Gryphon & Butterfly


All about Philip
   Games I worked on
   My Miata
   My Norton

All about Gryphons

The Gallery station

Cool Links

Stormdancer's Norton
Norton 750 Commando, in the weeds

The restoration of a classic

Though the pictures don't look like it, this is a much loved old bike. My 1973 750 Norton Commando Interstate. Bought (already well-used) about 20 years ago from a friend going into the military, I just loved riding this beast. And it loved to be ridden, only giving me enough trouble to remind me of what a good thing it was. Yeah, it was a total rat bike, but I loved it. I re-did the horrid vestigial wiring to something far superior to the original Lucas (Prince of Darkness) electricals, which had a lot to do with making it a dependable ride.

Norton from the frontThen I moved to Austin... a city where the cage drivers seem to go out of their way to make a biker's life miserable and terribly unsafe, and I stopped riding. Years went by, and the bike sat in storage at my parents' place in nearby Leander. Covered, but still exposed to the humidity of course. I'd kick it over every now and then, when I went to visit, but a few years of being unridden made it unrideable.

And then another move, to New Mexico. The bike followed with... at least it's a dryer climate! But by now the engine had siezed. That's where these top two pictures are from. I started seriously considering doing a rebuild, and began to realize I just didn't have the time, space, tools or patience anymore. Time for a professional. Old Norton advertising sign

So after almost 15 years of rotting, the great beast was dragged through about a foot of snow (which was an incredible amount of work!), man-and-woman-handled up into the bed of our pickup (the trailer was too buried in snow to use), and taken in to Southwest Cycles in Albuquerque. They seem like a really good shop, and the owner rides a Norton, which is very promising!

So... the restoration saga begins. We'll be paying on this for a while, and they'll be working on it for a while. And for the duration, I'll try and remember to grab a few pictures of the progress when we go over to give them still more money. *grin*

Feb 3rd 2001

And now, the saga begins! The bike's stripped down a little bit, that wretched seat and plastic tank gone, and some other little bits. But no real progress on the actual rebuild yet. Carl says there'll probably be more obvious progress next time we visit, in two weeks.

April 1st 2001

*sigh* No progress yet. Although they did say it would probably be fall before the bike was ready, it's really tough watching the weeks go by with nothing happening! However, they do have their hands full... not only with tons of other business, but most of the delay's been out of their hands - their storage building was sold, and they've been frantically moving parts (and they have a lot of parts) out of there and into their new place.

But to pass the time, I've been thinking about paint. They're going to strip it down to the frame, and this is a great opportunity. Right now I'm thinking about a really dark blue/black for the frame and fenders (which used to be chrome). And there's the seat to consider. I really hate the stock 'bench' seat, and much prefer 'saddle' style. Ahhh, all these wonderful catalogs to go through! Pity so many of them only discuss HD. Grrr.

December 16th 2001

Yamaha 550 Vision
A Yamaha 500 Vision

Two bikes in the snow
<- Vision 550   &   GZ250 ->
not much to look at now!

Yes... December 16th. No new pictures, because no new progress... at least, not the last time we visited the shop, which was a couple of weeks ago. However, Carl is certainly feeling guilty, and promises a beauty by Spring. *sigh* The sad part is... no matter how long this is taking, I know that when he's done the bike will be right... and painful though the delays have been, that's really worth a lot.

But other things have been happening, which is nice. For one, Yvonne & I went and took the Motorcycle Safety course. An absolutely invaluable thing to do, if you're a new rider or old. The guy who runs one of my favorite bike shops in town (Motorcycle Wild) says he took their Experienced Rider course a year ago, and went in with a very cocky "You can't teach me anything" attitude... and by the second day had to admit that they had, in fact, taught him a lot. Very impressive. If you haven't taken this course, do so! You won't regret it.

The other thing that's happened is that, gone insane with the need for two wheels, we went shopping on Ebay, and bought an old 1982 Yamaha 550 Vision. Considered one of the first of the sport bikes, it's pretty clunky and odd by today's standards, but after spending a day at the dealer's shop to get a thorough once-over and a new front tire, it's running quite nicely. Still a bit of gunk in the rear carb, but it gets better every time I take it out. The top picture shows what mine looks like, though it's not mine.

However... getting out at all is increasingly unlikely and difficult, as the bottom picture here shows.

February 3rd 2002

The one year anniversary of putting the bike in the shop. I went down to remind Carl of this fact... and that I was finally really starting to lose my patience. A year without any visible progress? Just too long.

March 9th 2002

WOOHOO!!! The bike is in pieces! At last! Yay! Whee! Dance! Happy!

Of course, we didn't bring the camera that time, but... it's definitely apart. I brought home the sidecovers to clean up, just to make myself happy. Definite progress being made, at last!

Tore the Vision apart a little, to fix it's gunked-up carburetors. Runs MUCH better now.

October 24th 2002

Norton motor, right side
Norton motor, left side

Obviously, I'd been being too nice. Definite progress has been made - the engine, and the transmission, are rebuilt and back together again. The cylinders were in really good shape, so he only needed to bore them out 20 over - very small difference.

The extra-observant will notice a broken fin on the image to the right... this is because it's not my original head. Mine had pretty gummed up valve guides, and (as happens so often) the exhaust threads were really munged. So, in the name of getting it done, faster & cheaper, he just took a different head that was in better shape, and cleaned it up. I may opt to have my original head rebuilt, and sent out for re-threading, at a later date. At this point I've been out of a job for 7 months, so there's just an awful lot of work that I'm flat not going to be able to afford to have done to it.

Of course, it's also due to start snowing any day now, so I've lost another entire year of good riding weather on this bike. Grrrr. Only another 3 months before the 2-year anniversary of putting it in the shop. Yvonne and I are going to bake a little cake, with two candles on it, to take in on that day. Just to grind 'em a little more. Carl's a great guy, does great work, but... yeesh.


Send E-mail to Philip, but remember to remove the REMOVE. Damn spam-monkey-bots!