By Kelly Shane
Ever since I discovered British motorcycles while in college, I’ve always had a hankering for a big twin. But not just any twin would do. I knew that I wouldn’t be happy on anything common like a Triumph or BSA. No, I needed a… (cue drum roll here)… Norton. In the fall of 2004, I finally gave in and started gathering all the necessary bits. John McCoy provided a new Cheney/Matchless frame, which by coincidence just happened to be hanging on the wall in my shop. I rooted thru my shop and attic and found a pair of CZ hubs, some Ceriani forks, an A-10 primary case, a Norton Atlas clutch, and a bucket full of parts from several Norton and Matchless trannys. A 750 engine was donated from a rather bent Commando. By early December, I had stripped the engine, made the engine and tranny plates, laced Excell rims to the CZ hubs, and had pretty much stacked all the loose bits into a pile which looked remarkably like a motorcycle. Of course, the engine didn’t contain a single moving part, the tranny case was empty, and there wasn’t a bolt with a nut anywhere close to it, but sitting on a milk crate in the middle of the shop floor, it sure looked like a motorcycle.
Every spare moment for the rest of December and all of January was spent rebuilding the engine, fitting the engine in the frame, assembling the tranny (several times before it finally had 4 gears and 1 neutral), making up exhaust pipes, taking the engine out of the frame, fitting up the air-cleaner and single 34mm Mikuni, building a head-steady, putting the engine back into the frame, lining up chains, sending the crank to Ed Crowell for rebalancing, boring the cylinders and fitting Combat pistons, slipping in a new cam, putting the engine back in the frame, welding footpeg mounts to the cases, taking the engine out of the frame, etc…...
A box of steel bits was sent out for nickel plating, the pipes were sent to for ceramic coating, and the tank was painted. Finally, on the Wednesday afternoon before the Nat’l in Arizona, the engine was installed in the frame for the last time and on Thursday, UPS delivered the ARD ignition. The various compartments were filled with oil- none of which ran out onto the ground in alarming quantities- and after a couple of preliminary stabs to the kick-starter (I wasn’t exactly sure about the timing, not to mention a hard-earned respect for unfamiliar kick-starters), a healthy kick prodded it into life. Damn this thing is loud- cool!
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