Fuel Tank

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Nov 20, 2007
Hello Everyone
I have recently aquired a 1972 Norton Commando Roadster with the combat motor, has done 7400 miles is in exceptional original condition except for a seeping fibreglass fuel tank, not from the fuel tap but actually seeping through the main body of the tank. I heard a lot about fibreglass tanks and not all is favourable. Can they be repaired or would it be better to replace it, if the latter will a interstate tank fit?? I have a 63 Norton Model 50 but this is my first Commando, so any help will be very much appreciated


Yes, glass tanks at that age are a risk. There are resin cures you can insert but it absolutely must be petrol resistant. I would be reluctant to do so in case the tank wall has started to delaminate. This means the only barrier is a resin film which in case of a hard knock could cause the leak to start again and be a fire hazard or at least ruin the paint job.

If you fit an Interstate tank, you will have to change the seat as well. The nose on the Roadster is too far forward for the big tank. The Interstate also had slightly different shaped side covers but that's not important.

in the U.K you can use a product called petseal a resin based sealant which is effective....also if available maybe something that is aircraft standard might do the trick
I'm certainly not a Norton expert which is why I take advantage of the folks on this website who have an extraordinary knowledge of the machines. I do, however, have a copy of the November, 1990 Classic Bike magazine which has an article on my Commando, a 1971 Fast Back Long Range.

The pertinent part of the article, (LONG RIDER, The first touring Commando/Peter Watson), to your situation, Atman, is a few paragraphs discussing why Norton quit using the glass fibre fuel tanks. Here are some quotes:

The Long Range Fastback was easily assembled once Norton had the '69 Interpol up and running. The police demanded a large steel tank with the option of a tray set into the top to accommodate a radio handset. Styled along the lines of the Atlas unit Ñ but with two sections cut out of the base and curved sections welded in to clear the frame tubes running down from the Commando's 2 1/4 inch spine Ñ it held four gallons (18 litres) or half a gallon less if a handset tray was specified.

Time was already running out for glass fibre fuel tanks in 1971. A series of horrific accidents in which poorly-made GRP moulded tanks split upon impact, spilling fuel in all directions, led to a change in the law. Any machine manufactured for sale in Britain after February 1, 1972 had to be fitted with a metal tank.

This ended a period of uncertainty during which some legal experts argued that GRP fuel tanks were legal, while others maintained that existing fuel storage regulations demanded metal containers. Norton continued to fit glass fibre and steel fuel tanks up to 1974.

Such is the indolence of the motorcycle industry and the disinterest of British bureaucracy that this change to the Construction and Use Regulations has never been amended to take account of more recent developments in plastics technology. So while a car may be sold in the UK with a rust-free moulded thermoplastic petrol tank, a motorcycle cannot.

But why did Norton fail to make more of a fuss about the LR, which sold at the same price as the standard Fastback? The reason was revealed in 1972 , when the 750 Commando Interstate was launched. Here was a genuine touring mount equipped with a 5.25 gallon (25 litre) fuel tank...

So my opinion, (which is free and thus may give you some idea of its worth...) is to replace the glass fibre tank with an Interstate tank, if you can find one, Atman.

I remember an incident in Germany in which a glass fibre tank equipped Norton t-boned a car in the passenger door. The bike became a napalm bomb, pouring burning fuel through the car's open window, killing the man and woman inside. The motorcyclist flew over the top of the car and survived, although badly injured.

I've always wondered why fuel bladders such as those used on race cars have not been adapted to motorcycles or, for that matter, required as safety equipment on all vehicles. Personally, I'd feel safer with a fuel bladder than with air-bags.

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