It’s almost forbidden to crack into a custom build on a vintage bike. But despite the taboo, very few stories are as captivating as the resurrection of a forgotten classic. Meet the 1950 Norton Dominator, a bike that went from being an overlooked rusty relic to a stunning custom creation. Jesse Bassett from The Gasbox in Cleveland, Ohio, took the helm of this remarkable transformation, and the result is nothing short of spectacular.
A Hidden Gem Discovered
The journey of this Norton Dominator began when a friend tipped off Jesse about a treasure trove of Norton Commando parts hidden away in a barn. An hour’s drive from Cleveland led them to a barn filled with British motorcycle parts and bikes, haphazardly tossed aside over the years. The owner mentioned an old Dominator engine, dismissing it as a “rusty thing.” However, Jesse’s determination paid off, as he unearthed the complete drive train still bolted into a cradle. It was the kind of find that sends chills down the spine of any motorcycle enthusiast.
The Gasbox and Inspiration
With the dusty Dominator in tow, Jesse, a masterful bike builder from The Gasbox, embarked on a journey to breathe new life into this classic machine. Inspiration struck from a previous build, a 1965 BSA Lightning project that Jesse had successfully undertaken. Eager to replicate the magic, Jesse’s creative gears began to turn as he considered using the Norton parts acquired years ago.
A Frame with a Twist of History
Jesse’s vision for the Dominator involved fabricating a new rigid frame, reminiscent of Norton ES2 frames but with custom geometry to provide a better fit for the rider. In a delightful twist, Jesse discovered that rigid-framed Model 7 Dommies were unique to Australia, making it even more special knowing that the bike would eventually find its home there.
Girder-Type Forks and Classic British Styling
The heart of the build extended to the fabrication of girder-type forks, paying homage to the original Webb design while incorporating modern updates like bearing styles and material thicknesses. Staying true to classic British styling, Jesse opted for a 19-inch rear wheel and a 21-inch front one, accentuated with high-shouldered alloy rims and striking black centers with a vermillion stripe. The rear brake retained its stock Norton form, while the front borrowed a Triumph Thunderbird’s brake.
Hand-Fabricated Bodywork and Polished Performance
The bodywork of this beauty was hand-fabricated from steel sheets, but Jesse retained the charm of the original oil and gas filler caps. The exhaust was crafted from stainless steel, embodying simplicity and elegance.
Under the hood, the crank and barrels were meticulously machined and balanced. Larger valves were installed in the head, and the ports were enlarged for improved breathing. The original cam received a performance-oriented regrind, and a brand-new Amal carb was fitted. To match the sparkling performance, Jesse polished the engine cases and aluminum parts, while the cast iron heads and cylinders underwent nickel-plating.
Preserving History with Electrics
Preservation of history was a theme throughout the project. Magneto specialist Skip Brolund rebuilt the generator and the original BTH magneto. Vintage lighting, sans LEDs or mini-blinkers, runs off a Lucas 6-volt system. A single restored Smiths gauge received a gentle cleaning, respecting its historical character.
A Subtle Power Boost
The motor received a subtle but meaningful upgrade. The original 500cc displacement simply wasn’t enough, so Jesse sourced a 600cc cylinder and crank—a task that led him to the Norton Owners Club in England.
The culmination of Jesse’s dedication and expertise resulted in a magnificent Norton Dominator, which took second place in the Custom/Modified class at the 2015 Quail Motorcycle Gathering in Carmel, California.
In the end, this Norton Dominator’s journey from rust to glory is a testament to the enduring allure of classic motorcycles and the skilled hands of passionate builders. It’s a reminder that even a forgotten relic can be resurrected, breathing new life into history and thrilling the hearts of riders for generations to come.