Monday, March 17, 2014
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.
To get the most out of the legendary Norton, George set about working in his small home workshop performing all the upgrades that Dreer had designed over the years. From the three bolt swing arm to the 30mm belt-drive and the handmade wiring harness with aircraft connectors and complete solid state electronics only the very best was added to the ’71. Custom designed and handmade rear-sets were added along with an external oil filter, machine turned and polished stainless steel hardware and machined vents in the drums.
For the Cafe Manx look ‘Roadholder’ Front Forks with full covers from the late Atlas models were installed and the wheels are Aront aluminum rims laced with Buchanan stainless steel spokes. The seat is an aftermarket design originally intended for use on a Triumph, it was split down the middle and widen to suit the Commando frame then re-molded to add the mounting hardware. So good was the result the design was used on a number of Dreer’s restorations at Vintage Rebuilds.
The tank was discovered at Fair Spares America and turned out to be an old Interpol unit complete with battery and radio trough. As it was just like the Long Range tank George desired he had a new top section designed and welded in to restore the flowing lines to non-police spec. While many may believe the paint is a factory Norton colour it is actually a Chrysler hue spotted at the Portland Auto Show complete with graphics and pinstriping by Mitch Kim. Hand-made aluminum front fender stays and license plate frame complete the clean look.
From its very early days in Birmingham to the Dreer years in America, Norton has been known for quality design and workmanship. That ethos is continued not only with the immaculate presentation that this Commando displays but affirmed by more than 23,000 miles of trouble free riding George has had at the controls since the restoration was completed.
first appeared in pipeburn.com
Monday, January 27, 2014
This pretty little thing is named 'Lucy' and she is the 15th café racer built by Hot Sake Cycles in Orlando, Florida. We were surprised we hadn't heard of them before, but that's probably because ‘they’ are actually a single guy named Shannon Hulcher who builds these professional-looking bikes in his spare time. By day he works as a biology teacher who dissects frogs to show kids how the body works. By night, he dissects motorcycles to show the rest of us how to build a café racer. "I don't have a professional shop" says Shannon. "Lucy is a culmination of skills I've been developing over the years". I wanted to build an ultra light weight bike that would be fun to ride. The whole goal was to make it as light as possible" he says. He started the build with no deadline, but then Cafemoto Orlando asked him if he could finish it for the AIM Expo. With the show only one month away, Shannon got to work.
The build started when Shannon found the perfect donor bike – a stock standard but running CB550K. He started by stripping the bike down, and like most café racers, removed everything that wasn't needed. The frame was modified, detabbed and a rear hoop was fabricated.
The stock 550cc SOHC inline four engine was reconditioned and then tuned. The stock carbs were replaced with performance Keihin 26mm units. The standard pipes have been swapped with 4-into-1 ceramic coated witha stainless shorty muffler that gives the bike a nicer look and a much better bark.
The original CB550 tank has been traded for a Legendary Motorcycles Lyta Sprint tank. To match the lines Shannon hand made a fiberglass seat that sits perfectly with the tank. He also made some special features that aren't as obvious as the tank and seat. "My favorite piece is the one no one ever sees" says Shannon. "The carbon fiber battery tray. I was charging the battery in my GSXR when I got the idea – plastic battery trays weigh less."
For a smoother ride, the old shocks have been ditched for 13.5” remote reservoir alloy shocks. As for the front and rear wheels, Shannon chose Lester mags – 19" X 2.15 on the front and 18" on the back. And the front and rear fenders have been custom made from carbon fibre to make them as light as possible. The headlight is a 7" light from our friends at Dime City Cycles and the tail light is an LED unit.
Shannon struggled to complete the build in a month, with a young family and only working on it part time he was lucky to finish it in time for the show. He was actually still working on the bike at 2am the morning before. "Building the bike was a blur" says Shannon. "I guess that's what happens when you build a bike in a month and you have a day job. But the response to the bike has been overwhelming."