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The Commando that came in from the Cold.

Discussion in 'Norton Commando Motorcycles (Classic)' started by KzJonny, Dec 11, 2014.

  1. KzJonny

    KzJonny

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2013
    Hello all,

    Been a while since anything has happened on the Norton front, and I finally got around to thinking more about it, and wanting to get the process started. It is going to be a very long, slow process I am sure, but every build has to start someplace doesn't it? I got the timing about right, as we've just got the first of our really good, heavy winter snows here in Southern Ontario.

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    So, with the forbearance of my flatmate, who perhaps coincidentally is from England, and whose step-dad once had a Commando as well, the old girl came in from the (covered) front porch where she's sat for the last 10 months or so. I've sipped more than a couple of pale ales out there while just staring at the poor old heap, and alternatively wondering what I've got myself into, and being truly excited at the prospect of one day firing (kicking?) up this bike.

    We now have lovely, if somewhat bizarre conversation piece in our living room:

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    While I don't see getting much done in the very near future, I will at least have a warmer place to do some of the odds and ends work. Anything that can be removed from the frame, and inspected/cleaned up a little can at least be accomplished as I have some free time to get to it. Some of the most obviously out of place bits, which will come off and probly never go back on are the saddle bag rack, FIAMM air horn, and the mounts for the crash bars. (Which incidentally had caused some damage/dents in the saddle tubes, which I suppose will have to be inspected for true now, and presumable gusseted or sleeved at some point.... Ah well, this was never going to be a 'to stock' restoration.)

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    On the plus side, despite having seen much better days, she is a relatively low miles bike, and I am only the second owner. So there is hope that not all is lost or wrong with her.

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    Having done a fair lot of reading on this site, gone through the Clymers manual from front to back a couple of times, and taking a look at some other online resources suggested here, I think that at least mechanically, this should be generally within my skills as a home mechanic to accomplish. There will be plenty of first on this on for me: positive earth system, pushrod engine, whitworth spanners? etc.... But, it seems Cdo's are really a fairly simple, if elegant design. NOT that I won't ask a million questions as I go along, or at very least spend piles of hours researching here and elsewhere.

    As I am still unsure precisely what SORT of Commando this was to begin with, I can't say what direction I will go in as I work on it, but that is all pretty secondary to getting it mechanically sound, and running which is really going to be the big challenge. It seems to me that the headlamp is a sure fire way to tell if it was a Hi-Ryder, as it was unique to that model in '71, so I guess if that part number is stamped somewhere on it, it will be the big tell. All that said, I will worry about body work/making it pretty much later. I really don't see it coming back to life in the HR guise, so likely a new set of body work will be on the wish list eventually.

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    Hoping to get the cylinder bores cleaned of as much dust/carbon as I can today, fill 'em with a ATF/kerosene, let em soak a few days and see if the motor turns as a step one. Fingers crossed. It would be awefully nice if it isn't siezed, but I am not holding my breath either. FWIW, I've already compiled a little bit of the history of the bike in another thread, so won't repeat it just now, but I am sure it will come again over time.

    If from the few pictures, anyone can tell me something about the bike, that would be useful, then please chime in. Also, I am very happy to snap a few more pics of anything if that helps with identification of parts or just to get a general feel for the restorability of any bits. I've done an inventory of sorts of the collection of spare parts that came with the bike, and when I have a moment, I will find that and post it up here as well. Aside from the usual list of maintenance items that will have to be gone over, I am completely missing the seat and mufflers. Aside from that, it seems to be at least mainly all there.

    Looking forward to all the joys and headaches this project is likely to entail. A big thanks in advance to all here for any help I get along the way, and for this site even being here at all. It has already been of great use to me, and I've had more kind offers of help and advice than I would have ever expected for having only posted a single thread when I was considering whether or not to start this project, and then how to start going about it.

    Cheers!

    Jon
     
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  2. L.A.B.

    L.A.B. Moderator VIP MEMBER

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2004
    Well., it doesn't have the Hi-Rider (MCH66) headlamp (which wasn't unique to that model as the '71 SS also had it). Also you won't find all that many stamped-on part numbers although various castings have numbers, they aren't part numbers.

    The direction indicators look Japanese (Suzuki, Honda)?

    It has the 850 balance pipe exhaust.

    The fuel tank, seat and side panels should give a clue as to which model it is.
     
  3. hobot

    hobot

    Joined:
    Oct 19, 2005
    The Hy Ryder must of sold like hot cakes for a time then were mostly converted to more practical bars and seat. Going by the excess length of cables arc implies had ape hangers originally.
     
  4. htown16

    htown16 VIP MEMBER

    Joined:
    Apr 29, 2009
    I do believe I would shove a drip pan under it. Warming it up might cause a leak or two to spring forth.
     
  5. hobot

    hobot

    Joined:
    Oct 19, 2005
    To make such a neglected case road worthy mean getting intimate from sludge trap outward with each item inspected and re-finished or replaced by factory parts of expanding upgrade options till nil Norton left. !0 grand is expected ballpark if skimping on extra fancy paint job. Hopefully something minor shut it down long term so may not to exceed 10 grand. Thing is Commandos look so obsolete long in tooth scabbed together clunkers till about everything refreshed to show room or better. I found restoring them greatly expands my travels meeting new people face to face for parts and processing so have to steal lots of time intervals from rest of life for who knows how long. Also some innate faults like porous heads ain't found out till first rides so back at it or park long term again. If not knowing that others actually completed these thing by the 10's of 1000's I'd not believed I'd ever get done with a couple 'easy' road going restores and bunch of rebuilds. Some very very few learn corrosion patina and cooked oil and rust as found letting it ripen even more but working fine otherwise to get good attention at rallys they spit at or throw eggs at sparkling slightly choppered Commandos. I don't ride much as I want but my time on a fully fettered Commando ranks hi up in the states I want to spend time I got left in.
    I'd bet its wet sumped and holding oil just fine not running. Commando are welcome inside my home so just part of family pets and plants.
     
  6. illf8ed

    illf8ed

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2003
    With a seven inch headlight and a chrome rear fender, only one model if these were original parts. It's a roadster. If it has a VIN between 151673 and 151703, all were roadsters. I have a copy of that factory record page.
     
  7. MikeM

    MikeM

    Joined:
    Jun 1, 2011
    Does the hi rider have the small 5 3/4 headlamp?
     
  8. Bob Z.

    Bob Z.

    Joined:
    Mar 30, 2012
    Hoping to get the cylinder bores cleaned of as much dust/carbon as I can today, fill 'em with a ATF/kerosene, let em soak a few days and see if the motor turns as a step one.Please be careful when using this concoction; not indoors!!
     
  9. DogT

    DogT VIP MEMBER

    Joined:
    Jan 20, 2009
    Numbers off the engine left side, transmission top, and headstock ID plate, will tell a lot. Hopefully they are the same, but doesn't matter much except to collectors. Certainly not a 68-70 model, must be later, but not too much later, appears to have the timed breather off the left side of the engine. I'd guess 71. Good dreaming, lots of polishing.
     
  10. Torontonian

    Torontonian

    Joined:
    Dec 28, 2009
    Good advice re: toxicitys in an indoor enviroment with asthma attacks and room-mate freaking out over Kerosene stench when bringing home new girlfriend for relaxations. :(
     
  11. 84ok

    84ok

    Joined:
    Aug 10, 2014
  12. KzJonny

    KzJonny

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2013
    It is for sure a '71, or at least mostly, as my understanding of the whole thing goes. I gather there was a lot of half year run, and mixed lot Commandos. VIN is 142710, so unfortunately that doesn't guarantee anything. As far as my research goes, it shows that could be any of the models that year, but I would be happy to be corrected.

    The headlight is certainly bigger than 5 3/4, I will measure to comfirm, but I 7" sounds about right from the look of it. I am fairly certain that is a stock item, so in theory ruling out the Hi-Rider as original configuration. It does have a set of ape hanger bars, but I will get some photos up of the tank and body panels I have for it. I am not certain they are original, but possibly so. I wouldn't be especially surprised that some of the stuff on it now is aftermarket, as it was modified for long distance riding in the mid-70's shortly before it was put to bed for 40 ish years.

    It may be a good call about the smell of kerosene, which I don't especially mind, but the flatmate may not appreciate. Perhaps Seafoam Deep Creep will be a better choice all in all. I've found it to be a an excellent penetrant and good at freeing stuck parts. That said, I don't know the engine won't turn, I just don't want to try until I've given it a little time to at least get some lubrication around the pistons.

    Thanks all for the info so far. I will come back soon with a set of ID numbers, and some pictures of the rest of the motley assortment of parts.

    Cheers!
    Jon
     
  13. Time Warp

    Time Warp VIP MEMBER

    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2012
    My March 1971 fastback is 20M3S/143958.
    The plate riveted to the front of the steering head will give some info, month and year.

    Mike M's 71 looks to have a Hi Rider head light and fuel tank.
     
  14. Time Warp

    Time Warp VIP MEMBER

    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2012
    I doubt a Hi Rider seat fit with that rack.
    The head light looks like a standard 7 inch SS700 ? for 1971.
     
  15. grandpaul

    grandpaul VIP MEMBER

    Joined:
    Jan 15, 2008
    This should be good...
     
  16. JimNH

    JimNH

    Joined:
    Jan 4, 2014
    Wall mart and the large auto parts stores have a nice big drip tray that the whole bike will fit in. Besides your own convenience, it will please the landlord should he pop in for an inspection.

    You'll be amazed what this stuff will clean: http://www.quick-glo.com/

    You might as well try cleaning up the stuff you want to keep but hopefully not the hideous bars.

    Since you're working out of your apartment I suspect you'll be doing a lot of stuff by hand. You can't beat this for aluminum. It's expensive but a very little goes a long way. It's what they use to polish the leading edges and engine inlets of business jets: http://www.flitz.com/flitz-polish-paste/
     
  17. KzJonny

    KzJonny

    Joined:
    Dec 11, 2013
    Okay. So no photos today. I did take a pile with my SLR, but it will take a while to upload all that and mostly they are just for my own reference, to have a visual record of where which wires/cables run, so I can get them all straight when it goes back together waaay down the road.

    Did eliminate about 10lbs worth or air horn and compressor, and the nasty luggage rack. I will keep them for now, but as I really don't think they are made from unobtainium, and I will never remount them on the bike they will eventually get binned. On the plus side, there are now a couple of nice big holes in the back of the air filter compartment where it was drilled out to accept the mounting bolts for the compressor! Nothing a little hundred-mile an hour tape can't fix down the road.. Not to mention how hard it is to remove the air filter and cover, when the aformentioned bolts stand 3/4" proud inside the box!! Ah well. I am quite sure I will find worse as time goes by, and certainly nothing tops the ape hanger bars for being ugly. Rest assured, they will also be binned, or perhaps given to a neighbourhood kid to adorn a bad ass chopped bicycle.

    I do now know at least that this IS a numbers matching bike. I guess that is nice, but mainly just tells me that the engine wasn't swapped at some point, which I was certain of anyway. Despite being sort of unsure about the originality of some of the parts on this thing, I have been around this bike off and on for 30+ years, which is to say as far back as I can remember. I am at least quite certain that nothing as major as that was changed! Anyway, date of manufacture is probably March 1971. It's a little hard to say, as they did a poor job with the month stamp, but it is half of some unidentifiable letter and most of an "R" so, that is my guess anyway.

    Can confirm the 700 series 7" inch headlight, and again, I believe it to be stock. As I peel away some dirt, and have a closer look at this thing in the warm tho, she is beginning to tell a story. I suspect she was put down at some point, on the left hand side, as underneath the extensive oxidation and dirt, there are signs of the primary chain cover having been reshaped, and ground with a fairly coarse abrasive. It is certainly not in terrible condition, but you can clearly see it has been refurbished at some point. Could also explain the new handlebar, and turn signals, if they really are off a Suzy, or somesuch. I will be sure to include some close ups of those in the next post. It would also explain why I have a shiny NOS chain cover in my box of spare parts. I kind of like the idea of leaving the battle scarred one on if I can get through the oxidation tho, so it will just stay hidden for now. The chrome on the non-standard, (I have been told they are either Dunstall or 850) crossover headers is in much better shape, and seems like better quality than that on the rest of the bike. So, aside from being non-standard for a '71 Cdo, it is also newer. Result of the LHS pipes getting murked in a crash perhaps? Dunno. Finally, the LHS foot peg was certainly driven in to the chain cover, and bent back out, as there is a nice, neat and lined up indentation in the cover directly below the nut for the footpeg. That covers the worst of the damage, weird and wonderful stuff that jumped immediately at me.

    I will do my best to ID stuff I don't immediately recognize using the manual as I go, but since a picture is worth a thousand words, I will probly also post more here with some what-the-hell is this? pictures.

    Oh, and the cylinder heads were vacuumed as well as could possibly be done through the plug holes, and flooded with Deep Creep. I will repeat the penetrant treatment again a couple of times, and see if I can get the engine to turn at all. On that note, I am assuming the engine DOES NOT have any oil in it at all. In the interest of making the smallest amount of mess possible down the road, how much cheap oil would be required to dump into it, so ensure that I am not turning the bottom end dry? I sort of figure I wouldn't need the full operational volume to just have a little oil get moved around the crank/bearing etc... but perhaps I am wrong on that. In either event, I will be sure and lube up the top end at the same time before any attempt to kick it over.

    Cheers!
     
  18. ashman

    ashman

    Joined:
    Jul 10, 2010
    I wouldn't worry about putting oil in it with the condition of the bike I would just put some pentertating oil down the bores and let it sit for a week them pull the motor apart and do a complete engine rebuild, I wouldn't even kick it over, pull it all apart and rebuild would be the only way to go.

    Ashley
     
  19. hobot

    hobot

    Joined:
    Oct 19, 2005
    If ya could put the engine through some fairly wide heating cycles that'd help crack the crust but only need it good enough to get the barrel off and spit cases then replace all the renewable items. All the evidence is similar to my L side smashings. Main concern is the forks didn't get tweaked also but hardly ever do if pilot survived impact. I like the Strongarm stuff and its expanding pleasing uses I'm trying. Costs couple 100 bux to get a good frame sandblasting but might not have to if the shove enamel still intact. So glad I'm not at your state or restore ahead and wouldn't taken such a crappy POS on myself, which is to say my respects over myself opinion taking this on in such humble shop set up.
     
  20. L.A.B.

    L.A.B. Moderator VIP MEMBER

    Joined:
    Nov 20, 2004
    After taking a closer look, I think it probably is the Dunstall balanced exhaust and not the 850 system as I'd said earlier.
     

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