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.
Not too long ago The GasBox were featured on these pages when their BMW R80 was 3rd in Pipeburn’s 2014 Bike of the Year Awards, so it’s fair to say they can build one hell of a bike. But pinning down owner Jesse Bassett’s style isn’t easy. Take this 1974 Norton Commando 850. It’s neither a custom Café Racer nor a Concours d’Elegance build due to the modifications; but it, like all of Jesse’s builds, are as close to perfection as you can get. The again, maybe that’s his style.
Written by Martin Hodgson.
In the modern incarnation of the Café Racer culture perhaps no motorcycle waves the flag like a Deus Yamaha SR500. So when Rob decided his had to make way for something even better he set Erik Johnson of 59 Café a hell of a task and what better way to beat a modern classic than with a true original. First he tried to persuade Erik to part ways with his own award winning Norton Commando but waiting for hell to freeze over is a very long wait, so he commissioned Erik to instead build a Commando of his own that could gleam outside his Coeur d’Alene restaurant and take him home in hand crafted ‘old school’ British style.
Written by Martin Hodgson
The Norton Commando with its Isle of Man heritage and five times Motor Cycle News “Machine of the Year” award is special enough, but this particular 1971 Fastback Special has a tale that starts with the man who rescued Norton from its British grave. Across the Atlantic Kenny Dreer was the man behind Portland based Vintage Rebuilds who salvaged the Norton name in the 1990’s and commenced work on reviving the brand to its former glory under the Norton America banner.
George Kraus from GEK Restorations tells how his dream of building the ultimate Commando that is now pictured before you first came to mind. “It was an all-night drive back from the San Jose BSA Clubman Show, about 1993 or ’94 with Kenny Dreer. The sleep deprived drive developed a drug-like effect on us two vintage crazed individuals and in our hyperactive minds, we designed the perfect “Manx Commando”. To get his hands on a Commando, George designed Kenny’s original Vintage Rebuilds and Restorations brochure in exchange for a core bike and all the parts and services at cost price.
After a chance encounter with a Featherbed framed Commando powered café racer, Canadian Jean Des Rosier’s blood started pumping again and he quickly realized he wanted to build something similar. Luckily, Jean had a few parts in storage “I had a featherbed frame, a complete front wheel including a Suzuki front drum brake, a transmission, the front forks, the rear shocks, a bit of money and lots of time” he says. Jean sent us a six page document telling us about his motorcycle history and some details about this Norton Cafe Racer project. This is the abridged version:
I had a Featherbed frame (the one from the ’68 Atlas) stashed deep in my brother’s basement in which I had plans to install an Ariel 500cc single, that project was put away when I raised my family. Even though it was almost complete, the thought of building a nice Atlas and better still an Atlas café racer was in my mind from that day on.
Many years ago Paul Zuniga from Born Again Bikes had a dream. The dream was to own one of the stunning new Norton monoshock bikes Kenny Dreer was planning to build. Unfortunately Kenny and his partners came up about $10 million short to actually produce the bikes but that didn’t stop Paul from making his dream happen. Paul had been working on British bikes for decades so he decided to build his own monoshock Norton 880 Cafe Racer. He got a lot of parts from Kenny, bought some others on ebay and haggled for the rest. He did come across some modern front forks from a Ninja 636 which he couldn’t resist and decided to merge them with the Norton chassis. Paul also eventually talked Kenny into selling the swingarm, seat, tank, side covers and tuck-in headers from the original prototype bike. The bike looks amazing and we are glad Paul realized his dream of owning a custom Norton Mono. To read the full story about the project and lots more pics visit Born Again Bikes. [Spotted on Kneeslider]
Nothing says freedom like a purple one piece. I love the opening line in this vintage Norton Commando print ad. “Freedom is when nothing inhibits your desire to move in the best possible way” (just like this one piece inhibits her ability to access the toilet quickly). But seriously, this Norton Commando was specifically tricked out for the American chopper market (check out those bars). Unfortunately and predictably it wasn’t the greatest hit. Was always going to be a tough sell convincing guys that have Harley Davidson tattoos to change bikes.
We love finding new cafe racer sites. We came across this french site called 299kmh. Although we can’t speak a word of french (except for ‘cafe’) the pictures on the site speak the universal language of love. Especially these Norton Commandos. Worth starting a war for.