Several years ago, I acquired a pristine, near-museum quality Triumph Bonneville T120R (1968). In my mind, at the time, it represented the pinnacle of the Bonneville brand… last year for chrome fenders, unit construction, and a look to die for.
I rode that beauty for a year or so, enjoying every minute of it. But then, my short attention span syndrome blossomed, and I started thinking about a Norton.
Before I knew it, a beautifully restored '72 Norton Combat Commando was gracing my garage. The one-year Combat variant was indisputably the most powerful bike Norton ever built, even more horsepower than the later 750 models (detuned for reliability).
First time I went to kick start that damned thing, it threw me against the garage wall, like a recalcitrant mule. But, I finally prevailed, with appropriate timing adjustment, and tamed the beast. You can’t kick start a 9.5-1 compression Norton by approaching it timidly. You gotta look that thing in the eye, take a deep breath, and come down on that starter with all your weight as though you wanted to stomp the damned bike right to China. Hesitate by the slightest degree, and it will just laugh at you.
Once we came to an understanding and I got that baby cranked… OMG! The sound of that hungry Norton makes the Bonnie sound like a bleating lamb by comparison. Then hop on and go for a ride… The Isolastic rubber engine mounts smooth out that single-throw vertical twin into a buttery smooth cruise… a ride that almost rivals the legendary Honda 750 4.
And the acceleration and sound when you get on it? Nothing, I mean, NOTHING built today can compare in any way.
Short story… the Bonneville I was so enamored with quickly went on the block, and in one of my very rare buy/sell successes, actually brought a stronger price than the original outrageous fee I had initially ponied up (The Norton, inexplicably, became mine for about 60% of what I paid for the Bonnie)
That Commando still looks beautiful in my garage, starts ALWAYS on the very first kick, and is my first go-to toy when I need a lift.
Phil A. Austin, TX