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Ultimate Norton Commando Rebuild/Restoration Services from Colorado Norton Works

Beginning in 1967, the beautiful Norton Commando, originally with a 745cc parallel-twin air cooled engine (some larger displacement units were eventually made) became the dream bike aspired to by many motorcycle enthusiasts. The sexy women posed near, or on, Commandos in Norton magazine advertisements can still be visualized nearly half a century later by red blooded American males who have survived since that era.

Colorado Norton Works does one thing, i.e., rebuild Commandos in a painstaking, expensive process (custom rebuilds start at $32,945 … provided you supply a suitable donor bike). Of course, you end up with a Commando that is better than new.

The CNW rebuild process is so thorough, the engine rebuild alone is described in the following manner:

Head work

Standard

  • New billet valve covers with stainless steel studs and hardware
  • cNw/ARP special head studs
  • cNw/ARP custom head hardware kit
  • Head and cylinder barrel surfaced to insure flatness
  • Combustion chamber volumes are equalized
  • Precision 3 angle cut on valve seats
  • New bronze valve guides
  • New Black Diamond valves
  • New valve springs and insulators
  • New mushroom head tappet adjusters
  • Alloy Tech push rods
  • Rockers and rocker spindles replaced as required
  • New rocker thrust washers and locating springs
  • New cNw stainless steel exhaust nuts
  • New cNw stainless steel, one piece rocker spindle covers
  • Head is bead blasted, pressure washed and media tumble finished
  • Braided stainless steel overhead oil lines with stainless banjos and bolts
  • Improved intake valve seals
  • Aluminized bronze exhaust port inserts
  • New 34mm Mikuni conversion is cNw standard carburetion

Cylinder Barrel and Pistons

Standard

  • Pistons, pins and rings are weighted to match within 0.0 (tenth) grams
  • Barrel is surfaced for flatness
  • Barrel is put through a heat cycle to stabilize metal
  • Barrel is ceramic coated with a heat dissipating, high gloss, black finish
  • Barrel is precision bored and honed to correct tolerance
  • Cam followers/lifters are surface ground
  • New pistons
  • Total Seal gapless ring set
  • cNw/ARP custom barrel hardware
  • Special, high strength studs

Lower End

Standard

  • New camshaft (several grinds available)
  • New oilpump
  • New billet ignition cover
  • All new crankshaft hardware
  • Rods are weighted to match within 0.0 (tenth) grams
  • cNw/ARP crankcase hardware
  • Crankshaft is magnafluxed, then ground and polished
  • Rods inspected, appropriate repair of nicks, etc.
  • New rod shells
  • cNw breather modification
  • New cam bushings as required
  • Crankcase is bead blasted, pressure washed then media tumble finished
  • Magnet added to sump strainer
  • New Superblend main bearings installed on timing and drive side
  • All crankshaft keys are replaced
  • New cam chain
  • New cam chain tensioner
  • Upgraded tachometer drive seal installed
  • Covers are polished to “show” standard
  • Polished stainless timing cover hardware

Primary Case and Drive

Standard

  • New belt drive (except MKIII, std chain drive)
  • Hydraulic clutch conversion
  • New billet outer primary cover (except MKIII, stock show polished cover)
  • New Barnett steel and friction plates installed
  • New hardened clutch center installed
  • Clutch push rod seal by Dave Comeau installed
  • New stainless steel fasteners throughout
  • New stainless inspection caps

Transmission

Standard

  • All new bearings
  • Upgraded lay shaft bearing
  • Transmission case is bead blasted, pressure washed then media tumble finished
  • Gear bushings replaced as required
  • New seals throughout
  • New counter shaft sprocket, specific to 520 “O” ring chain
  • Outer cover machined to accept MKIII kick start shaft seal upgrade
  • Shift shaft o-ring replaced with seal
  • Quadrant and cam plate o’rings are replaced with seals
  • New shift linkage springs installed
  • New MKIII kick starter arm assembly
  • Covers polished to “show” standard
  • All new stainless steel hardware
  • New billet inspection cover

Take a look at the CNW website if you have the resources and passion to build the ultimate Norton Commando, or if you simply want to ogle the many beautiful photos of previous rebuilds performed by the company.


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74 Comments

  1. RG500gamma says:

    And jesus wept… Yes, so beautiful, but really, what do you have? I went down the road of ultimate mods with an RG500 gamma. Did the bodywork, everything, racing trans (first gear worked), you name it. It looked like the original more or less but nothing much more than the frame was stock. Probably spent the same as the Norton revamp all in. Unbelievable bike, but still, it was a conversation piece and a monument to ego and ‘because I can’ more than anything else. It’s in someone else’s hands now with no regrets. There’s a ’71 BSA A65L in the garage now, stock save for a modern top end job, oil pump, oil filter and pointless ignition. I stay on top of maintenance and keep the Amals tuned and it is dead on reliable. I’ve got $7K in it all in. It’s the bike I’ll keep until I’m too old to ride it. A 2008 BMW K1200gt shares the garage with it and that bike is soon to leave as well. Sometimes stone age stuff (if you know what to do with it) just works, and you honestly know what it took back in the day.

  2. mickey says:

    I worked for a Yamaha/Moto Guzzi/Norton dealer in 1972, 73,74. I don’t know that the Nortons were any less reliable than any of the others. We sold some that never came back into the shop, we sold some that had minor issues, we sold a few that had serious issues. Same with the Moto Guzzis and the Yamahas. I think I would have rather had a 73 Norton, than a 73 TX 750. My 73 RD 350 went thru quite a few spark plugs, and my 73 TX 650 went thru pockets full of instrument bulbs, and would idle itself across the garage floor

  3. turnergande says:

    The 1971 Norton Commando Roadster I had for many trouble free years initially leaked a bit of oil from the primary case cover. After I smeared a non hardening silicone product on the inner rubber seal it was leak free. I think that gasket was prone to leakage but easily resolved. My 1967 Triumph was more challenging to minimize its oil drips. The only other minor problem I can recall was the fuel tap which also leaked a bit but it was fixable as well. I managed to maintain the bike without ever resorting to a bike shop / dealer mechanic. Installed a few tires along the way and a better drive chain. It always started easy for me; never had to push start. I’d say, for me, it was an easy to maintain motorcycle.

  4. PN says:

    Yes, lovely bikes with modern technology, but not worth $40K to me, unless you’re rich and that kind of money doesn’t matter.

    • paul246 says:

      I agree. Nice for posing but far too expensive for me to feel comfortable with riding it hard, riding in weather or parking somewhere other than my garage. Still, it would be nice to own if someone else would pay for it.

  5. oldjohn1951 says:

    In 1976 the last electric-start 850cc Commandos were being sold off at $1890 each since the Wolverhampton factory had closed. Alongside those Commandos were the last Small Heath-built T-160V Triumph Tridents…oh to be young again but with dough and foresight!

    • Dale says:

      Indeed. In 1976 I bought a brand new left over T160 electric start Trident that I kept for 25 years before buying my Buell Thunderbolt. I regret every day selling the Triumph. If only I wasn’t raising three children at the time – I could have had both. Oh well, now to find another….

      Or a new Bonneville T120. Or a new Moto Guzzi V-9 Roamer. Or a new…?

  6. azi says:

    That blue commando has about 1/2 an inch of fork travel

    • Bob says:

      Agree, but look closely. It’s a 39mm Showa originally fitted to a Harley, so the short travel is expected. More travel is easily obtained by fitting the longer damper tubes from the non-lowered models.

  7. johnny ro says:

    I rode my 1975 850 Electric Start from new in 1976 to its death in about 1980. Worn out. I did some damage with not knowing how to repair. Gave it away as a basket case. Yes it pissed hot oil on my leg…

    I remember getting passed by a KZ900..I was in third, full throttle, about 50-60, pulling hard, he zoomed up next to me, paused, glanced at me, nodded, then wheelied and pulled away very fast.

    I always feel a happy approving moment when a bike I see has a long chrome headlight bucket.

    Buying one of these is about like buying a Morgan 3 wheeler. Worthwhile endeavor, if the $ is there. Maybe like buying a Picasso, for 0.001 of the Picasso price.

  8. Martin B says:

    I had up close and personal experience with two Norton Commandos. I helped the riders by push starting them, because the riders’ legs had seized up after kicking the recalcitrant bitches several times. I rode a ’69 Trophy with the owner in a car behind me, preventing me from going above 50 mph and discovering any incipient vibration lurking in the motor. It left a puddle of oil on my foot when I stopped. And a BSA 350 single I rode half a mile, but had to push back because it wouldn’t start up again. You can keep your antiques. But if somebody gave me a new baby blue Bonneville T100, I wouldn’t object very strongly.

    • MGNorge says:

      While obviously pricey, these are rebuilt and re-engineered to modern standards. They are said to be leak free and very reliable.

  9. Geoffrey Hill says:

    Go to the BBC rally in Wisconsin. (British Biker Cooperative.) Many nice Nortons, Triumphs, Bsa, Royal Enfield, Vincent, etc. T.C. Christensen leads group ride there. Sunset Motors. Home of Worlds fastest Norton. (HogSlayer).

  10. turnergande says:

    One other comment about the Norton’s engine vibrations: It was only noticeable to me at an idle. Once on the road I noticed almost no vibration or rider fatigue thanks to the ‘Isolastic’ frame design. My earlier 1967 Triumph 650 was the real vibrator at speed to the point of making my toes tingle after a several hours ride – still a fun bike for 27,000 miles before being sold to a friend and one of the best looking bikes ever in my old fashioned opinion.

  11. Larry Kahn says:

    Phil Schilling of “Cycle” magazine 1974.. “The Next Hurrah”

    “The Norton vertical twin should have died and gone to legend a generation ago. In a world of perfect logic, engine designs should never maunder on for decades and finally be crushed by onrushing technology. Good ideas deserve better. Good engines should go to harvest in the fullness of their autumn; most mechanical things which struggle on simply die cold and wretched in December.
    Seasons do not cover England in perfect symmetry. Spring is cold and damp, and so is fall and winter. Onrushing technology there slows; the present walks in cadence with the past. And mechanical things like the Norton twin soldier on and on…through the Fifties…into the Sixties…and reach the mid-Seventies. In other places, someone would have raised the last hurrah at an earlier stage-when the original 500 twin turned to a 600, or 650, or 750, or 850. But somehow, no matter how deep Norton reaches into December, the final cheer never comes. There’s only the next hurrah.”..

    • Don says:

      Wow, I don’t copy like that now-a-days. If it’s out there please point the way? The motorcycle article as literature.

      • Larry Kahn says:

        Well here’s one place to check out…fans of the magazine…
        https://www.facebook.com/groups/331497513772/

        “Cycle” really was a great magazine. “Cycle World” of the 60’s/early 70’s was also very well done. Even the covers were of a higher art level. I’ve been able to keep all the magazines I bought in my youth, provided me with any education I can lay claim to. Anyone here under 30 I should leave them to in my will?

      • Larry Kahn says:

        And if you appreciated that bit of moto-literature, check this by Lawrence of Arabia..
        https://blogs.warwick.ac.uk/rbotoole/entry/the_road_motorcycle/

        • Grover says:

          Thanks for the link. My favorite line from that chapter: ” A skittish motor-bike with a touch of blood in it is better than all the riding animals on earth, because of its logical extension of our faculties, and the hint, the provocation, to excess conferred by its honeyed untiring smoothness. Because Boa loves me, he gives me five more miles of speed than a stranger would get from him.”

    • Provologna says:

      Phil, Gordon Jennings, and Cook Nielsen, all at the late great Cycle Magazine, define the pinnacle of motorcycle journalism. Cycle’s passing marks an epic loss for the sport.

      Cook’s win at the Daytona Superbike race (Ducati tuned by Gordon) is a stupendous story of an independent team beating much larger teams. Cycle published a great story on the event.

  12. turnergande says:

    I had a 1971 Commando bought new. Drove it for a little over 10 years. Did all maintenance by myself which was not a big deal. I liked the performance and great sound of those mufflers. Power was very good for that era and had tractor like torque & excellent acceleration coming out of uphill sharp corners. I was less fond of the wiggly rear suspension but it was better than my earlier 1967 Triumph TR6, and it leaked far less oil too. Sold it when I got married – both were big mistakes! Back in those days if you could hit 100 mph it was pretty exciting and quite sufficient.

    • VFRMarc says:

      Yeah, I lusted after Nortons in the late ’60s, especially the Dunstall Nortons. As I recall, with bullet-nosed fairings and disc brakes, they ran around $2,800. But being recently married and weaned on Hondas, I opted for a CB750 in 1970, got a fabulous runner and saved $1,000. It did the ton and then some.

  13. Zvonimir says:

    The Commando’s creator was Stefan Bauer, a German. Riding in Germany puts primacy on smooth, Autobahn riding at steady high revs–just what the BMW boxers excells at. Riding on English secondary roads is the obverse of this, it’s up and down through the gearbox with acceleration helping to squirt extra oil into the bores.

    The classic bugbear of the British parallel twin is vibration. Bauer did not solve this. His ingenious workaround was the Isolastic suspension, which shielded the rider from vibration, leaving the motor to suffer.

    Norton’s greatest innovation was the Featherbed frame. The amazing handling it offered kept Norton singles competitive against modern multicyllinder machines for at least a decade beyond what was expected.

    To sum up: Stefan Bauer built a magnificent motorbike. However,many veterans think that he should have kept the frame and thrown out the motor. The result could have been amazing.

  14. Tommy D says:

    Norton’s are forever frozen in that romance period of motorcycledom. This was back when bikes went fast and ditching a bike was the alternative to using the brakes. You kicked them to life after you tickled them. Vibration, oil leaks, fuel leaks, parts coming off… Come on! That’s romance right there. None of that maintenance free, push button stuff. While I didn’t have a Norton my 70’s Bonni cured me of that romance.

  15. Neil says:

    I think money is no object at this point, first of all. My kind of bike though. I ride to the train. I do local runs around the area towns, bike nites, So for me this is really good. And yeah if you are spending the money, why not just throw in a 270 crank?

    • johnny ro says:

      No room for a balance shaft to make it live with a 270 crank.

      • Bob says:

        A 270 degree crank wouldn’t have necessarily required a balance shaft any more than the 360 degree crank does. Actually, without a balance shaft the 270 crank has inherently less primary imbalance than the stock 360 degree crank. Vincent designer Phil Irving suggested to Edward Turner that the Triumph twin would have benefited by the 270 crank because it offered what Irving called “conservation of momentum” — one piston at a stop and the other near or at maximum velocity instead of both at zero velocity simultaneously at TDC/BDC . Meriden Triumphs and Nortons using “quartered” cranks were built decades ago by racer because they saw the benefit of Irving’s theory. Nowadays, the “modern” Triumph twins have balancers on both 360 and 270 degree engines.

  16. Simmy says:

    Beautiful bikes. Too bad the vibrations generated by the 360 crank eliminate any joy of riding them. For $33k I would demand a 270 crank.

  17. Ricardo says:

    Beautiful machines, but I can still buy two Panigales for the price of one of these which I “boutique” motorcycles, I don’t think they get ridden as often as they should.

    • Neil says:

      I bought my CB500F because Ducatis are so expensive incl the maintenance you used to have to do to them. The belts are still a hassle at 6000 miles or so. Why not just use a chain?

      • Norm G. says:

        Q: Why not just use a chain?

        A: cost, weight, performance ie, the TRIFECTA.

        oh a 4th might be, what on God’s Green would they sell you 2 and 3 years from now…?

  18. Butch says:

    What a motorcycle should look like, IMO.
    I’ve seen one up close.
    The attention to detail is impeccable.
    Front brake line runs through lower fork clamp.
    There’s a fellow in my town who owns 3 of them.
    Rolling works of art.

  19. Wendy says:

    I love the yellow one.

  20. Andrus Chesley says:

    Brings back good and bad memories of my ’69 Fastback I rode year around. Including to and from my 7/7 offshore job with a commute of 260 one way every week.

  21. redbirds says:

    Simply beautiful! The very definition of how a proper motorcycle should look.

  22. Jabe says:

    If Sophia Loren were a motorcycle, this would be her.

  23. My2cents says:

    The base of perfection, simple and complex at the same time. Incredible detail of both stock and created parts. That blue also stirs my soul.

  24. Charlie Allnut says:

    Pity the stock looking tail light assembly. Warts where it hurts.

  25. Mick says:

    Wow, feeling Minnesota. (First Thursday)

    For a long time. I have wondered if I should envy some of the Norton guys their experiences with their bikes. Back in the day. Nobody arrived happier than a Norton guy. It was almost scary. Jokes even popped up. “Eh! They’re happy ’cause they made it.”

    Oddly, every one of my Norton friends sold their bike. Many have never been satisfied with anything else. Poor guys. Imagine selling the only woman that you ever really wanted to marry.

    • MGNorge says:

      “Selling” the only woman..? I’m not going there! 🙂

    • tuskerdu says:

      I bought a new Commando in 1973. Loved the bike, she was beautiful and handled beautifully; she remains my benchmark against which all bikes since have been judged; still regret selling her to help financial my way through graduate school.

    • Larry Kahn says:

      I’ve owned my 850 since new. That’s married. Never knew a woman I wanted to marry. Crazy idea in my mind!

    • Half Baked says:

      Easily one of the most disturbing comments I’ve read on the internet in quite some time.

  26. MG3 says:

    Well I looked at that first ‘blue’ one and thought – damn, that must be the most beautiful motorcycle in the world. Then I saw the ‘yellow’ one come up and thought – damn if that one isn’t even prettier. Then I saw the ‘red’ one . . .

    Modern motorcycles are great, but they cannot hold a candle to the vintage Nortons and Triumphs and Guzzis and Ducatis / BMWs, at least not in the design area. If Royal Enfield would just bump up the QC and comfort level of their bikes I honestly think they would sell like crazy here in the USA. Nothing grabs you like a basic elemental motorcycle with plenty of metal showing and little else getting in the way.

    • blitz11 says:

      I rode bmw airheads for 30 years. Daily riders (sort of). They were beautiful, but i grew tired of having to fix EVERYTHING all of the time. I had every tool you needed to fix these things, final drive shims, wheel shims, transmission shim plates, etc. Would periodically rebuild stuff to (try to) keep ahead, but i could never keep ahead. Transmission rebuild? check. Replace shift drum detent spring with new one from BMW? check. Shift detent spring breaks 7,000 miles later, locking up transmission? Check.

      After that one, i had had it. Time to sell.

      You’d have to do a transmission rebuild frequently (50k miles) ’cause the gears were powder metal, and they’d wear, foul the oil, and wear out the bearings, even with frequent changes and good synthetic oil.

      Gold wings go 500K miles w/o a transmission thought. Those BMWs really weren’t that good.

      The BMW parts quality for the old bikes is bad. Carb diaphragms not ethanol resistant, stuff like that. When I grew tired, sold them (ended up in a bidding war, receiving 25% more than asking price), and bought a Yamaha Super Tenere. Have not regretted that for a second.

      These nortons are pretty to look at, but they’re still nortons. Beautiful, but high maintenance. (Sound familiar?)

      • todd says:

        I put well over 100,000 trouble free miles on my ’73 R75/5 and have gotten my ’72 up to around 70,000. The only reason why I don’t ride them much any more is because the handling sucks and people offer you a ton of money for them. I’m now on my K75S for the last 60,000 miles and don’t think I’ll ever find a reason to get rid of it.

        • blitz11 says:

          Did you buy yours new?

          I bought both of mine used, and these bikes seem pretty sensitive to maintenance. The R80/7 i had a for a decade – it had about 200K miles on it. i put the last 50K miles on it. The R60/5 i bought as a total in 1982 – speedy was smashed, so i don’t now how many miles it had. When i sold it in 2014, it had 100k miles that i had put on.

          At those miles, things just wear out. Transmission input splines, final drive splines, cylinders, pistons, etc. Both bikes had sonic front springs, RaceTech emulators in the forks, and IKON shocks properly sprung in the rear. Miles better than stock, but still nowhere near the handling of a new bike.

          The K-bikes are nice. Those were on my mind, but i had the scratch, so i went with the Yamaha. I liked the airheads, but don’t miss them.

          • mickey says:

            You put 100,000 miles on an R60? Now see there is someone who doesn’t care about horsepower or speed lol.

        • Bill says:

          I had a 1973 1/2 R 75/5 a.k.a. the long wheelbase model. It was stable up to 100 which was good enough for me. They can be distinguished by the extension of the swing arm by the final drive unit. This lengthened the wheelbase just enough to eliminate most handling problems. Maybe you can change swingarms and cure your handling problem. Hope this info helps some one out there.

          • todd says:

            My ’73 was LWB and the ’72 is SWB. Both handle like garbage compared to just about anything else from that era. I had Koni shocks on the LWB but that didn’t keep the frame and the forks from flexing. The front brake was excellent and very powerful on the ’73, stronger than the twin discs on my old Yamaha.

            In all, well over 200,000 miles added to old, used airheads (I’ve owned four) and all I ever had to do was adjust the points and valves and replace a stator. I don’t think I’d fare as well with a Norton.

  27. Larry Cohen says:

    Yeah! It doesn’t get any prettier than that blue beauty. Sets my heart beating. Really love that double disc up front.

  28. Cyclemotorist says:

    Manufacturers of today seem to be confused about motorcycle styling.

    I suggest they study the above picture of the blue Norton. Notice it doesn’t have a weirdly shaped unattractive headlight or cartoonish exhaust system.

    • MGNorge says:

      Norton didn’t have to deal with tightening sound and emission regs either.

      • Superlight says:

        Most of today’s bikes also have water cooling and the attendant rubber hoses and radiator to deal with. Plus, these customizers don’t have to concern themselves with regulatory issues like the distance between turn signal stalks and how far the rear fender/license holder has to extend past the rear tire like manufacturers do. Much easier to build beautiful bikes when you don’t have to meet regulations.

        • paul246 says:

          Excellent comment. Things have to be kept in perspective.

        • Bob says:

          The classic look of older British bikes will likely never be matched again. However, Triumph has done a very good job of hiding the ugliness of regulatory requirements with the new water cooled models, proving that a modern, compliant bike doesn’t have to have the origami, angry insect, Transformer look coming out of Japan. That’s purely a styling choice aimed at a market segment that wasn’t even born yet when Norton closed it’s doors.

          • mickey says:

            I agree, my brothers new wc T120 is a very good looking motorcycle. Not as light or “light looking” as the original, but it runs so much better than the originals did, doesn’t vibrate, doesn’t leak and should give him at least as many trouble free miles as his 03 T100 did (40,000 miles) before he sold it.

  29. Bob says:

    Jesus these are pretty bikes. The blue one almost makes me cry.

  30. mickey says:

    Not as perfectly proportioned as a mid 60’s Bonneville, but still a beautiful motorcycle.

  31. Curly says:

    Those are so pretty. The red one is the one I’d go for. I wonder what they could do with a Dominator 650SS?

    • MGNorge says:

      I believe the 750’s had right-foot shift. I was close to buying a 750 Roadster in ’72 but wrapping my head around that and other areas of concern held me back. Love their looks.

  32. Rusty says:

    Stunning! Just plain beautiful. Nortons are just so well proportioned and balanced. And damn sexy. I want one for my living room as well as my garage.