Collectable: Norton Commando Fastback-News & Reviews-Motorcycle Trader

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Norton Triumph Prototype
Norton Triumph Prototype

30 Jul 2013 | Ian Falloon looks at a performance icon of its day

Words Ian Falloon

Vibration was always the of big British twins but Ian Falloon Norton’s innovative solution.

In England was on a high. It led the world in and fashion and was at the forefront of engineering

This was the time of the Beatles, Stones, miniskirts and the Harrier jump jet. But England’s dominant motorcycle industry was in Edward Turner introduced the Speed Twin in 1937 and not changed over the following 30 Norton followed Triumph its 500cc Model 7, gradually it to 600cc, 650cc, 750cc, and 850cc.

As it grew, so did the vibration, in the 750cc Norton Atlas – the … of all.

There was Norton could do about the of its long-… twin. Large-capacity especially the 360-degree type the Norton with both rising and falling together, extraordinarily, but in a single plane. the resources to completely design and for an all-new engine, Norton the ingenious Isolastic system.

The engine, gearbox and swingarm rigidly mounted together in one and coupled to the frame through mounts. These only movement in a single plane, isolating vibration from the without compromising handling. At the time the engine’s cylinders inclined forward, getting from the old-fashioned look harked back to the Norton

While it may have looked the design was still rooted in the Valve operation was by pushrods and and there was a separate four-speed joined together by a triplex drive chain. Oil leaks part of the package.

The frame was completely different to the earlier type. Norton had engaged Dr Stefan Bauer as director of and Bauer dismissed the iconic frame as “rubbish”. Bauer a spine-type frame and specified one around a large, 57mm tube.

When the Commando was released, purists were that Norton had abandoned the and there was much scepticism as to how the would handle. One ride was to prove all the detractors wrong. The handling was well up to traditional standards and, with the vibration isolated from the the Commando could be ridden for longer.

The engine may have been itself to pieces, loosening float bowls and exhaust pipes, but the rider was quite to all this activity.

In its transition Atlas to Commando, the 73 x 89mm twin’s compression ratio up to 8.9:1 (from 7.6:1) and the to 30mm Amal concentric. The increased from 36kW to 41kW (56hp) at 6500rpm. the gearbox was largely unchanged, the received a four-plate, diaphragm clutch.

This allowed the plate pressure without any increase in hand pressure.

The wasn’t startling but the complete weighed only 181kg and the wheels rolled on a very 1441mm wheelbase. The suspension was top quality: a tried and trusted Roadholder fork and Girling absorbers.

For 1968, just prior to the Japanese onslaught, the Norton performance was sensational. The top speed was 190km/h and the Commando could the standing 400m in a little 13 seconds. The Commando was an instant remaining popular even the Japanese 750s arrived, the British Motor Cycle ‘Machine of the Year’ poll for years in a row.

After Norton was seduced into the war, boosting the power of the 750 to (65hp). This engine, as the Combat, was only an option on the for 1972 but its 10:1 compression and voracity for high revs was too for the main bearings. Almost Combat engine quickly and Norton was forced to dismantle an assembly line to fit improved

It was an expensive mistake and one from the company struggled to recover.

nomenclature had risen to the Mark IV by and along with the Combat came a Lockheed front brake. Nearly all Mark IV were Roadsters or Interstates but the Fastback was still available in numbers. Phil De Gruchy one in the Peter Stevens showroom in Street, Melbourne, in September,

“It had been brought out from the UK by the owner and had only 3000 on the clock,” recounts Phil. price was $1175, a bargain with the $1995 asked for an 850 at the

Phil stopped riding the in 1983 with 45,000 on the clock but, in 2011, a total refurbishment. Apart the Borrani rims, the bike is stock right down to the tank and seat unit, in original red gelcoat. And it is still a that can be ridden regularly, as can attest.

His refurbished Commando is a at classic bike events and runs.

Although ubiquitous and always obsolete, the Commando possessed all the endearing qualities of a British motorcycle: a torquey engine, moderate weight, handling and, above timeless looks.

Many to Phil de Gruchy of Lightfoot Mont Albert, Vic, for the use of the Commando Mark IV Combat featured.


These are the to run by the kitchen cabinet if you lust a Norton Commando Fastback of own.

Norton Triumph Prototype
Norton Triumph Prototype

• Original price:

• Current valuation for one in aerage $9000

• Current valuation for one in condition: $15,000

• The first of 1968 was a fastback, but was known as the The styling was by David Bristow, in of 3D design at Wolff Olins, a design agency.

• The Norton was the first motorcycle to be launched corporate branding. Wolff dreamed up the trademark ‘green that appeared on the fuel of the prototype. These

green were derided and only on the prototype.

• During 1969 the Commando was renamed the Fastback. were subsequently four versions, the last being the IV of 1972. The Fastback continued to a fibreglass fuel tank, Italian-made steel tanks available as an option.

• As the standard Fastback only had a fuel tank, a Fastback LR Range) was introduced in 1971. had a larger (18lt) steel and a revised seat. Only 400 Long Range Fastbacks


• The 1972 Mk IV Fastback was as it was the only Fastback with a disc brake. All other had a front drum brake.


Get this

— Norton Commando, by Vale, pub Crowood 2011

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