1975 Norton Commando 850cc MKIII Prototype Replica

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Lot 202
1975 Norton Commando 850cc MKIII Prototype Replica

US$ 12,000 - 14,000
£ 9,800 - 11,000
Amended
1975 Norton Commando 850cc MKIII Prototype Replica
· Upgrade inspired by 'Norton 76' prototype
· Suzuki cast wheels and brake rotors
· Honda CBX front brake calipers
· Two-tone Corbin solo seat

More than any other Britbike, Nortons are fettled and tinkered with, hopped-up and modified, brought up to date and freely customized. Part of this has to do with the Commando's engine-mount arrangement, a system of rubber biscuits that lets the motor rumble about at idle but squashes vibes at speed. Besides packing an extra 100cc-plus, Nortons were (and are) more rideable than BSA and Triumph 650s, which did nothing to insulate operators from the buzz of their parallel-twin engine designs.

Norton's sporting twin first saw light in the Dominator 500 of the late postwar 1940s, growing in popularity and displacement through the Commando 850 of the mid-1970s. With each bump in engine size came additional vibration, the tingles familiar to every Featherbed owner. Norton's innovative rubber-mount Isolastic frame, designed by former Rolls-Royce engineer Stefan Bauer, prolonged the life of the Commando, launched in 1968 to instant acclaim and voted the U.K.'s 'Machine of the Year' for the next five years. By 1975, the Commando was a reliable and well-liked roadster, now with electric starting, rear disc brake and left-side gearchange, bringing it in line with other bike-makers.

Unfortunately, Norton—along with the rest of the British motorcycle industry—was in choppy financial straits by this time, made even more dire when the government withdrew its subsidies. An updated Commando, the 'Norton 76', was then in the pipeline, with cast wheels, twin front disc brakes, Italian forks, reshaped bodywork and seat, and cleaned-up graphics. It was a handsome prototype that no doubt would have found a ready audience in production, but the 76 project died when the company went in receivership.

A photograph of that lone prototype was the inspiration for this Commando MkIII special. The owner is a talented fabricator and started with a low-mileage '75 Roadster he acquired in a storage-lien sale. Cast wheels and the brakes from a Suzuki GS1000E immediately added a more modern feel—the rear setup alone saved some 15lb. over stock! Brake calipers are Hurst-Airheart at the rear, activated by a Suzuki sportbike master cylinder, while at the front twin Honda CBX calipers were fitted after first welding bosses onto the Norton fork sliders. Aftermarket shocks 1in. longer than stock handle suspension duties out back. Interstate-style mufflers were fitted.

Not trying to craft an exact replica of the black-and-gold prototype, the owner went with a red paint job to match the Corbin solo saddle he already had on hand, but did employ the 76's block-style graphics over the traditional script Norton logo. Combined with the cushy seat, mildly rearset footpegs on custom alloy carriers provide a naturally sporty riding position. Besides being more comfortable and better braked than stock, the owner advises us that his prototype-inspired Commando 850 "goes like gangbusters."

Footnotes

  • As with all Lots in the Sale, this Lot is sold 'as is/where is' and Bidders must satisfy themselves as to the provenance, condition, age, completeness and originality prior to bidding.

Saleroom notices

  • The frame number is 327298. The engine number is 327298. Please note, the title will be in transit.
Contacts
1975 Norton Commando 850cc MKIII Prototype Replica
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