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‘74 Norton Commando – The GasBox

Posted on January 28, 2017 by Andrew in Café Racer, Classic, Racer. 22 comments

Written by Marlon Slack.

Cleveland’s The GasBox have a distinctive style of build. They’re quiet and understated and usually built around a classic vintage motorcycle. They make simple, textured machines you not only want to look at but touch, like a fluffy cat or that type of redhead that doesn’t have freckles. This time around they’ve produced another veteran motorcycle, a 1974 Norton Commando that’s certain to please both the custom bike crowd and bed-wetting, rivet-counting British bike aficionados.

This balanced style of motorcycle build is a staple of GasBox, with the small shop declaring it part of their ‘Urban Commuter’ range. They’ve built a few before. It’s a style of bike that’s functional and reliable and doesn’t scream ‘custom’ at you like some of the Tourette’s inspired competition. There’s no radical seating position or lairy paint scheme. It’s designed to be ridden. It’s designed to look a just a little removed from stock.

Now this ‘74 Norton Commando definitely wasn’t stock when The GasBox first came across it. It was actually in pieces – the engine was a busted-ass old relic bought in crate while the frame was hauled away from a swap meet. That combination sat around the shop for a while before Jesse Basset, head of GasBox, received a call from a client south of the border in Mexico, a gentleman by the name of Oscar Peralta who runs Harley Davidson and AfterCycles in Queretaro.

GasBox set about working their magic on the old English strumpet, beginning with the frame. ‘We started by taking an inch out of the rear of the frame loop and fabricating a steel tail section,’ Jesse says. ‘Then Ginger at New church Moto made the lines of the leather seat flow into the stock Commando tank.’

There’s a surprising amount of work going into a bike that looks this good without making it scream ‘custom’. The suspension set up is a prime example of this. At the rear the bike runs Progressive shocks, controlling an 18” rim and original Commando hub. The front end is trickier, running a set of Suzuki GT750 water buffalo forks mated to a 4 leading shoe drum. It’s all held together by a tidy set of billet triple clamps from NYC Norton.

“Speedo and tacho readouts are supplied by a pair of Smith’s gauges, providing one of the prettiest cockpit views you’re likely to see outside of a Spitfire.”

Above the tree, the speedo and tacho readouts are supplied by a pair of digital Smith’s ‘Euro Face’ gauges, providing one of the prettiest cockpit views you’re likely to see outside of a Spitfire. The blue and gold livery is a riff on an old Porsche model and the bodywork sits atop a nicely subdued collection of brushed metal accents.

We like big butts

Down underneath, the 829cc parallel twin remains close to stock. The motor and transmission were rebuilt to standard specifications, but now feed from a pair of JS Motorsports Keihin CR carburettors, ensuring much better running than the original Amals.

Now ‘close to stock’ won’t do when it comes to charging systems for any old British motorcycles, which are famed for running the Lucas ‘Prince of Darkness’ electronic systems. This Commando has been updated with a Boyer ignition and Sparx charging system. The lighting is now LED with integrated running lights, brake lights and turn signals all built into the single units.

A 1974 engine that looks about 24 hours old

We bow down

The GasBox’s custom is a gorgeous twist on the old 850 Commando, which it has to be said is no ugly duckling in standard trim. However the team have once again worked its edges slightly, it’s been nipped and tucked and gently massaged it into a Norton that can impress everyone, hand-wringing British bike fanboys included.

[The GasBox: Web – Facebook – Instagram | Photos by Mikey Arnold]

  • bill smith

    Vintage yet upgraded with elegance. Very clean, tidy and perfect attention to detail.

  • Jester the Clown

    I rather like this.
    Understated and classic in a pleasantly quiet sort of way.
    The only thing that lets it down for me is that seat, or rather the tailpiece behind it.
    I keep visualising the bike fitted with tail originally fitted to the 750 Fastback Commandos, although, thankfully, without the “Combat” motor.

    • BobFalfa

      Yes the Fastback rearend, In fact a Fastback with Dunstall pipes and twin discs,in yellow would do just fine,

  • guvnor67

    “….. Or that type of redhead that doesn’t have freckles”! Classic !!! Anyway, this bike is excellent, another inspired build by The Gasbox. They have a gift for customizing that doesn’t take away the spirit or class of the original machine. Every bike they build has a quality about it that you know will give you a thousand smiles per hour!

  • AB

    “or that type of redhead that doesn’t have freckles” bawahaha possibly statement of the year.

    Can’t go wrong with a old Norton – nice build.

  • Herminio Caesar Mercado


  • Duke Fan

    At first I thought the color was awful but seeing the brushed aluminum or vapor blasted aluminum?? I think it would be perfect if it had a black seat!!!

  • Neil_TonUp

    Mikey Arnold’s photographs are wonderful. Spokes, drum brakes fore & aft, kick starter, solo seat, parallel twin … aaaahhhh. And a CENTER STAND! The gentleman onboard looks immaculately comfortable and ready to go anywhere at any time and be the envy of everyone.

    • Photos rock, don’t they?

      • Dave Coetzee

        They sure do but I was even more impressed with written article!

  • Stephen Heath

    Very neat, understated and unpretentious. Well done GasBox !!

  • Well done GasBox, a very well executed bike, clean, simple and unpretentious !

  • Don Arnold

    My only Britbike was a last year Commando, the only bike I rode without a toolkit. No problems at all. Nice to see the first bend in the exhaust increased a bit so no second bend needed. So fine, so subtle, did you see what they did there? Your basic Seatloop Siren, but with Gasbox sensibilty. Home Run.

  • Don Arnold

    “Tourettes’ Syndrome competion” Hee Hee, exactly, it’s what I’ve been trying to say about the competition.

  • Peter

    A very nice commando.I realy like the seat and the colour.Nice lether work. And the fact that the frame is not chopped is just great.But something is bothering me. I dont like these carburators and i dont like the welding on the the exhaust. The fork is nice but it cant beat the look of a roadholder.
    I d love to see a better picture of the rearsets and the taillight.
    Overall great work, nice bike and great pictures.

  • John Raine

    They need to hire a decent TIG welder.The exhaust pipes although beautifully shaped,the welds aren’t up to the build quality of the rest of the bike

  • The lines flow beautifully on this bike back to front. Front to back.

  • Woodie

    Stunning, subtle, stylish and other words beginning with ‘S’ but I keep looking at it and something bugs me. Finally it clicked, the rear hoop doesn’t follow the line of the base of the tank giving it a slight broken back look. it’s tiny in the greater scheme of a brilliant and beautiful bike but it kept nagging at me… I am now preparing to be lambasted by all much better designers and builders,.