Mk III Basket Case Restoration

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Apr 28, 2008
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I've been lurking around the forums for awhile as I prepare for restoration on a '75 Commando Basket Case Restoration. The bike had one previous owner. The information I gathered prior to acquiring is it last ran in '78 and spent it's life since then in a garage corner. It was recently acquired by an intermediate buyer, who disassembled the bike down to major components in preparation for a restoration... after accepting a job overseas he in turn sold the bike to me.

The plan is for a complete restoration along with a cafe chop. Right now the bike is in several boxes in my hobby room. Seat, handlebars, rims, and exhaust are a total loss. Frame looks good, as well do the internals (engine, gearbox, etc.) and hubs upon initial inspection.

I could use some advice on where to proceed in various areas. Right now I have a list of things I'm definitely going to do, things I'd like to do and will try to budget, and things I'd like to do but probably won't due to time/money.

- Rebuild engine bottom to top *bulletproof*
- Convert to electronic ignition (Boyer, Sparx, Tri-Spark?)
- New wiring harness
- Powdercoat frame & other vital bits (cradle, etc.)
- Replace seat (looking at Manx style seat/tank from Clubman... tank is a Roadster and in good condition but will probably go)
- Replace fenders
- New rims, spokes, etc.
- New Handlebars (flat or clip on?), grips, controls
- New fork tubes/rebuild forks
- Rebuild & resleeve front brake
- Rearsets

Like to do, looking to budget for:
- Upgrade carburetor (Mikuni, SU? Single or twin?)
- Upgrade alternator & rectifier
- Sealed bearings for hubs
- O-Rings upgrades for transmission seals

Like to do, probably won't due to time/money:
- X-ring chain upgrade
- Primary belt drive upgrade
- Upgrade starter

I'll post some photo's once I get things rolling, right now I'm just starting at boxes of parts!


Some sage advice--Get off of your wallet and get ready to spend! I am finshing up on my second MK3 basket rebuild. It is a lofty goal and great accomplishment to breathe life into any thing sitting that long. One thing I did wrong on my first one was buy parts a small order at a time. With this one, I made one huge list and fired off my orders to my respective vendors. That way, when my powdercoat, chrome and polish came back I could dive right in. Nothing kills the buzz more (or makes my wife happier) than when there is a 4-5 day lull due to lack of parts. I ordered everything I could think of for this bike, based on my last set of lists on the first Mk3. That way, if I did hit a snag, I could always start on smaller stuff, like rebuilding the hydraulics, etc. If you have never rebuilt one of these bikes in particular, just know that Norton designed one hell of an air box for these things. Then they built the bike around it. Among the first things you need to install is the battery tray and airbox if you dont wind up with a mikuni. Have fun anyway. But my best bit of advice is to stick with this forum. There are some real gurus around here and all are willing to help. Id love to see some pics of this thing. Love to see how it will begin life again. Good luck
JD has it exactly right. You'll save enough on shipping costs to buy some of your non-priority stuff, if you order everything in 1 or 2 big orders, rather than 5 or 6 small orders.

Priority ought to be:

Everything else.

Think about it, and do everything that would require pulling the engine, or removing major chassis components. All of the smaller components can be removed and replaced or refurbished later, you don't EVER want to have to pull the engine again, or the forks, etc.

Definitely will go with the big order on parts! Compiling a list... kind of difficult due to the bike already being disassembled, particularly when it's going to come to fasteners and rubbers...

Going through some initial inspections to see where we're at... pistons are seized. There is some damage to the tops where they were banged on in an attempt to free. I'll try all the usual techniques to get them free later this weekend. The cases have been separated with the pistons still in which could complicate things.

Top fin on the engine broken in two places... not sure if I'll get that fixed or just live with it... Ideally I'd like to repaired for cosmetic reasons.

Surprising how junked some of the bodywork is, but how some is surprisingly serviceable (headlight shell, etc.)!

Some photo's, not positing the secondary or gearbox photos just now:

Mk III Basket Case Restoration

Bottom and Top End, Carbs:
Mk III Basket Case Restoration

Close up of Top End:
Mk III Basket Case Restoration

And the Bottom (fin broken upper right and lower left):
Mk III Basket Case Restoration

Cases, etc.:
Mk III Basket Case Restoration
I might have posted my checklist spreadsheet on here a few months back, it's nice to check off the major stuff.
Hoped to some new photos this week, but all I've done so far is turn larger bits into smaller bits as I sort them out for beading, powdercoating, dip in the parts cleaner, general inventory, identify who is unfit for further duty, etc.

The good news is several parts I thought would need replacement/rechroming are eminently serviceable and look great after 30 years of gunk is removed. Unfortunately a few bits (headlamp ears, etc.) have failed to report for duty and may need purchasing... so all in all probably a wash on that end.

Took the engine case to the local Norton guru, who is a minor celebrity in the northern Florida classic bike world due to his vintage racing credentials, in order to have the crank pinion removed (didn't see the point in spending $100 for the tool). The guy I bought the bike from had stripped it down in prep for a restoration, and used a putty knife to split the cases. He caused some minor damage, which the guru clucked his tongue at and shook his head. He thought I may need to replace the cases! There didn't seem to be *that* much damage to the cases, and I think in a worst case I could build the damaged areas back up with a little JB Weld or somesuch... Could I really be looking at crankcase replacement? I'll post some photos when I get them back on Tuesday.

Other question: haven't pulled the valves out yet... planning on beading the head, but do I plan on going ahead and doing a valve job regardless of how the valves and seats look?

Thanks for everyone's input!


- HJ
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