Reader submittal. Big Post On A Very Cool Custom Norton by From A Great Builder!

I’ve recieved a LOT of great material form Paul zuniga (AKA:GrandPaul) in a short period of time and I’ve been so busy that it’s taken me a bit of time to get it sorted out. I’ll start out with the first bike he sent me. An outstanding custom Norton monoshocked special.

Paul Writes:

I came across your site through a link from PipeBurn.Com. I’d like to submit a couple of my Norton Monoshock projects for you to consider on your site. I have been into classic bike (especially Britbikes) for over 20 years, and have been restoring old bikes for almost 5 years now as a business; is my web address. I am a forum moderator on TriumphRat.Net & TriumphTalk.Com (classic & vintage sections), and I host my own classic, vintage, and customs forums on Delphi (links in my signature). I ride with CMA (Christian motorcyclist’s Assn.) and the BIR (Brit Iron Rebels); wierd mix, I know.

Anyway, here’s the poop on the bikes-
Blue bike:

Ever since the first time I spotted a pre-production Photoshopped picture of the proposed “New Norton” in 2001, I KNEW I had to have one. Kenny Dreer was in the process of acquiring the worldwide rights to the Norton name; he came up with the new design for a horizontally split “wet sump” engine, started building a couple of test mules, and started taking deposits for the first 100 “signature” edition bikes. My goal was to have one!

Well, I got tired of waiting for the new Norton, then heard Kenny was selling out the whole operation to some dude in Great Britain; so I contacted Kenny and made a deal to buy some of his leftover VR880 stuff. Sometimes you just end up in the right place at the right time; it turned out Kenny still had most of the 951 prototype bike, so we made a deal!

Kenny sold me several ONE-OFF components from the ORIGINAL prototype bike including the monoshock swingarm, “tight tuck” headers and carbon fiber primary; he also sold me the Blue fuel cell/gas tank, boat-tail seat & sidecovers, a set of FCR carbs, and most of the major components to build a VR880 engine including a freshly rebuilt high-end Baisley-built head & Spyke electric starter.

My plan was to take a ’75 Mark III Commando frame and adapt it to accept the Dreer monoshock swingarm; The adaptation proved to be a bit tricky, but using AutoCad, I was able to come up with a simpler shock top mount setup than the relatively complex horzontal layout that was on the original prototype bike. For the front end, I decided to go with a modern inverted fork, and was able to source a nearly new complete ZX6 front end locally. The hardest part of the build was taking a Dreer VR880 front hub and sourcing the appropriate bearings and spacers to accept a modern 1″ axle and 300mm full floating brake discs; Buchanan’s did the lacing up to the drop-center rims. I decided against using clip-on handlebars because I intended to put some miles on this bike as a regular rider, and my back can’t handle the boy-racer ergonomic position with clip-ons.

As anxious as I was by this point, I decided to install a complete running 850 e-start engine and build the VR880 lump later; I took a friend up on his offer for an engine and rear end, which I needed for the disc brake rear hub assembly. I then fabricated an electrical panel and hand-wired the bike to mate the classic charging system & lighting with the modern Sparx electronic ignition and UJM thumbswitch controls; the big-amp battery to crank the e-start is hidden under the seat’s hump. A set of Clubman racing reaset footpegs were installed, using an earlier model right-foot-shift outer tranny cover & shifter shaft. The rest of the project came together pretty quickly and the results are what you see here, my take on the “modern” Norton Commando”

Bike Specs:

Norton 850 Commando Mark III, vertical air-cooled OHV pushrod twin, dry sump
Kehin FCR 35mm flat-slide carbs mounted to 33mm intakes, matched to head
Norton 850 Mark III primary system & electric starter
OEM Norton 850 engine covers, oil pump, transmission & clutch (Sureflex clutch plates)

Norton 850 Commando Mark III frame, modified for upper monoshock mounting
Dreer Custom fabricated monoshock swingarm with “big bearing” conversion
Isolastic eng/trans mounting subframe, modified for e-start and swingarm bearings
Kawasaki 636 Fork yokes, stem turned to fit OEM Norton steering bearings
Mark III vernier isolastic mount system with Taylor top steady & Eads front steady

Wheels & axles
Excel rims (2.5” F, 3.5” R) laced with Stainless Steel spokes & nipples by Buchanan’s
Custom built rear axle & spacers for OEM Norton Mark III rear hub
Kawasaki 636 front axle with custom built bearings by Buffalo Bearings
Dreer VR880 dual disc front hub & rotor spacers, with custom built axle spacers
Metzeler Lasertech tires: 100/90×19 Front, 120/80×18 Rear

Suspension & Brakes
Front: Showa 41mm fully adjustable (compression, rebound & damping) inverted forks
Rear: KYB fully adjustable, gas charged reservoir rear monoshock
Front: Dual 4-pot Tokiko calipers, 298mm Brembo full-floating rotors, Nissin master cyl.
Rear: 2-pot Nissin caliper, lightened & drilled Norton 280mm rotor, Nissin master cyl.

Cycle Parts
Dreer VR880 matched seat/tail, fuel cell & sidecovers; in Blue with Red & White pinstriping
Dreer ONE-OFF “tuck in” exhaust headers w/ peashooter reverse cone megaphone mufflers
RK 520 chain, Drag Specialties Aero 95mm gas cap assembly, CRG bar-end mirrors
Kawasaki 636 push-pull throttle & clutch lever assembly, Doherty HD cables
OEM Norton footpegs, center stand, oil tank, kickstarter

Electrical Equipment
Sparx 12 volt, 230 watt, 3-phase alternator, Sparx 3-phase regulator/rectifier, H4 halogen headlight
Sparx magnetic trigger electronic ignition, Blue Streak dual-lead 4 ohm, 12 volt ignition coil
Kawasaki 636 handlebar mounted lighting & accessory control switches (2005 spec)
Born Again Bikes hand-wired electrical harness system
AGM heavy duty battery, Barrel-type security keyswitch

Thanx for your consideration, I’ll add a link from my website.

Proprietor of Born Again Bikes Refurbs & restorations
Host of the Vintage Bikes Forum


  1. For what it’s worth, the Silver bike is my own design “double” swingarm with Lyta aluminum tank & TL1000 front end, and the Blue Mark III with the bum-stop seat is a client build, my 3rd variation on the monoshock theme with “single/double” swingarm and ZX9 front end.

  2. Any chance of a picture of the other (drive) side of this great looking machine?

    Kind regards

    Luke Albanese

  3. Hi I have an incomplete 750 commando basket case and I would like to rebuild with a complete USD fork and brake assembly
    Any tips/advice would be most welcome

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