popular so it gets a high percentage. They also has the SS, the Hi-rider, The LR and the Interpol and some Production Racers (I think). None of these other individual models were big production numbers. Also using the number of months that the bikes were in production was an indication of how well they sold compared to the other models.
So, taking the production numbers for the few months that the SS was made and applying my not-too-scientific percentage of those bikes that might have been SS models compared to the others, I figured they made about 500 SS's. Remember that they were made ONLY for export to North America so that also accounted for a lower production number overall.

As I said earlier, with irregular but avid pursuits, I've been able to verify only about a dozen in existence.
Any thoughts on that process? Maybe I' m just in love with my SS although my fist Commando was a Prod Racer.
 
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DogT said:
That's a 69/70 S type. Just like mine but hard to tell what color it was.

Dog, looks like you win.
You can be like Clint. I found a color photo.

Commando Street Scrambler questions
 
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I think that there is more than twelve as I have seen six myself. Mine were at the Norton international and had the sharp eyes of the best and it won the best commando.
Of the five that came to Red Deer Cycle .one is in British Columbia ,I have two in Edmonton. Another in in Ontario with a Canadian vintage motor cycle member.The last one is in Barlow Kentucky and it's not restored and he will not sell.
I was told that there were 900 made and that parts were ordered in 1000 lots and one lot was ordered.
Last they did not sell well and many were stripped of the pipes ect to sell them.
 

ILLF8ED

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With the later model Nortons it was easy to do and, if one paid any attention at all to details, it was easy to make the new model
"original". I have all the necessary bits to make my second SS into a Hi-Rider and since the serial numbers overlap, I defy anyone to tell b
which is original and which is not. This is a particularly good example since the bikes used the same seat and tank, both of which were

The factory records at least through model year 1971 indicated body style and color by VIN as shipped, so originality up to that time can be verified if it's important. As soon as the tires wear out or any parts are replaced, technically the machine is no longer factory original.
 
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I guess hot item. My bike wone at the international Norton in lumpy BC a few years back and they look.As I said five came to Alberta and start with 145418 to145423 these are accounted for two I have one in BC one in Ontario and one in Barlow Ky. They were not good sellers as the pipes broke and two up riding was hot .I would say that more went to the States than Canada and may be only later ones went to the U.S.
 
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Jul 22, 2003
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Since there seems to be renewed interest in the '71 SS, let me share a few of my discoveries.
I'd love some feedback from others who have one.

Most Commando lovers know the most obvious differences between the other 1971 models and the SS such as the different seat, gas tank, skid plate and handlebars but maybe I should review them for the not-so-into-SS Norton nuts.
The seat for the '71 SS was different from any other Commando seat. It was shared only by the equally odd Hi-rider.
The seat had the regular stitched seams running across it, the Norton name on the back panel and the chrome bottom edge. The difference was slight but very noticeable when compared side-by-side to another model. The closest was the Roadster. The SS set had a different shape at the front end - slightly pointed but with a flat front edge. It's hard to describe but easy to see when compared. Just accept that the SS seat was different from the others.
The handlebars were absolutely unique to the SS. It was the only Commando to have braced bars. That is, there was a welded brace across the bars approximately 1/2 way from the top to the triple crown. I think this was done to achieve the look of an American scrambler. It's like today's motocross bikes.
Again the SS gas tank was different and shared only by the Hi-Rider. And again it' a bit hard to describe but easy to see when compared to say a Roadster. The tank was a bit smaller and rounder than the others and with a perfectly flat bottom. It was the only colored part of the bike and came in yellow or orange.
I should add that the tank and the seat were fiberglass - not metal.
The other obvious differences include a skid plate, unique to the SS, and a high-mounted front fender. This required a special diamond-shaped bracket and rubber mount bolts.
While the mufflers seem different, they are completely normal Norton Commando Pea-Shooters. It's the mount that's really odd.
Firstly, they are obviously high mounted like a scambler. But unlike the earlier S they split so that there is 1 muffler on each side of the bike.
I personally can't believe that people mistake the two machines since to me that difference is so obvious but it happens all the time.
I suppose it's because they've never seen an SS so call any Commando with high mufflers an S.

However, now we get to some very subtle differences.
Look closely at an SS and you'll see two thin, black fiberglass leg protectors over each muffler. These are held in place by a curving bracket at the front and a flat bracket at the back - all unique to the SS.
These leg protectors are unique to the SS - and sorely needed. I have permanent scars on my inside thighs from burns sustained while sitting on my SS. The leg protectors offer scant protection. Fortunately those scars match perfectly the scars on my right shin caused by the kick starter of my 1966 Ducati 250 Diana.
Back to the SS mufflers.
In order to maintain the Isolastic nature of the Commando, the SS mufflers required a unique mount. So there is an odd assembly of triangular plates, rubber bushings and bolts which hold the mufflers to the side engine mounts, those polished aluminum odd-shaped sort-of-diamond-like devices that all Commandos share. The method by which the SS mounts attach to the side plates is unique to the SS. It has to be seen to be appreciated. This mount BTW, is one of the most common modifications made to the SS simply because they were a pain to assembly and install. Many SS owners just drilled extra holes in the side plates (gasp!) and bolted the mufflers directly to them. Any coordinated movement between the engine and the mufflers which was required a part of the Isolastic system, was lost but it didn't seem to make much difference.
On some SS machines the headlight was the slightly smaller version but that does't seem to be consistent.

So, as an earlier post suggested, if you have all the correct parts, you can turn any 1971 Commando into an SS in less than 1 hour.
I have a complete set of Hi-Rider parts and for fun or for a display, I'll make an SS into a Hi-Rider.
That's really easy since the tank and seat are the same. Change the bars, the front fender, remove the skid plate and drop the mufflers and you have a Hi-Rider. And with appropriate serial numbers too.
 
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David, I'm really surprised to hear that the VIN indicated a Norton model. The VIN in 1971 was a sequential 6 digit number - sequential as I understand, meaning that the numbers followed one another with no relationship to the model.
I am lead to understand from Norton dealers who were active at the time that the only way to verify an original machine was to have the dealer invoice or the original bike owner sales invoice. These documents showed the serial number , VIN if you like, and the model on the same line so the dealer would know what he received from the factory then sold to the bike owner.
Once that invoice was filed (lost) no one knew what serial number matched what model.

For example, my SS with serial number 151306 (made up) was followed by machine number 151307 which was a Roadster.

One of the beauties of the Commando from a manufacturing point of view was that they were all so similar. Thus, as the unfinished machines came off the line, the production manager would stand there and say "Make that one a blue Roadster and that one a green fastback."
The next group of workers simply bolted on the appropriate seat, tank, bars, etc.

If true, what is the code for the 1971 serial numbers?
 
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