Café Racers come in a huge array of models and forms today, from cutting edge modern custom machines, to the more traditional classic bashers. This Norton Roadster is a remarkably British, classic machine that’s the perfect marriage between customisation and modification.
The Norton 850 Roadster (or Commando as it was also more commonly called) is a machine of legend. Being produced by Norton from 1967 until 1977, they initially had a 750cc displacement which was then boosted up to 850cc in 1973. Note: actual displacement was 745cc and 828cc, respectively. The Commando saw various upgrades and incantations over its hugely popular lifetime – with the ’Roadster’ making it’s debut in June of 1970.
And so we come back to this particular Roadster – a 1974 model, to be precise. Our mate Bruce had picked up this machine back in 1981, off a mate’s brother. From the day the bike was picked up it was destined for finer things, with a hearty dose of customisation and modification spinning in Bruce’s head. “I had only ridden the bike for a week before the motor developed some lower end noise, and so we stripped it and then rebuilt it as a 920cc.”
The bike would remain somewhat unmolested for now, with Bruce enjoying its extra bit of chutzpah until 2010 when some custom gears started turning in his head once more. This time the bike would receive an aesthetic injection of work paired with performance upgrades, making it walk the walk and talk the talk. With plenty of Café Racer builds popping up all over the globe, inspiration was rife. “Wanting to convert the bike into a complete custom café racer, I got to work completely stripping it down so that I could then rebuild it to suit.” The engine is a complete Steve Maney 1007 engine. Forge Pistons, Carillo rods, S3 Cam upgrade push rods and head work.”
This is where the marriage of customisation and modification shines in its greatest form. A machine that is created not only to look like something new, but to perform an equally different way. The 1007cc engine would certainly do that. “I changed the Carbi to a Mikuni flat side 40mm pump action system, modifying the intake manifolds to suit. The gearbox is a TT extra heavy duty 5 speed, and a primary belt drive which is a 40mm race pulley and belt kit. The front braking system is a Norman White twin disc and A.P calipers, with front forks being upgraded with improved internals. The faring, seat, and foot peg assembly is a Mick Hemmings kit. I had the alloy fuel tank handmade in Scotland which really bolsters the British racing vintage that machine shows off so well.”
“The thing I lost most about the bike is the exhaust noise, along with the combination of the torque, handling, and braking. It’s great fun for an old bike! The Norton is now famous, as I had Giacomo Agostini sign the backseat housing that I have had clear coated.”