The Handbuilt Motorcycle show rocked Austin, Texas earlier this month. As the name implies, the show was filled to the brim with custom motorcycles—including this show-stopping Norton Commando 750 from Fuller Moto.
Fuller Moto is an Atlanta, Georgia-based shop run by Bryan Fuller. When Bryan’s not presenting Velocity’s Naked Speed, he builds one-off hot rods and motorcycles.
As builders go, he’s pretty versatile. The last Fuller build we featured was a raw, retro-futuristic Ducati Scrambler—a stark contrast to the clean, immaculately-finished Norton we’re looking at here.
Kyle Frey is the owner of this Norton, nicknamed ‘Misty Green.’ Once a resident of New York and part of the hustle of the Financial District, Kyle decided to leave the city behind—choosing a life in the Texas hill country in the aftermath of 9/11.
“Fred had come across this Norton as a matching numbers unit, with a frame and four milk crates full of parts. But it’d been sitting for years. The spokes were junk and the kicker was stripped, so it was unusable.”
When the Fuller team began stripping down the bike, they found a solid piece of two-inch round stock holding the frame backbone together. It was no doubt a fix for the famously flexible frame of the 1968 Commando—so Fuller built a brand new cromoly frame from scratch.
The Commando uses an oil-carrying frame, so the process wasn’t without its challenges. The tail section bodywork hides a small reserve tank (as well as the battery and regulator), with lines running from the frame to the oil pump. And there’s an ingenious new crankcase venting system, with a vent tube hidden inside the frame downtube. It exits to a hidden slot in front of the steering neck.
One of the goals of the project was weight saving. At 464 pounds or so, the Commando is not too heavy—but it only has 58 hp to push it around in stock form. So Bryan swapped the heavy forks out for a much lighter (and shortened) CB550 setup. NYC Norton supplied new, custom-drilled triple trees to hold the CB forks.
A set of dirtbike hubs found at a swap meet went to Buchanan’s, where they were laced to aluminum rims—19” at the front and 18” at the back. The swingarm was lengthened two inches, with a new righthand side designed to accommodate the new rear wheel. The all-new brakes are from Beringer and the shocks are from Fox.
While the suspension was being fettled, the engine was rebuilt by Beno Rodi, an English bike expert. “He’s in his 70s, and still enters a hundred motorcycle races a year,” says Bryan.
“He knows these old Nortons inside out, and has a stash of old and new parts to fill the gaps where necessary. The motor wasn’t in too bad a shape, so Beno did a basic ring, hone, valve and port job.”
Beno also gave the transmission a good once over, and installed a new open primary drive kit and clutch. “It works really smooth—light to the touch, and doesn’t slip.”
Bryan Heidt (AKA ‘Super B’) cut the original drive cover to leave the system exposed, while still offering a little protection for the stator (and Kyle’s foot). Most of the fasteners on the bike were replaced with ARP 12-point, stainless steel units.
He started by making a buck, in a shape reminiscent of the old Manx racers, but more streamlined. The bodywork was then beaten, English-wheeled and hammered out of alloy, before the tops and sides were rolled and finished. The windshield is a trimmed reproduction Ducati ‘double bubble’ item.
An old English lantern was cut up to make the head and tail lights. “It sounded like a good idea,” says Bryan wryly. “But the vibration from the parallel twin broke both glasses.” They started over, but this time the hot H4 bulb threatened to melt everything. Switching to LEDs ultimately solved the problem.
With the finish line in sight, Wes Hines (Fuller Moto’s ‘mechanical whizz kid’) and Super B assembled all the mechanical components, while Bryan planned the graphics.
The rims and Beringer brakes were anodized red out of the box. As beautiful as they looked, they didn’t match Kyle and Bryan’s vision for the Commando. “We just felt like Norton Green was called for.” So the wheels were stripped and re-coated; the rims went green, and the brakes were anodized satin black.
The bodywork was polished before being painted by Atlanta-based Joe Patterson. Chastin Brand then handled pinstriping duties, adding highlights matching the green on the Smiths rev counter. John Whitaker crafted the leather for the seat, tank and tail.
All that was left to do was give the Norton a decent shakedown. So Bryan spent a month riding it back and forth to work and around town. “She starts first kick nearly every time and hits with a rumble out of the Cone Engineering stainless steel mufflers. The Beringers stop perfectly, the clutch is smooth, it sounds good, the seat is comfortable… proud papa!”
The whole project took the Fuller crew a couple of years to complete—but the ‘Misty Green’ moniker was only chosen at the very last minute. Bryan picked it when he joined ace photographer Matthew Jones in the misty Georgia countryside early one morning, to shoot the bike before it was shipped off to the show.
A new dawn for an old classic—just the kind of build we like around these parts.