Norton SS880 Sport Scrambler

Norton Commando by Kenny Dreer
If you’ve ridden just about every motorcycle ever built, you’re going to be pretty selective when it comes to your own ride. In the case of former Cycle World editor David Edwards, that motorcycle is a custom Norton built by Kenny Dreer.

Edwards recently got his Norton back after some fettling. “After ten years of use, it needed some detail tidying up,” he says. “It’s a unique bike in that it was one of the first VR880s that Dreer worked on, and also one of the last.” Work started in 1999 after Cycle World did a story on Dreer, who was turning out ultra-clean hot-rodded Commandos from his Portland, Oregon, workshop. (According to Edwards, said workshop was “actually half of a drafty barn shared with goats and an old mare.”) Rather than commission one of Dreer’s preferred cafe jobs, Edwards commissioned what he calls an SS880 Sport Scrambler. “This followed what some Nortonians call an ‘Interback’ formula,” Edwards explains, “with an Interstate gas tank and Fastback seat section, but adding the zoomy up-pipes from the S model.”

All went well for a few years until a blown base gasket (the 880 pumps out about 50% more power than a stocker) forced a return to Dreer’s shop. There it got all the mod-cons that have become available since the original build: an electric starter, Marzocchi forks, a box-section swingarm and Auto Meter instruments.

Dreer’s profile has been on the rise again with the introduction of the ‘new’ Commando in the U.K., which Edwards describes as “basically a productionized version of Dreer’s 961. Who knows how far that project will go? Me, I wonder what might have happened if Kenny had stuck to perfecting the VR880 instead of designing a whole new Norton.”

Nikon D90 | 1/500s | f/5.6 | ISO 280 | Focal length 200mm | Lens 18-200mm f/3.5-5.6

Norton Commando by Kenny Dreer
Norton Commando by Kenny Dreer

  • akatsuki

    I’d have liked them to commit to the rotary engine. Why just sportbikes and not cafe racers? What does the rotary look like under that plastic anyway?

  • josh

    Wow. I’m a softie for scramblers. always loved those pipes. Nice wide walled rims too. Akront?

  • NoH2Oh

    Nice bike. Miss ya Mr. Edwards…

  • Tony E

    I don’t know if high pipes are sufficient to call something a scrambler, but I’ll play along. No real complaints. Looks like a nice rider. I’m sure the Marzocchi’s are better than stock, but feel they look skinny & odd on a Commando.

  • jess e

    does anyone else think the sidecovers look a tad wonky?
    seems to fight the line.
    but nitpicky… considering. sublime

  • David Edwards

    Thanks all for the comments. Akatsuki, rotary motors are big lumps, pretty uninspiring to look at, they run hot and have no engine braking on decel. Not a great motorcycle engine. Josh, rims are modern copies of shouldered Akronts built to better tolerances. Tony, my Norton originally had stock forks with Honda CBR600 cartridge dampers, but the Marzocchis work better. NoH2Oh, nice to be missed, appreciate that.

    Best,
    David

  • Astro

    That rear guard is the Barbara Streisand of rear guards.
    While looking at the pictures if you hold your thumb over the rear guard it looks fantastic, side covers and all.

  • mule

    I think this bike has one of the all time greatest tank designs! And the paint makes it look even better. A gold Norton logo on a black background is one of the great classic looks. High pipes? Awesome! A “Scrambler”? Who cares. It NEEDS these pipes!

    The shiny forks a problem? What? This bike looks great from end to end. The only way I can think of to improve on this would be to stick the motor in a Seely chassis and give it the same paintjob. But thats just me.

  • 68 Commando

    Astro, thats called a Fastback, thats what all Commandos had when they first came out in 1968, including mine! David, the bike looks great, wish the New Norton’s looked like this! Now, if I can just pry that Interpol tank off a friend of mine, my 68 could look close to as nice as yours!

  • DE

    I think Babs is kinda hot…

  • tedmen

    Definiltely agree about wishing the new Nortons looked more like the old Nortons. The new ones look too much like Japanese superbikes, yech! Note to Norton: keep the engine, get rid of the funky design.