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 Commando 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.”