Period Incorrect: A Norley café racer with a vintage Ironhead motor

Norley café racer with a Harley Ironhead Sportster engine
Ben Schmitt’s name first appeared on these pages three years ago, when the legendary NYC Norton built him a Norton Commando race bike out of a ratty donor that had been bought from a Tina Turner impersonator (true story). But Ben’s love affair with motorcycles goes way further back than that.

“I started with minibikes at the age of nine—and at 64, I’m still doing it,” Ben tells us. Working as a lawyer in Kansas City, Missouri, he still finds plenty of time for motorcycles. He currently owns around 100 bikes, races with NYC Norton’s Kenny Cummings, and has recently started importing exotic two-strokes from Japan.

Norley café racer with a Harley Ironhead Sportster engine
Ben found the bones of this alluring Norley café racer while trawling Facebook Marketplace. “A buddy of mine, Dennis Graham, was over, and we had just finished another project,” he explains. “We were a few beers in, and I showed him the project and asked if he was ready for another one.”

“He agreed. Dennis is extremely talented and meticulous—he did virtually all of the work on the bike.”

Norley café racer with a Harley Ironhead Sportster engine
As luck would have it, the bike was in Los Angeles while Ben was racing at the Barber Motorsports Park. So he drove over to pick it up. Some of the parts were already bolted in place, but ultimately the bike had to be stripped down to its nuts and bolts before Dennis could properly get started.

If you haven’t figured it out yet, a Norley is the combination of a Norton and a Harley. In this case, the donor bike featured a replica 1968 Norton Featherbed Wideline frame, which, although from an unknown manufacturer, Ben credits as an “extremely nice copy.” The engine and a few other select parts came from a 1974 Harley-Davidson Ironhead Sportster.

Norley café racer with a Harley Ironhead Sportster engine
“I always liked the stock Borrani rims, so we kept everything the same there,” says Ben. “The swingarm, forks, and gauges are all Ironhead Sportster parts, and the shocks are Öhlins.”

The old Ironhead mill turned out to be a peach too. Ben and Dennis cracked it open, only to discover that it had already been rebuilt. So they put it back together and added an S&S Cycle Super E carb; “It runs like a top,” Ben confirms.

Norley café racer with a Harley Ironhead Sportster engine
With the rolling chassis sorted, Ben started hunting for suitable bodywork. Tab II Classics came through with an alloy seat unit and rear fender. Lower down, an alloy oil tank is tucked away between a pair of race-style number boards.

The perfectly sculpted fiberglass fuel tank looks like it was custom-made for this build, but it’s actually an eBay find. The guys simply had to move the fuel tap to accommodate the frame and motor.

Norley café racer with a Harley Ironhead Sportster engine
The front fender comes from a stock 1981 Sporty, and the bikini fairing from a 1977 Harley-Davidson XLCR. (Yes, it’s an actual XLCR part—not a copy.)

Chris Cofield at CC Custom Graphics treated the Norley to an immaculate gloss black paint job, augmented with tasteful pin-striping and hand-lettered logos. Ben kept the overall theme timeless, with black powder-coating for the frame, and alternating black, polished, and raw finishes for everything else.

Norley café racer with a Harley Ironhead Sportster engine
The final details include a side-mounted taillight and license plate bracket, new clip-ons and rear-sets, and an obnoxiously short pair of ceramic-coated exhausts. “I’m not sure if you are familiar with this exhaust design,” Ben quips. “They are called LAF (Loud As F**k) pipes… and they live up to the name.”

He goes on to sum his Norley café racer up in just four words; “Fun bike, gets attention.” That sounds like a win to us.

Images by Mark V. Bodine

Norley café racer with a Harley Ironhead Sportster engine

SHARE THIS ARTICLE
24 Shares
READ NEXT