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A Norton Commando 750 gets the Retrospeed treatment

1971 Norton Commando 750 classic motorcycle restored by Retrospeed
Like most folks with even a passing interest in motorcycling, we’re suckers for a good Norton. And they don’t come much better than this beauty—a 1971 Commando restomod built by Retrospeed, a workshop in the Great Lakes area.

Retrospeed has four employees and is headquartered in in the oddly named town of Belgium, near the shores of Lake Michigan. “We specialize in concours restorations of Japanese and European motorcycles,” says founder Brady Ingelse, “so this Norton was something new for us.”

1971 Norton Commando 750 classic motorcycle restored by Retrospeed
Brady is a certified motorcycle mechanic who, many years ago, rode his CB750 to Daytona Beach to undertake training at the American Motorcycle Institute.

His work is of supreme quality: as well as winning awards at concours d’elegance events, his Honda restorations have made the cover of Motorcycle Classics magazine not once, but twice.

1971 Norton Commando 750 classic motorcycle restored by Retrospeed
The Commando was a commission from a customer called Dan, who has dreamed of owning a Norton for a long time and finally got Retrospeed build him his ideal bike.

“Dan has been interested in Nortons ever since he heard one in high school. He says he’s never forgotten that Norton twin sound,” says Brady. “Throughout his life he’s owned over 30 motorcycles, but never a Norton. Finally, at 57 years young, he found his Commando!”

1971 Norton Commando 750 classic motorcycle restored by Retrospeed
The Norton was in dire need of major repair, but Dan had a much larger vision than that. He contacted the crew at Retrospeed with his ideas and expectations.

“Together, we hashed out a plan and started the build,” says Brady. “Evan Wilcox was brought in for the tank, fender and tail.”

1971 Norton Commando 750 classic motorcycle restored by Retrospeed
The Retrospeed crew approached this build as if it was a full restoration, but then customized to Dan’s specifications. “Dan wanted a ‘less is more’ approach,” says Brady, “making it look like the Commando didn’t actually have all the components it needed to operate.”

Retrospeed removed all the non-essential parts, ground off the stock rear loop, and custom-built a new loop to match the contour of Evan Wilcox’s hand-pounded aluminum tail. They also welded on rear loop support gussets and a usable kickstand lug: “Norton used a poorly designed and heinous kickstand!”

1971 Norton Commando 750 classic motorcycle restored by Retrospeed
The suspension has been upgraded without affecting the looks too much. The fork outers are original equipment, restored to factory finish with brushed aluminum that has been clear coated. But the internals now include a Lansdowne damper kit, which allows for rebound damping in one leg and compression damping in the other.

At the back, Öhlins shocks keep things planted equally well, and the refinished swingarm has extra bracing to reduce flex.

1971 Norton Commando 750 classic motorcycle restored by Retrospeed
The front and rear hubs are restored back to factory spec, but they’re now laced to Excel shouldered alloy rims via spokes and nipples from Buchanan’s. Retrospeed have also added an internal reinforcement plate to the front brakes.

With the suspension sorted, Retrospeed turned their attention to the drivetrain. Both the engine and transmission were given a full rebuild, and the motor has been treated to high compression pistons, a high lift cam, upgraded crank bearings and electronic ignition.

1971 Norton Commando 750 classic motorcycle restored by Retrospeed
It all adds to the performance, while still keeping the period correctness of the build. But Brady’s crew has stuck with the factory design for the exhaust system: “We really felt they had the correct lines the first time.”

Some of the most complex work is around the fuel tank, which is evidence of Evan Wilcox’s famed skills. “The fuel and oil tank are now one piece,” Brady explains. “Oil is kept in the left front of the tank, with fuel in the remaining area. It holds about 1.5 quarts of oil, and three gallons [about 14 liters] of gas.”

1971 Norton Commando 750 classic motorcycle restored by Retrospeed
Oil lines run from the bottom of the tank to the engine, along with an oil tank breather that vents out the back of the bike.

The gauges are stock—but restored in-house—and the wiring harness is a new, custom-made loom. Sticking to the ‘less is more’ theme, Retrospeed installed new bars with a ‘Euro’ bend close to that of an early /2 BMW, and limited the controls to a kill switch.

1971 Norton Commando 750 classic motorcycle restored by Retrospeed
The headlight is actuated via a Lucas three-position switch in the headlight bucket. The clutch and brake levers are from Tommaselli, the grips are stock Commando items, and Colorado Norton Works supplied the rearsets.

You can probably guess Dan’s reaction when he saw the completed bike. According to Brady, “He took it for a test ride, smiled, and said, ‘This was the first time I ever rode a Norton’… He loved it.”

57 years is indeed a long time, but like they say, good things come to those who wait.

Retrospeed | Facebook | Instagram | Images by Grant Schwingle

1971 Norton Commando 750 classic motorcycle restored by Retrospeed

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