The 1972 Norton Commando 750 story. One man’s love affair with this iconic British brand.
This year mono motorcycles have had the pleasure of working on some fantastic classic motorcycles. The 1972 Norton Commando 750 was in the workshop for some extensive repairs. Here is the story of the Norton Commando 750 & her long term owner Hugh C.
Hugh bought the Norton Commando 750 in 1972 & she has been an integral part of his life ever since. Daniel & Katy met Hugh at The Emsworth Show 2018 & Hugh’s exact words were “I bet you can’t fix my Norton” Never one to shy away from a challenge, Daniel invited Hugh to the workshop & he arrived with a box!Inside the box was an Alton E-kit & something that resembled a Catherine Wheel firework, after it had been set off. This was the burnt-out Stator from the E-kit.
Mono motorcycles were tasked with sourcing the components to replace the stator & Starter motor from the Alton E-kit. You cannot purchase the parts separately in the UK. Therefore, after some back & forth emails to Alton, we managed to import the parts on Hugh’s behalf.
Once the Norton was in the workshop, Daniel was able to assess the issues. We were tasked with replacing the clutch, in addition to the electronic components. Once the new clutch was in place, Daniel noted that the clutch plates would catch rather than run smoothly through their cycle. Upon investigation, it was discovered that the clutch hub had been badly damaged & needed replacing. Daniel sourced a pattern part, as these items are no longer manufactured.
Once the clutch was assembled & the new stator & starter motor in place, it was time to turn her over. Despite a new woodruff key having been fitted, something was not right. It was under investigation that Daniel found that the flywheel magnet was missing & was therefore not charging. Another call in to Alton &within a few days a new uprated magnet was procured.
The Norton was with us for a while due to sourcing parts & subsequently finding more parts were needed in the interim & in this time, we formed a great affection for the motorcycle. The story of the Norton Commando 750 & the man who owns her is a real testament to how a motorcycle can become an integral part of a life,much like a part of the family.
You take care of a long-term motorcycle, protect it & nurture it & in return you have a machine which brings you to life every time you ride it, makes you cross when it does something daft & you revel in every single second of every single adventure you have together. Hugh has owned the Norton for 46 years & we asked him to tell us a few stories from their time together.
“I bought my Norton Commando at the age of 22. I had had my eye on her for a year & was eventually able to buy her with an annuity left to me by an aunt. The Norton cost me £600 including tax & a pair of boots; about the same price as I could’ve bought a new mini for at that time! I was entitled to a service after the first thousand miles. I completed this in seven days.
Later that year I set off with a girl &camping gear on the back heading for the Munich Olympic Games.
My only spares were cables which were taped on to the others ready to exchange. During that over 3000 mile holiday, I only needed to put in one new clutch cable.
I travelled through France, Germany, Lichtenstein & Italy & climbed over Saint Bernadino’s pass ( which caused some breathing problems for the Norton at the time) ! Back in the day, riding the Norton you felt like you were Lord of all you surveyed.
I had a few adventures on the way. For example, I came into a campsite in Italy late one night & it was very stormy & almost completely black. So, I put the tent up using my trusty lump hammer, hammering pegs into very hard ground.During the night I heard people having to re-pitch tents all around me in the pouring rain, I lay there feeling pretty smug that I didn’t feel the need to.
However,in the morning the truth became known. As I woke up somebody was hooting a horn. I crawled out of the tent & found a car wanting to pass. In the near dark of the previous evening, I had managed to pitch the tent on the road!
The Norton was not without her problems during our time together. The big end bearing went & were thankfully replaced under warranty by Super Blend Bearings. At one stage the Norton was kicking out smoke.Upon investigation, I found that the bore of the cylinders had gone oval!
For a number of years I used to regularly travel from Portsmouth to Lowestoft. It was pretty cold in winter & you had to immerse your hands & feet in cold water not hot upon arrival, or it was exceedingly painful. The longest trip I took in one day was over 400 miles from Lowestoft to Foil in Cornwall. The ride took eight hours including breaks &was pretty tiring. I slept for 12 hours that night.
Of course you always want to see how fast a motorcycle will go, being young & stupid. I took the Norton up to 115, but with no fairing & an open face helmet, I couldn’t hold on to the bike at that speed and so that was the fastest it ever went.
Back in the early 1970s if you travelled at high speed, nobody much overtook you & if you found a Rocket Three or a Trident & had a burn with it, you felt like gods!
There were even a couple of police riders in the NOC (Norton Owners Club) who would give you a burn if there wasn’t much on the road, but woe betide you if you went over the limit outside a school etc.
I’ve ridden many tours on the Norton,particularly up to the north west coast of Scotland & a couple in Ireland. Apart from punctures both front & rear, which I mended by the side of the road, I’ve only been stranded twice that I remember. Once when I lost the spring clip from the drive chain & once in Edinburgh when I eventually found the electronic ignition box gave up the ghost.
Of all the many adventures & stories to tell, one of the ones which makes me chuckle revolves around a pal who often rode pillion. I remember stopping at traffic lights in Petworth one day & as he often put his foot down, I didn’t bother. As we pulled away I thanked him for holding the bike.He said ‘I didn’t put my foot down, didn’t you?” I imagine that looked pretty alarming from behind!
The Norton has been a big part of my life & I hope to be still riding it in 2022, 50 years after buying it.”
For all your motorcycling needs please contact Daniel or Katy on T: 01243 576212 / 07899 654446 of through our contact page.