Feedback on possible purchase

Jul 23, 2005
I'm thinking of buying a 1972 combat roadster with matching# ,25k and a broken piston. Needless to say i would do the bottom end and see what the head needs at time of rebuild. The bike does have, norvil brake set up, sleevedcarbs, new exhaust, mk3 isos,halogen conversion,boyer new avons.rear sets,dampner, magura master,hi output alt,rebuilt forks and is somewhat presentable. Am i right when i figure to spend $2500-$3000 for a rebuild, pulling the motor and assembling the top end myself. The price is $2000 The upgrades and new parts more than cover that. Am i insane or just being cheap? Thanks
Sounds about right, although when you get in it usually ends up taking twice as long and costing twice as much as you thought (or at least that's my experience).

Sounds like a good winter project if you've got the time and wrenching skills. Beware the snowball effect though. While the motor is out you really should go through the gearbox. And you might as well powder coat the frame while it's apart. Then you'll want to replate the hardware or replace it all with stainless because the old nasty looking parts aren't going to look right with that nice new frame. Ditto for the tank and sidepanels, they're gonna need a repaint. And so on...

In August I decided to do a top end rebuild and lap in the oil pump. When I found ground-up chunks of metal in the pump I of course pulled the motor and tore it all down. And now, it's all apart, everything. But it's going to be *awesome* when it's all done!

good luck,
I would be buying this bike to build the commando i've had in mine for along time. I just could not get myself to tear apart my presentable rider. I have a hard time tearing down a perfectly good running bike. This would be THE project. I guess i can't get the days of buying commandos for $500-$800 and making them run in an afternoon out of my head. Those days i know are long gone. It was a wonderful time...........Anyway in the end i would have a nice commando with a fresh motor and lots of upgrades! How could i go wrong? i think i am going to buy it and throw lots of $$$$ at it.
'72 combat


I bought a '72 combat roadster from Phil Radford (Fair Spares America) in 1997 for $1200. It had a destroyed left piston (collided with the exhaust valve some time in 1977). The pieces went through the oil pump making it scrap metal. I spent one year and roughly $6,000 more to get my Commando into the condition I wanted. I farmed out all the machining, chroming and powder coating, but did all assembly myself. Fortunately the gas tank and side covers were in very good condition and could be used after considerable polishing.

Combat's were considered "illfated" due to the excessive power and undergearing. You need to be aware of that and make sure this is what you want. The $2000 asking price seems OK with all the extras. All the ailments of the combat can be cured. I prefer mine over any other Commando years I've ridden.

If you need some local help, I'm on the other side of Mt Diablo. Send me a private e-mail.
Herbert, If I were in the market for a project I wouldn't have to think to long on this one. It's got $1,000.00 + of goodies. Combats need to be gone through anyway.
Your 2500 - 3000 sounds reasonable, however like Debby said, things have a way of expanding.
E-bay has changed everything. Junkers go for 2000 + now.
TripleJohn got a nice deal but the day of the 500 - 800 deal is getting further and further behind us.
Keep in touch, like to follow your build.
I purchase the bike last night for $2000 and am very happy. The bike Has all the mods i would like to do to a commando. I just have to overcome the motor rebuild. It's short coming is big but isolated. The owner was a great guy who had a large file of records and reciepts dating from even before he owned it. I thought he was going to cry when i drove off with it.
Good job. If you're feeling that good 24 hrs later, then you know you did the right thing.
Keep in touch. Let us know how it goes.
I'm more excited now than when i bought it,When i went back to make the deal the owner had rolled it out to the street. When i saw it for the second time i remembered why i came back and all my doubts were left behind. I sold a running 850 project for $1500 to get the 72 combat. The 850 had vin# issues and i didn't feel right about dumping the money into it. Another norton guy was glad to have it for the $1500 and had a special cafe racer project in mind for it. My 72 combat has a breather coming out from the rear of the crankcase. Is this stock? or some kind of mod. While i wait for the bottom end to be rebuilt.(4 months) Will my complete extra 71 750 motor fit with no problem. And i guess i would route the breather that comes out of the front left side of the 71 to the top of the oil tank were this rear breather on the combat is going?
My 72 combat has a breather coming out from the rear of the crankcase. Is this stock?

Although it wasn't a very successful idea, and the gauze sump filter was also deleted.
Combat vs Commando

Triple John,

I see a lot of this out there on ebay descriptions. From 1971 onward Norton only made the Commando model. Other terms roadster, fastback, fastback LR, interstate, hi rider, type R, type S, SS, JPN & production racer are body types or variations of the Commando. "Combat" is a 65hp high performance 750cc engine available during the 1972 model year typically recognized by a black cylinder barrel, front disc brake and Amal 932 carbs. That year both roadster and interstate body types came with the "optional" combat engine.

That's what you are eluding to, right?
Hmm, I thought the 'illfated' moniker was due to a different head that raised the compression ratio. Carbs aside, they didn't do anything else to the engine, and that's why they need a little more maintenance. Or at least that's what I was told.
My '72 Interstate was originally a combat model, but my mechanic wanted this as his own bike and put the low compression standard head on it, with the interstate tank and the low level touring silencers. With my lack of Norton experience, I knew I had a different Norton, but it wasn't until the Lumby rally that I figured out I had a touring model.
nbmBruce said:
Hmm, I thought the 'illfated' moniker was due to a different head that raised the compression ratio.

From what I understand the Combat also used the hotter "2S" cam.


Hey guys,

I didn't want to bore everyone with all the technical differences, just pointed out the outward appearant ways to identify a combat engined Commando - made in 1972 model year only. I did say "high performance" and 65hp.
made in 1972 model year only.

Although the Combat engine became the standard fit from engine number 200976 on 1972 models, the Combat specification engine would seem to have been available earlier than that as a special order item from around mid 1970.
Combat enginewas never Std, but as it was mandatory if you ordered a disc brake it became virtually std as everyone wanted the disc brake.

If you are splitting 72 cases there is an oiling mod that needs to be done and the later breathing can be adopted as well, details are on the OldBritts site.


I've heard before the combat spec was available before '72. What's the source of that information? Norton advertising brochure "The front runners" in 1972 touted the combat as a new high performance option now available for that model year "recognized by the distictive black cylinder barrel."

I found at least three books I have on the Norton marque that mention the Combat engine being available before '72.

These books are:

'Norton Twins' by Roy Bacon.
In his book Roy Bacon states that the "optional high performance version.....known as the Combat motor..." was available from the middle of 1970 production.

'Norton Motor Cycles from 1950 to 1986' by Steve Wilson.
Also mentions the same.

'Norton Commando' by Mick Duckworth.
In Mick Duckworth's description of the increased performance of the 1972 model he states that: "This was achieved by installing the Combat engine, previously listed as a special order item."

There may be more info available? I will see what else I can find.

It's probable there weren't that many of these Combat engines actually supplied, not for normal road use at least?



And another reference to this found in:
'NORTON The Complete Story' by Derek Magrath.
Anyone have any feedback on whats it like to ride a combat compared to a standard 750? Is it an entirely different animal or somewhat the same with more mechanical issues? Once a combat has the proper upgrades and mods are you free to ride into the sunset, or will it be a high strung motor with constant reliability issues. Is going to the std head prefered? Any opinions would be helpful!