Difazio Hub steering Commando

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Jun 5, 2009
The bike was registered in Nov 1973 to Andover Norton and was used as a press fleet bike, I have a copy of Motor Cycle Mechanics dated Feb 74 with the roadtest in.
Mike Jackson then took it to Jack Difazio in Frome and had it converted to the hub steering system Jack had designed, an link is here


Mike rode the bike in the Circuit d'Pyranese in the mid 70's and has some good stories to tell about this. This also was the first the board of the company knew of the project!

It was then sold/swapped to Difazio as part of a deal, the bike then had a quick turn around of 4 or 5 owners until my father bought it from Bill Little in Gloucestershire in 1977

I rode it in the early 80s and it was quick! apparently the factory test engines went up to a chap in London for a quick 'looking at'!

As I was then serving in the Army I was posted abroad in 1986, the bike was parked up in a shed and not a lot happened to it until 2005 when I got it back to Andover where I now live

Difazio Hub steering Commando

I stripped it down and sent the frame and wheels to John Ransom who was part of the small band of people who worked with Jack Difazio to create these machines, he checked the frame alignment - Mk1 eyeball rather than to drawing specs! rebuilt the wheels with stainless rims and spokes and fitted new Avons. He also tidyed up the coating on the frame but couldnt fit the whole frame into the oven to bake it on

Difazio Hub steering Commando

Difazio Hub steering Commando

Difazio Hub steering Commando

The detail of the head stock changes, all cut away and the down tubes bent back and rewelded along with the top mounts for the shocks, the steerin stem is not in place correctly, it should be fully up.

2 brackets were welded across the frame for the front swinging arm

Difazio Hub steering Commando

Quite what this extra bracing takes from the iso mounts i dont know, however it is pretty smooth and I fitted Mk 3 verniers all round set to 6 thou.

Norman White rebuilt the engine, the bores were +40 and not parallel, cam was soft, all the usual bits wrong!
He relined the barrel, new pistons etc and paint. The cases were vapour cleaned and looked amazing. The cam was repalced with a PW3 as he couldnt get a std cam that he was happy with, it certainally goes well!
I fitted a set of new 932 Amals from Burlen in Salisbury and they seemed almost spot on from the old settings. The engine number is 3084**

The wiring loom I built from scratch, as I was going to use a HD coil and Boyer I made it so all the electrics were in the airbox space, a K&N one piece filter was eventually used. There was a lot of dry fits of bits before I got all the locations correct. The HD coil developed a fault so was replaced with one of Fluff Brown of AJS fame's import twin output coils. I fitted a Pazon regulator unit as well and have plans to fit LEDs for the indicators soon.

Difazio Hub steering Commando

Difazio Hub steering Commando

I also asked Norman about what else would be worthwhile doing at this stage and his sugestion was the 520 O ring conversion. A Dommi engine sprocket and machined hub were straight swaps.

A friend of my brother in law did the paint and it looks good.

The standard Lockheed pads were used in both front calipers which were a pig to bleed, the caliper bolts on to the hub mount and has very short braided hoses from a splitter block on top of the front mudguard.

All in all 18 months of stop start rebuild, she started on the 2nd kick and sailed through the MOT

I have had great fun riding her and we have been to the Bulldog Bash in 07 as a display bike, also I took her to the NOC 50th at Donnington where she didnt miss a beat but did get a flat in the rear! The spokes were not quite smoothed off enough!

Work still to be done involves rechrome the footrest hangers, recover the seat and LED conversions on the indicators and side light

I tried to take pictures and failed on many occasions due to flat batteries in the camera or plain forgetfulness

Thanks for reading and may see some of you out on the roads?


Forgot to add the current as is picture!!

Difazio Hub steering Commando

taken 2 years ago, I will try to get ome others if it stops raining this weekend
difazio said:
....Mike Jackson then took it to Jack Difazio in Frome and had it converted to the hub steering system Jack had designed, an link is here....

Allthough I have to admit that I generally prefer other FFEs a hub centre steering Commando is just cool. I wish you the best of luck with it and lots of fun restoring it!

I didn't look at the first picture close enough, I just thought it was an Earles type front end. Wow, was I wrong. Thank you so much for the write up and pictures. That is just crazy. :D
I have scanned an original picture from 1974/5 The tax disk expires in May 75. This was soon after the conversion and before Mike had it converted with a big tank

Difazio Hub steering Commando

copy right unknown

This is a copy of adverts and the bike artical in MCN

Difazio Hub steering Commando

I am lookin g out the road tests etc
Very intersting! Nicely done, well documented, and indeed rare.

To be quite sure, there will not be another one like it anywhere you go.
We owned the bike and carried out a complete rebuild including engine rebuild and frame restore etc. it was always a challenging motorbike to ride, had lots of fun tuning the steering assembly and changing tyres. Eventually found the best combination of tyres that gave good handling.
Bought the bike from a guy in Lytham St Annes who had some original articles on the bike.
Hi Paul

"To be quite sure, there will not be another one like it anywhere you go."

I will find a scanner & post a photograph!!!!! :D

Thanks for the posting difazio, great pictures of an even greater bike! I never knew anything about this effort, but then again I'm constantly amazed & enlightened from stuff posted on this forum. That's why I love this site, Cj
it was always a challenging motorbike to ride, had lots of fun tuning the steering assembly and changing tyres. Eventually found the best combination of tyres that gave good handling.

What a head turner and clever steering adaptation! Would be educational if you'd describe what made the bike challenging and what you found out about the best set up. I wonder if this set up has advantage to race on turn limits in rougher conditions. What I found out is at some point front gets lifted out of effective traction by lean angle &/or power hook up so forks action don't matter till front planted again.

I paid attention to the front frame tabs as I'll being using some too for crash cage mounts right about there.
In case anyone else is curious about the hub design, I found this in Tony Foale's article "Steer for the future".

Difazio Hub steering Commando
at last after 40 years finally a drawing that explains the system! Thanks Ron.
Very interesting, thanks for posting! Now, I have a question. Probably sometime in the 90s, Classic Bike ran a large Commando feature. It had several different Nortons tested and ridden, and comments about what they were like, etc. One of the bikes had a two-tone red and silver Interstate tank. It had two scalloped like cut-outs in the front of the tank. They said it was a former Andover bike IIRC. The cut outs were something akin to the type of reliefs put in tanks to allow clip-ons, but they were up higher on the front of the tank. The article mentioned this tank was used on some sort of experimental front end, that never was put into use on production bikes, but since this tank had history, it was left as is. Looking at your bike, I could almost see it being used on this. Is that tank related to the Difazio hub steering bike, or do you know anything about it?
I recall from possibly a meeting at Difazio's in Frome between Mike Jackson, Andy Westlake a freelancer and Jack Difazio where we did a photo shoot some talk of other tank designs.
There were some plans for a change in the shape but the cost of the press tools and other changes were prohibitive? I cant be 100% on this but maybe Frank could put some light on this? or are there any other ex factory people on here??

From Hotbots questions on the front mounts, I think the extra bracing allows a tight clearance in the iso's and the bike is a smooth runner, its got a slight tingle at some revs but the tacho has taken to reading anywhere between 0 and 10000 so thats a job on the list of to do's list.

There are a few other frame pics if anyone is interested?
I finally dug up the article. As it turns out, my memory from 1996 is a bit off, but somewhat close. According to the article, this bike was owned by Norton-Villiers-Triumph, and the new front end was designed by Dr. Stefan Bauer. Norman Hyde owned the bike at the time of the article, and no picture of the front end was included, just the tank remained on the bike. It said the experimental front end was in a "cupboard at Hyde's premises".

Difazio Hub steering Commando
difazio its such an unexpected and unusual ahead of it time device to me it took as second look and the posted diagram for me to make much sense of it. Remarkable diversion and remarkable restoration - just when ya think ya seen it all ...

I think your bike about wraps it up for me, that there's never been another model motorcycle more altered and modified than Norton Commandos.
I think if norton had put this design into production, i would not be owning two today :!: Personal remark, inovation is good,as long as its done with style. Yamaha GTS centre hub is designed well and stylish...but was dropped, This Norton one ...well .........its gross in its looks!
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