Starting a Commando That Sat for years

Discussion in 'Norton Commando Classic Motorcycles' started by Brealytren, Nov 2, 2017.

  1. Brealytren

    Brealytren

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2015
    All,
    This is my first Norton and my first dry sump bike. I've owned and ridden literally hundreds of Japanese bikes and, as you know, there are many differences. Funny thing is, my last name is also Norton.
    Anyway, I purchased a '71 Commando 750 from the American Pickers fame Rob Wolfe in Iowa a few weeks back. It literally is a true barn-find all original Commando with 7500 miles....even down to what appears to be the original tires. As I can tell, it only has one modification...the addition of an oil filter that is bolted to the engine in place of what I would assume to be the place for an electric starter.

    Anyway, I have yet to try and start it as I don't want to damage it. The oil tank is currently nearly dry, and the engine seems to have excessive compression leading me to believe the oil has drained down to the crankcase. I plan to drain the oil tank and crankcase, refill the tank with oil, prime the feed line to the pump, put a little oil in the cylinders, kick it over a bit with the plugs removed, and then give it a shot at running. What do you think? Am I missing anything important?

    Thanks in advance!
    Chuck
     
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  2. Torontonian

    Torontonian

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2009
    Good luck and report back. Likely will need a battery. It's positive ground by the way..
     
  3. NORTSTER1974

    NORTSTER1974

    Joined:
    Aug 17, 2015
    Chuck,
    Them American Pickers always overpay for everything they buy, how much did they hit you for the bike? If you overpaid, did you get to boff Danielle? The first thing I would do is get a manual and familiarize yourself with the bike. I've never seen an oil filter mounted to the timing side of the case, how that would work I don't know. Here's a oil hose diagram for you. https://www.oldbritts.com/oillines.html There are a lot of other common sense things that need to be gone over, like everything. Check the timing, change all fluids, what's the gas tank look like? Fiberglass? If it's been sitting for years , maybe it hasn't seen ethanol. Might need a coating, or use a fuel bag. Check the carbs, clutch, valve adjustments, torque on head and cylinder bolts ..Blah, Blah, Blah. I would go over everything that needs to be looked at before I wasted my time trying to kick it. Happy Motoring
     
  4. peter12

    peter12

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2013
    Hi Chuck
    One issue you may have is perished oil seals. You will only find out when you run it up. If it has sat for so long there is is good chance the seals will need changing.
    I would go a little further and remove the oil tank and clean it thoroughly before filling with new oil.
    Oh and you might want to change the tyres before you ride it!!!!!
    Good luck, some pictures would be good.
     
  5. Danno

    Danno

    Joined:
    Feb 7, 2010
    A little top-cylinder oil in the plug holes, fresh plugs, drain the sump, check the valves for clearance and proper operation and pour some oil over the valve gear before you close it up. this will get some oil down on the cam and lifters which are probably bone dry. A carb cleaning may be in order as crap tends to grow in the bowls even when stored dry. Fresh fuel and battery and start kicking. Not cleaning the tank and fuel system risks dislodging anything that's in there. It's always the first step for any motorcycle that hasn't been started in over a year.
     
  6. olbbeezer

    olbbeezer

    Joined:
    Nov 2, 2017
    Upon starting the bike I would remove the cap from the oil tank and look to see if oil pump is returning oil from the sump. It may take a few moments before you see the oil returning. I don't know if this applies to the Commando, you may want to briefly cover the return hole with you finger after verifying oil is returning and before it gets too hot. The idea is to force oil to the top end of the engine. I recently acquired my first Norton a '74 Roadster and have yet to research the procedure for this bike.(Need to get it running first) Once upon a time I had a Matchless G15CSR (Atlas engine) and saw multiple references to the procedure.
     
  7. Bodger

    Bodger VIP MEMBER

    Joined:
    May 9, 2017
    Along the lines of don't assume anything, is it possible that your timing side oil filter is actually an early engine points set up? The points cover could maybe pass for an oil filter and the engine may be older than 1971.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 3, 2017
  8. grandpaul

    grandpaul VIP MEMBER

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2008
    Immediately after you posted your original post, there will appear just below it a list of related posts which, in this case, will already have lots of answers.
     
  9. Bob Z.

    Bob Z.

    Joined:
    Mar 30, 2012
    I Googled the Feb 2015 episode where the Pickers bought a 1969 Commando with a disc front brake for $4100.
    If you can believe the details of the story.
    Actually there is some relevant information in the dialog for using when looking at a Commando "barn find".
     
  10. oldmikew

    oldmikew

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2015
    To the very sound advice you have been given... do clean and gap the points.. change the condensor the fat blue one in the battery box and the one for the points.. you may find it will smoke on and after start up . suspect the inlet guide oil seals if it does. i would make sure the front drum brake is ok before riding it...
     
  11. N0rt0nelectr@

    N0rt0nelectr@ VIP MEMBER

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2014
    It sounds like you have of of George Shultz oil filter mounts, which is a good thing.
    I would pull the oil tank and clean it before refilling it. You have no idea how much dirt and gunk there could be in it. When you do oil it up pour some oil down the exhaust rockers to oil the cam. Kick the bike over without the plugs in it and loosen the rocker oil line banjo so the you know when oil is getting to the rockers. Then retighten the banjo bolt so you don't spray oil all over the place.
    You might want to inspect the rocker oil lines with it sitting as long as you say it has the line could be very brittle and prone to breaking. If it is dry and brittle just bumping it could cause it to break. I am sure others will also have good advise for you.
    Welcome to the group.

    John in Texas
     
  12. N0rt0nelectr@

    N0rt0nelectr@ VIP MEMBER

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2014
    The 71 750's don't have valve guide seals, it would have been good if they had them. Further down the road look into getting an electronic ignition, they make life so much easier.
    John in Texas
     
  13. oldmikew

    oldmikew

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2015
    mine has ..
     
  14. oldmikew

    oldmikew

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2015
    John in Texas,
    didnt mean to be cryptic, but mine is a late model and was bought new. But I think all the Uk engines for 71 had them. It was a bodge which didnt really resolve the underlying problem of oil running between guide and head. however the inlet guides do wear quite quickly they are too short, so if the seals have hardened then they will fail and additional oil will make its way into the combustion chamber. 7000 miles is too low for the piston group to be suspect.. Agree about electronic ignition though it can be a pain
     
  15. L.A.B.

    L.A.B. Moderator VIP MEMBER

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2004
    Inlet valve guides with seals were supposedly fitted from 149670, so reasonably late '71 production.
     
  16. oldmikew

    oldmikew

    Joined:
    Jul 25, 2015
    Mine was an October build and some 600 engines later
     
  17. N0rt0nelectr@

    N0rt0nelectr@ VIP MEMBER

    Joined:
    Sep 15, 2014
    I stand corrected. It is always good to learn something new.
    John in Texas
     
  18. Brealytren

    Brealytren

    Joined:
    Mar 2, 2015
    All,

    Thanks so much for all the valuable thoughts and info. What a great group/site!

    Based on your input, I plan to add the following to my first thoughts: clean the oil tank and screen, install new points, reset the the valve lash and oil the top end and ensure sufficient oil drains down to the cam, prime the oil system with the plugs pulled, clean the carbs and then finally give her a chance at new life. Certainly there is a lot more to go. I just want know where I stand before full on winter hits.

    Yes, I probably paid too much ($4,000) but for a nearly bone stock, complete, numbers matching bike - like I always search for - I'm happy with the purchase no matter what I find down the road.

    I have pics of the mysterious oil filter adapter on the bike, but cannot figure out how to upload a pic to the site. Everything I try asks for a URL. I'll keep working at it.

    Thanks everyone!
     
  19. L.A.B.

    L.A.B. Moderator VIP MEMBER

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2004

    As you are not a VIP member, you can't upload images or files directly to Access Norton so you need to use an image hosting site, such as Postimage https://postimages.org/
    (But, not Photobucket)
     
  20. 0u812

    0u812

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2005
    '71 did not have electric start as it was first introduced in '75. Also '71 was the year of the combat engine failures which most grenaded before 10K miles. Perhaps this is why it was abandoned? Suggest soaking rings with oil for a few weeks, then as you say draining down the oils. Then you could try to break it free via kick starter and see if it turns over. In any case, not sure how well the rings and cylinder walls would have fared after 4 decades in barn find conditions.
     

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