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1973 Norton Commando 750
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Keith Marchant's Commando started life as Roadster. But it didn't stay that way for long...

Back in the long-hot summer of 1976, Keith Marchant bought himself a 1973 750cc Commando Roadster. Not that he wanted a Roadster, oh no. He actually wanted a fully-faired JPN replica - mainly because he'd happened across a twin-headlamp fairing and needed an appropriate bike to fit it to.

Flares! 1973 Norton Commando 750 - with John Player Norton replica fairing

Still, in the first photo you see here, then Commando is a relatively unscathed example, still looking pretty much like a Roadster. Within weeks, however, it had developed a JPN persona and carried Keith and his wife-to-be Yvonne off to the Isle of Wight for their holidays. Brr; she'll get chilly riding like that.

Toes! The Isle of Wight - *before* global warming...

However, despite being the bike's raison d'etre, the Great White Whale phase didn't last for long. Keith started hankering after exactly the opposite look, a stripped-back flat-track kinda thing. So before long the Commando had transformed into a lean machine fitted with S-type pipes and chopper pots. 'It didn't last long' says Keith. 'It sounded horrible and was impractical for riding two-up.'

Brown! 1973 Norton Commando 750 - with Campbell two-into-one pipe

So the next stage involved a Campbell two-into-one pipe, and then Keith went on a 'less is more' campaign. 'The aim was to achieve a completely empty space between the engine and rear wheel' he explains. So you can see the Commando in its 1982 guise, pictured on the Isle of Man for TT week. 'The petrol tank didn't hold much fuel' says Keith, 'and it had a tendency to run dry if going uphill when low on petrol. So the picture shows me getting an emergency re-fill from the chap on the left - that's Martin Abbot who was the workshop manager for Colin Seeley at the time. And that's a Seeley tank he's holding!


'Martin was unbeatable when it came to working on bikes and diagnosing problems. It's fair to say that the Norton would not have got to the TT had it not been for Mar's ability to solve an ongoing ignition system bug on the night before we left…'


The life intervened for a while and the Roadster went into storage. So the next we see of it, two decades have passed. It's still wearing a little headlight and a Hi-rider petrol tank but otherwise looks rather more conventional as it goes off for a shake-down spin after being recommissioned. The chap on the back is young Fraser Marchant, taking his first motor-cycle ride.

Commando stuff on

And so to today. The rebuild is complete and the Commando looks just like a Roadster again. However, the final hurdle - re-registering the bike - proved to be nearly impossible to achieve, and you'll be able to read all about that in the December 07 issue of the magazine

Gleam! 1973 Norton Commando 750 - with Hi-Rider tank and small headlight


More Nortons on


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