I want to buy a Commando. What should I know and look for?

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Hello gents. I am brand new to this forum and I have been looking for an old bike to fix up, modify, tweak, make pretty ect. and after a year of deciding what bike to purchase to be my victim, I have decided upon a Norton Commando.

I have been told to look for a 1975 850cc Mk III. I am pretty unfamiliar with the model changes and Norton's in general so I joined this forum and want to start educating myself on these wonderful machines.

I realize things like rear disc brake and electric start were options earlier bikes did not have, but is that it?

I am also unfamiliar with the different versions of Commandos like the Interstate, Fast back (fibreglass tank, seat ????) ect.

I have also been told or advised to stay away form the combat models due to tempermental and unreliable engines. Any truth to this statement?

I need any information that you experienced Commando owners can let me in on and I look forward to learning from all of you about these beautiful motorcycles.

I am leaning towards doing a cafe style machine and have been scouring web pages over the last week or so to give me some ideas and where to source parts from and information on performing modifactions and upgrades.

I am in Canada and also need to start looking for a nice machine to buy. They seem a tad scarce up here and I would love to avoid Evilbay at all possible. I figure after a few months of learning and sourcing parts for modifications I can start looking for a nice specimen once I decide on a model/year of Commando to aquire. All mods I plan to do will be reversible/bolt on style with no real alterations that can not be put back to stock.

Thanks in advance to any kind enough to respond to this thread.

Kind regards,

Colin.
 
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Thnaks L.A.B. seems as though a 75 Roadster is what I'm after. I like the shape of the gas tank with the cut-aways on those opposed to the ones without on the MkIII shown in the pics in those links you posted. Rear disc is nice option too.
 

L.A.B.

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The two most common Commando models are the 'Roadster' and the 'Interstate' model with large tank and different sidepanels, although they are both basically the same motorcycle with a few detail changes.
If you prefer a left foot shift then the 850 MkIII would be the one to go for.
 
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I would prefer a left side shift, as I have never ridden a right side shift, but I suppose I could get used to it if I had to. I would like a front disc brake for sure as well. The side panels being different is no big deal. I prefer the ones with the more pointed round bottom as opposed to the squared off type I see on the 1975 models, but side panels are readily available and a swap shouldn't be a big deal unless mounting tabs or bolts are in a different spot.

What year did front discs first appear and is a rear disc conversion an ordeal or a simple hub swap? I guess there would be some kind of bolt on or weld on caliper bracked to be installed as well.
 
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Coco

Left shift is only an advantage if you're riding other motorcycles with left shift, otherwise right shift on a Norton is tighter and more direct. The MK III Commandos did have quite a few upgrades but aside from the electric start the previous 850's were spot on too and part of the decision of what to buy is probably going to be what's available. I can't believe anyone has the courage to buy a motorcycle that costs more than $50 on ebay (sorry Debby). Ive gone to look at some that were on Ebay and close enough to go to see and without exception they were dogs and they eventually bid up higher than they should have. Caveat Emptor; if you cant go to see it upclose don't buy it. The least you'll get stuck for is the shipping and it could be a whole lot worse. Yeah I know Ebay has some kind of insurance deal but think about it do you really want to get in a deal where your depending on an insurance company and attorneys to look out for your best interest; read the fine print. Even buying parts on Ebay has been disappointing; get your parts from reputable dealers that stand behind their sales. Too many of the sellers on Ebay have found out that selling junk via the internet is more profitable than working. There are some solid vendors out there that occasionally sell on Ebay but you've got to be careful and know what you're buying.

Good luck,

Scooter
 

Ron L

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Coco,
Don't get too excited about the rear disc. They aren't much better than the stock drum and the front brake does most of the work. About retro-fitting a non-Mk3 with the disc, I have done that (don't ask me why!) and while it's fun to watch Nortonphiles walk around the bike and suddenly realize that the back end is Mk3 but with right side shift, the work involved far outweighed the benefit. And if I didn't have the parts lying around and had to buy the swingarm, wheel, axle, caliper, master cylinder, the cost would be ridiculous.
The front disc package appeared on some 1972 models and was standard by 1973 (except the Hi-Rider which no one wanted anyway). These can be upgraded with a sleeved master cylinder or Magura and a Grimeca or AP Lockheed caliper and larger disc
 
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Thanks Ron. I'm new to the whole Norton thing so excuse my ignorance on the subject. I'm here to learn and you guys have been a big help so far. I'm trying to quickly aquaint my self with the models, options ect. As long as there is a front disc, I'm cool, and it would be nice to find a Left side shift model. I won't be buying for a couple of more months, after I sink my teeth into all of this information and decide which specific year I want to buy. The 1975 is still on the top of my list but it looks like a 73-75 would fit the bill.

Colin.
 
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Scooter62 said:
Coco

Left shift is only an advantage if you're riding other motorcycles with left shift, otherwise right shift on a Norton is tighter and more direct. The MK III Commandos did have quite a few upgrades but aside from the electric start the previous 850's were spot on too and part of the decision of what to buy is probably going to be what's available. I can't believe anyone has the courage to buy a motorcycle that costs more than $50 on ebay (sorry Debby). Ive gone to look at some that were on Ebay and close enough to go to see and without exception they were dogs and they eventually bid up higher than they should have. Caveat Emptor; if you cant go to see it upclose don't buy it. The least you'll get stuck for is the shipping and it could be a whole lot worse. Yeah I know Ebay has some kind of insurance deal but think about it do you really want to get in a deal where your depending on an insurance company and attorneys to look out for your best interest; read the fine print. Even buying parts on Ebay has been disappointing; get your parts from reputable dealers that stand behind their sales. Too many of the sellers on Ebay have found out that selling junk via the internet is more profitable than working. There are some solid vendors out there that occasionally sell on Ebay but you've got to be careful and know what you're buying.

Good luck,

Scooter

Thanks Scooter. Buying on Evilbvay is always a risk and I don't want to go that route with a motorcycle. I record music and have bought a lot of audio gear off ebay without a hitch, but a motorcyle is a completely different story.

I live smack dab in the middle of Canada so going to see the specimen I am after might be difficult so I am hoping the guys at Nithburg Cycle and British Cycle Supply out on the East Coast of Canada might be my best bet. There are no Norton or British bike specialists where I live and even though it is a city of 200,000, finding a Commando locally would probably be next to impossible.
 
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Yup, I bought an ebay special that had been very thoroughly trashed by the previous owners. And the seller did a very good job of misrepresenting the bike. It looked great though! Wouldn't have bought it if I'd known what I was getting into! But I did, and I certainly learned a lot. Now it's my bike, and I know that whatever may happen to it in the future, I can fix it! 8)

The ones I looked at locally were even more expensive and in equally poor condition.

Whatever you buy, plan on it needing a lot of work. Think of the purchase price as just the down payment. All part of the fun though... :lol:

I've only ridden one Mk III and I was not impressed with the shifting. I'd say buy an earlier one and learn how to shift with your right foot.

Debby
 
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debby said:
Whatever you buy, plan on it needing a lot of work. Think of the purchase price as just the down payment. All part of the fun though... :lol:

I've only ridden one Mk III and I was not impressed with the shifting. I'd say buy an earlier one and learn how to shift with your right foot.

Debby

I figured on putting a few extra thousand into it at first, so it won't surprise me if something has to be done. I am strating to think a right side shift won't be so bad and probably easier to find than a 75 MkIII.
 
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Colin, try John Oland at Motoparts. He's a first rate individual and stands behind what he sells. He's in Edmonton, AB so he's not too far away. You can reach him at (780) 988-8198, or email motoparts@motopartsinc.com. He's a wealth of information and if he doesn't have what you're after he can find it or set you in the right direction.

Cheers and happy hunting!

Simon.
 
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Coco

You might try Baxter Cycle in Iowa (i think they're in Marne). They usually have a few Nortons and I understand they are reputable although not cheap. They could email some photos of what they have and you could at least get an idea of what the condition is before wasting any time or money. From experiance I can tell you this; a fully restored and properly rebuilt Commando for less than $6000 is a bargain. Also one problem for 75 MK III's is soft cam lobes; so unless you plan on rebuilding the motor be careful and like Debby said no matter what expect to drop some money on it after your purchase. How much depends on the condition and how much the previous owner screwed up. Short and sweet; buy the best Commando you can afford.

Scooter
 
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I will definitely get the best one I can afford. I am budgeting for $6000 Canadian, but that might be wishful thinking. I planned on doing some light motor work, electric start mod or upgrade, fork rebuild, new rear shocks, Vernier Isolastics, belt drive conversion, front disc upgrade to a Brembo, new seat, ect. so I am not too afraid to put in some cash. I plan on doing a complete tear down at some point and do a cafe style build. I figure I'll be in about $12000 CDN when I am done and that will be doing a lot of the work myself.
 
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GOOD CHOICE!! Like Debbie said, you'll drop a few bucks and you'll do some work. But then you'll have a bike you know, LOVE, will draw raves and just appreciate in value! We regularly get Thumbs Up from Harleys and kids on Rockets alike.. You can proudly park a NORTON in any crowd of motorcycles...

Try Skip at Skipsbikes in MN.. He is a VERY square shooter and has a couple in inventory... http://www.skipsbikes.com/CurrentInventory.html


Hey Scooter, how's been you?
 
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Captain, I just checked your link and he has two nice 1974 models for $5500 each. Those are pretty good prices, especailly from a dealer. I'll bookmark that link and check in before I buy. Obviously buying in Canada would be better due to import tax (not sure about old bikes and which years are exempt), shipping and getting the bike certified for use in Canada could be a real bitch. Minesota is close enough I could drive down there if need be. Thanks.
 
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Ask Skip about that 'across the border thing' bet he might know stuff a-boot it ... Good luck and tell him -
MakoMyDay in Fort Nortondale says Ha-Low......

Oh yeah, he is great source for info and parts as are all those suppliers who can be found in the International Norton Owners Assoc. Newsletter..
INOA has a wealth of knowedge and assistance available http://www.inoanorton.com/welcome.htm Come join us.......... AND there is http://autos.groups.yahoo.com/group/INOALIST/ along with THE NORTON FORUM which will keep you plenty busy and entertained during those cold winter evenings....

Let us how it goes, aye......... Regards Chris
 
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Captain said:
a-boot it ...
:lol:

What are you talking aboot? Love it. More of and East Coast kind of thing bit it still makes me laugh.
 
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Stroke of luck.

I was driving to pick a friend up on Saturday and on my way there, I spy this Norton out of the corner of my eye. I was thinking "what the ***?"

I had never seen a Norton here but there is a blue 1973 Commando. I slammed on the brakes and went into a dingy service staion that sells gas and fixes lawnmowers. I ask this cat about the Norton and he smiles and says "Wait here." He calls his father and passes me over to him and the guy has a boat load of Commando part s and unbuilt bikes. Yeeeeeehaaaaaa!!!!!

He invites me over and I was like a kid in a candy store. When Norton went belly up years ago he bought about 14 unbuilt Commandos and has the parts in his garage. He mentioned he could build me one for about $6000 CDN, but he is retired and lives in Florida 6 months out of the year so he basically wasn't into building me one. Bummer. He keeps the bikes he restores, but he did offer any help in building, repairing and basically getting one going when I finally buy one. he is willing to sell me some parts if I can't find them or swap me new stuff for old parts that can be refurbished.

He showed me his *stash* of bikes and low and behold, he has a new and unbuilt original John Player bike (fiberglass/plastic parts still wrapped in plastic), an original and very minty Interpol (not a replica), as well as an original production Racer (not a replica). Wow.

The good thing about this is I have a great local source of info and a guy that can probably build a Commando in his sleep to help me out.

The crappy thing is I wish he would sell me one of his 1975 Commandos since he has four of them. Oh well.
 
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