Restoring my Dads Fastback

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Aug 5, 2019
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Dear Norton Friends

I want to restore a 1969 fastback and I need some advice.

I have been reading on this forum for quite a while and it has been a great help in many aspects but as I plan to restore my norton I`d like to ask ask for your advice.

For those who are interested in my story with the bike:
I took over my fathers 1969 Fastback about a year ago and I love this machine more than I ever loved any other object. My dad bought it in 1982 when he was 20 years old and its sound and smell are one of my first childhood memories.
The last 15 years he barely drove it but he really loves his bike and took care to keep it mobile.
Now it is in my hands and I get excited every time I ride it. I make around 200km per week.
My dad restored it in 1982 when he bought it and made some little modifications over time.
But the commando is 50 years old and its time to give it some more attention and some upgrades.
My mechanical skills are quite good but my knowledge about this bike is still limited (and my dad is not really up to date). I want to rebuild it to be a reliable bike again that I can use for many more years. English is not my mother tongue, I hope to be understandable, if not: please tell me :)

The bike has a Boyer ignition, an Alton e-start, I put some LED bulbs (Paul Goff) in it for better lighting, a longer kickstart lever from RGM and clutch plates from barnett. As you can see I ride a fastback tank without a fastback-back... my dad always had it that way, so to me this is "the way it should be".

Apart from superficial works like painting and polishing, replacing seals and bearings that „appear“ on the way I think there are four-five main things where I want to get some improvement:
1 Engine
2 Oil filter
3 Front-Brake
4 Isolastics
(5 Electrics)

1 Engine: specialist in europe? other modifications? oil filter?

The engine has too much blowby (didn’t use air filter for many years) so I think we will have to drill up the cylinder.
As we work on the heart: is there other modifications on the engine that make sense and that should be done as we are there?
I would give this work to a specialist, as I don’t have the tools or the skills for that. Can you recommend someone (preferable in Europe)?

I also want to install an oil-filter. Can you recommend an upgrade kit? Or would it make sense to install a MK III oil-tank + filter?

3 Front-Brake - what brake can you recommend?

I don’t want to do compromises here.
The rear (drum) brake works surprisingly well but I’m not happy with the disc in the front. I would wish for more power and less noise.
The floating disc setup I have now creates a lot of noise.
The CNW-Brembo seems to be a very good brake - but the say it is a floating system too. I’m afraid to have the same noise again. Can some tell me how „noisy“ it is?
Or is there an alternative to the CNW that is just as good or better?

4 Upgrading to Isolastics

I still have the MK I Isolastics - and it seems as if it would make sense to upgrade it. What is the best upgrade kit on the market?

(5 Electrics )
The electrics have not yet shown problems… but all the components are fifty years old. Do you think it makes sense to replace the wiring harness?

If you have have other recommendations of what to revise/reconsider in the process of restoring the bike I would be very thankful!

Thank you very much in ahead!

First off welcome and that's a beautiful bike you have there. I would like to suggest to you to make changes or mods/upgrades separately or one by one. There are many instances here where an owner made multiple changes at one time then later had issues with the bike nit running right and it became difficult for them to trouble shoot or pinpoint the problem because they had switched too many things at once. But hey you got a beauty there, have fun with it. Cj
Simonha, it’s all here on this forum. The good, the bad and the ugly.
First off welcome and that's a beautiful bike you have there. I would like to suggest to you to make changes or mods/upgrades separately or one by one. There are many instances here where an owner made multiple changes at one time then later had issues with the bike nit running right and it became difficult for them to trouble shoot or pinpoint the problem because they had switched too many things at once. But hey you got a beauty there, have fun with it. Cj

Thank you! I had the thought of making it step by step too... my father and I already serviced on the gearbox, changed the clutch, tuned the carbs, serviced the fork etc.
I guess changing the front brake and the Isolastics also probably won`t change to much for the whole system. But probably taking care of the engine first and then of the electrics is good advice :)
Beautiful bike you've got there. I'd say 200km a week is pretty reliable already!
Like Jim said above, everything youve listed has been covered here before. No doubt some others will respond with more thorough, informative posts of their own shortly.
Really nice bike!
Plus one..nice bike the camera angle really shows the classic lines of this bike..good luck with your restoration or update with modifications..I’m normally in Australia but here in Asia now using VPN on my tablet so I can access the site therefore my profile shows up as if I were in America
Hi Simon

There are some professionals in Switzerland you know. Moto Technik Wyss in Holderbank SO; Flury Motos in Bieberist SO; Hans Hartmann In Dottikon AG. Probably a lot more.
The member Cliffa lives in Wädenswil.
I live near Basel.
CNW brake is good I have it.
Great thing is Comnoz reed valve breather to limit oil leaks.
MFK doesn‘t accept LED.
I am no expert either but feel free to ask.

Ps how do you like the Conti Classic Attack?

LG Martin
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Your bike looks very good and well maintained, apart from normal servicing and routine maintenance, I would say don't fix it when its not broken.
1. Take apart the entire top end, from the cases up, yourself and check what's serviceable and what it needs. Measure clearances.
2. Filters are good. Filters + magnets are better. I run a lightweight magnafine filter on the return line... and a small magnet in the sump plug.
3. Your front brake looks good, but more than half my bikes have original drums!
4. Early Isolastics are perfectly good when adjusted correctly. Set it and forget it. Earlier isos are lighter than MK3 vernier kit.
5. No.

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Knactually ,

Maybe the smokes from dried up valve stem oil seals . ?

Best trick , prior to tear down , would be a COMPRESSION TEST ,
and maybe hook up a decent ( VDO ? ) Oil pressure Gauge .

Many a motorsickle has been dismantaled for no good reason ,
to be reurected years later , buy someone who got it cheap ,
And needed no more than a set of gaskets .

The old ' screwdriver stethascope ' combined with a good joint
often being the culprit .
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Other than maintenance, I would start first with a front brake upgrade for safety reasons.

I have the CNW Brembo setup and it cannot be faulted. Support from Matt is top notch. Love it. No prominent noise issues.

Others love the madass140 brake

Also high on the list would be the Comstock/ CNW head steady for handling improvement and their reed valve breather for leak control.
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First off, let's make sure we know what we are working on. I thought a 1969 would have the tachometer drive off the right side, timing chest? A motor number will help identify.

There are some basic things that all bikes should have done:

1.) Gearbox layshaft bearing (failure of which is a safety issue).
2.) Headsteady (as commented by gortnipper). It's pretty well accepted that the stock headsteady is junk. Which choice you make to improve it is up for debate.
3.) Swingarm Keggler clamps. This prevents the swingarm from swaying laterally and ovaling the cradle tube that supports it.
4.) Reed valve crankcase ventilation. The Comstock reed valves get my vote but there are lots of threads on this topic and other choices. I mostly go in the direction of Jim Comstock's valves because he did so much work to test and verify this modification along with how to properly drain the timing chest.
5.) Many people would put the brake upgrade in this category.

English is the first language of many users on this forum. We often don't understand each other. Photos help in discussions. The parts diagrams come in very handy for knowing what to call a certain part. The workshop manual is handy for this as well.

If you don't have a workshop manual, get one. I also have a .pdf copy on my computer which I probably use more often than the official manual. You can find it as a download in the technical section here. Or let me know and I can make mine available for download via Google Drive. A parts book is very handy. You can also access parts diagrams at But first you need to verify what year of bike you are working on!

Thank you guys for your great support!

So I will get a CNW frontbrake, that sound really promising.
Further on the list:
- a reed valve breather
- swingarm clamps
- oilfilter +magnet: can anyone recommand a nice looking/hiden solution?

1.) Gearbox layshaft bearing (failure of which is a safety issue).
Can you tell me the issues with these bearings?

What are the advantages of a better headsteady? Less vibration?

What do you think of adding lighter pistons/rods? (JS Motorsport?) I`m happy with they power of the machine but I imagine less weight--> less vibration/stress/wear. But will it come at the price of lasting shorter?

how do you like the Conti Classic Attack?
Hi Martin!
I havn`t ridden have another tire to compare it to. I feel comfortable and confident on the bike, that`s all I can say :)
Do you have another preference?
I know MFK doesnt except LED - but for me savety over law: for MFK I will change it back, it`s only the bulbs.
When I`m in Basel with my Norton I`ll let you know: do the same if you are in Zurich :)
Can you tell me the issues with these bearings?

This is the layshaft bearing out of my 1971 Fastback, the outer race was starting to fracture, the more common failure bearing stories come from the original 'Made in Portugal bearing in the 850 (My 850 still had that bearing and it was fine but replaced) and cage failures.
The bearing is worth replacing in any model if the history is unknown, if it fails in motion it can be bad news.
You have the choice of a ball or roller bearing as a replacement part.
Restoring my Dads Fastback

Restoring my Dads Fastback
The main purpose of the headsteady is to keep the engine aligned with the frame without transmitting vibration. Some are better than others. There is some debate about which ones are preferred. As far as commercially available ones, the heim-joint variety gets a lot of attention. There are other methods, some of them very good, which require custom fabrication. One of my favorite all-time threads on this forum is this:

As for your engine number, I'd have to do some research but there are people here who know where to find these things. Someone should be able to chime in. Does the engine number and gearbox number match? Do they match the tag on the front of the steering head? I only mention the identification because I have always thought the 1969 motor had the tachometer cable coming off the right side of the timing chest in the location of the points cavity. But I can't say I have any experience with the early variations of this bike. If nothing else send Andover-Norton an email with your numbers. They will be able to provide you with some information. The photo below claims to be a 1969 Fastback.

As for lightweight pistons and all that...I'm going to leave that stuff up to the experts here!

Restoring my Dads Fastback
No responses on the engine number? I'm surprised somebody here hasn't identified it.
The English did pull a dirty trick by separating most of us with a common language. We may never overcome this you know. It all depends on the area they're from. Then I've trouble with folks from the Northeast US too.
I also need to be looking into the layshaft bearing upgrade because since I bought the bike used I'm clueless as to whether it was done.
On your upgrades if that fine looking machine were mine I would choose a starting point and begin with that, if some other new work to be done was associated with the task I'd catch it then & there, but otherwise I'd complete one and make certain it was good to go prior to beginning another upgrade. That way I wouldn't have the bike down and could still hopefully keep having the pleasure of riding it when it pleased me. That's just me because I do like to have my cruising time each day. It keeps the mood smooth & blood pressure down...Beautiful bike.
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