Which Norton?

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Jan 30, 2005
Hi, I have just got rid of my tractor, restoring a 72 Tiger for the wife, have had a 68 Bonny, and a 1950 A10, now I need a Norton, which model is the least trouble prone?? if there is such a thing, lol. Thanks.
I see no one is willing to jump in on this one. Hmmm...replacing a tractor with a Norton??? A MotoGuzzi maybe, but using a Norton is like replacing a plowhorse with a thoroughbred. Are you going to plow with it or just make hay??

Seriously, the most reliable of the Nortons would no doubt be a Commando. Probably an 850 from '73 or '74. Spares are readily available. It will still need the upgrades outlined in another thread on this forum and careful assembly, but after that you have a BritBike that's as reliable as any.
Thanks Ron, i meant tractor as in Harley, hahaha, I have seen an Interstate for $8000 aussie dollars, the inter had a bigger tank, what else was on these? Thanks.
Hi Bowsaw!

The Interstate model features different/wider site panels (square shaped) and a longer seat to match the bigger fuel tank. I found the riding position quite awkward, i.e. uncomfortable. Mind you, I am just 5'10'' in height… a Fastback Norton is more comfortable in my view.
The overall looks are far more ”tour” than ”sports”, perfect for sustained long distance riding at 70/80 mph.

So you ask which Commando to go for? Well, in my pov, you can choose any Model, no matter what year of manufacture… as long as it is COMPLETELY overhauled: the engine carefully reassembled (refined parts, belt primary drive is icing on the cake!), gearbox taken care of, boyer ignition, carbs make- over, new fork internals, new rear shocks, disc/drum brakes fidling, vernier adjustment on the isolastics and some other bits and bobs. You are talking BIG bucks here… think of ca. $ 10.000,00 at least. But then your Norton is built to last,creates envy and admiration wherever you go… and the pride of owning one is priceless.

Verdict is, the better bike is the better buy.

Best regards from Hamburg, Germany


As Matt says, the Interstate tank is larger (5 gallons vs. 3 gallons) and longer than the Roadster, and the seat is further rearward. This changes the relationship of the seat/handlebar/footpegs. I personally found this more comfortable as on my Roadster I was sitting midway on the double seat to get a comfortable angle to the gear lever. A Corbin solo seat such as the one in the picture at the top of this page moves you back while still using the Roadster tank. It's a matter of taste and comfort.

Other than tank, side covers, and seat, the Interstate was fitted with a 21 tooth countershaft sprocket (850) and Roadster models usually a 20 tooth. The engine and suspension were identical.
Thanks for the replies people, most helpful. Found this Inter has boyer, and the mikuni carb conversion, and engine rebuilt 12 months ago, sounds good for AU$8000, will leave me 3000 to upgrade, anything i should upgrade first? , will be going down to Perth next week to look at it, put a holding deposit on it, so hopefully he wont sell it on me
the isolastics to Norvil...in the 70's I bought a couple of nice commandos for a couple hundred, just because the isolastics went bad and the owner started to worry about the Hula dancing handleling style it caused. The one I drive now, had only a bad front Isolastic and it made it steer constantly and very hard, to one side...the owner was unhappy about this and sold it for 250...a two year old bike. Check the isolastics, and if not the updated type...do that first...best! Safe riding!
Are there any differences in the engines between the Interstate and the Roadster? It sounds like the frame is longer on the Interstate as well -- is this so? Thanks!

There are no engine or frame differences between any of the Commando models. Basically the differences are tank, seat, and side panels. The gearbox final drive sprocket might have been one tooth larger on the interstate than roadster, I don't remember offhand. The early interstates had pipes and mufflers which were not upswept to make room for panniers.
which model


Commandos are either 750 or 850. The 750 tends to have more perforamance while the 850 is more reliable. I have a '72 750 with combat engine, so you know my preference. My opinion if owning an 850 is a single mikuni carb, electronic ignition and Interstate bodywork. Sounds like the machine you're looking at. My '72 has fastback bodywork now, originally a roadster, and a previous '73 750 had interstate. I'm 5'9" and prefer the interstate seat slightly over the fastback. Fastback's were never made with 850 engines.

aaaa mentioned poor handling. The isolastics play a big role in this, but another cause is poor condition of the swing arm spindle in the engine cradle. The hole in the cradle the spindle goes through gets out of round allowing the swing arm to "wag". Lubing with grease instead of oil is the usual cause of wear. There are various methods of correcting this condition all of which result in clamping the spindle at more than one point inside the cradle tube.
I concur with illf8ed with regards to 750 combats and 850's. The combats have higher compression and need high octane fuels where 850 commandos run lower compression ratios but still maintain almost the same power and tourque output. if you go 750 combat model make sure you have FAG superblend bearings on the crank if you want to dwell in the land of high rpm. The 1973 and 74 models have more up to date improvements eg. swing arm and frame improvements but remain with a right foot shift. The later years (75)went with left foot shift and electric start. ha ha

Electronic Ignition is one of the simplest and best performance enhancements that you can do for a Norton Commando.
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