“I’ve never sat on a running Norton before,” photographer Marian Sell declares proudly. He’s simply completed dialing on this 750 cc Seeley Norton Commando—a course of that concerned a number of warmth cycles, ignition timing changes, carb syncing periods, cylinder head re-torques, and valve clearance resets. Now, a 12 months after shopping for it as a rolling chassis, Marian’s first functioning Norton is lastly full.
“It runs like a clockwork,” he provides. “It reminds me of the Porsche 928 my grandfather owned when I was a kid, in terms of the engine sound and feel. It has a very solid pull in the mid-range too.”
The Seeley Norton couldn’t be extra totally different from Marian’s common every day runner—a street-legal Husqvarna FS450. But it’s not the primary time he’s flirted with classic or British equipment. He’s been twiddling with bikes since he was a child—and he as soon as purchased a mid-30s Norton with the intention of restoring it.
“When I was 16 years old, I started tuning my Vespas and Lambrettas in Germany, because my friends and I were very competitive,” he tells us. “Whatever mechanical skills I have now came from the world of Italian scooters.”
“In 2014 I went to the Manx Grand Prix on the Isle of Man, and for the first time I saw a non-scooter motorcycle that I really appreciated; a 1936 Norton International 30. A few months later I bought one in Canada, in a completely disassembled state, thinking ‘I can just wing it.’ But a few years later I gave in and contacted NYC Norton.”
As its identify states, NYC Norton is a Norton specialist store in New Jersey, owned by the educated Kenny Cummings. Marian’s 1936 mission won’t have panned out as deliberate, nevertheless it did introduce him to Kenny and the 2 quickly grew to become mates.
“Every time I walked into Kenny’s shop,” says Marian, “I had to pass this row of fantastic-looking race bikes. Norton Commandos, Matchless G50s, Manx Nortons, Nourish Engineering; people would pay money just to look at these bikes. Kenny is a rock star and a celebrity in the vintage racing world—his bikes are some of the finest motorcycles I’ve ever seen.”
“At the end of last year, Kenny told me that his friend John was looking to sell his race bikes, so I visited NYC Norton again to take a look at them. But instead of buying a full race bike, I got my hands on a rolling chassis that was collecting dust in the corner of Kenny’s shop.”
The chassis got here from a race bike that John had constructed along with the Canadian Norton guru and racer, Herb Becker; a short-stroke 500 cc Commando. The bike scored a number of AHRMA (American Historic Racing Motorcycle Association) wins and podiums, earlier than being retired.
Marian snapped it up and began taking inventory. The package deal included a Seeley Mk2 reproduction body, constructed by Roger Titchmarsh within the UK. It got here with 18” Akront wheels, a Fontana four-leading-shoe entrance brake, a Manx rear hub, and Ceriani GP forks.
“With Kenny’s help and expertise, I started buying ingredients for a Seeley Norton Commando 750 street-legal racer,” says Marian. “I built the bike so that it can be raced in the AHRMA 750 class, which requires the components to be true to the specific era of the build. As an example, I decided on round-slide Mikunis, because flat slide carburettors weren’t yet a thing in 1969.”
“I assembled the engine cases and top end at Kenny’s shop under his supervision, and from there I moved the build into my living room. I stripped the paint to reveal the beautiful bronze brazing from Roger Titchmarsh and started building custom brackets. I guess everything on this bike is custom, since, as Kenny says, there’s no ‘Seeley shop’.”
For the engine, Marian used a Molnar racing crankshaft and crankcases, matched to a Norton Commando Combat cam and heads. The transmission is a five-speed affair with GP-style shifting (one up, 4 down), whereas the belt pulley and clutch come from Maney. The engine’s fed by a pair of Mikuni VM32 carbs and exhales via a two-into-one exhaust from Minnovation Racing within the UK.
Marian purchased the Seeley Norton’s rolling chassis with Molnar gas and oil tanks already put in, so solely half of the bodywork needed to be sourced recent. A Kirby fairing was fitted to the bike; it and the race-style tail part are completed in black to distinction the normal silver tank, appropriately.
The Norton has all-new wiring too, with a brand new loom strung round a Motogadget mo.unit management field, tucked beneath the seat. The flip alerts, switchgear, and tachometer are from Motogadget too, however the latter’s been disguised with a reproduction Smiths face to present it a period-correct look. The LED taillight is from Australia’s Purpose Built Moto, the rear-set pegs are from NYC Norton, and the tires are Avon Roadriders.
There’s a smorgasbord of much less obvious mods too, however proper now, Marian is concentrated on how a lot enjoyable he’s having driving the factor. “I’m not used to riding this low to the ground,” he explains. “This Norton wants to tilt, and feels very stable on the straights as well as in the turns.”
Marian can also be fast so as to add that he has an extended checklist of individuals to thank for serving to him put the Seeley Norton collectively—apart from Kenny, in fact. Aleksey at WorksMFG helped to manufacture the exhaust and did some further bronze-brazing work. Marian’s neighbor, Julian Potulicki, who occurs to be an oil painter, did the paintings on the gas tank, oil tank, and windshield.
Roger Titchmarsh fabricated further brackets to carry the fairing and headlight in place, Joel Levine took the tacho aside and fitted the Smiths face, and Marian’s pal, Andi, provided limitless assist and electrical recommendation.
“And my girlfriend Annalise has been, and still is, very patient about having a bike in our living room. It’s easier now that the bike is all in one piece, instead of having a thousand pieces of oily, British motorcycle Lego flying around.”
Images by Marian Sell | Instagram | NYC Norton