Still In The Crate: 1977 Norton Commando 850

We see a few classic motorcycles come across our desks here at Barn Finds, but very few of them are in the league of this one. The 1977 Norton Commando Interstate 850 Mk III was quite a bike, and this one has a fascinating history. Your eyes aren’t deceiving you, because this 43-year-old classic has never been removed from its shipping crate. Barn Finder Ron spotted it for us, so thank you for that, Ron. The Norton is located in Bickenhill, England, and is being offered for sale here at H&H Auctioneers. The estimate on this Norton is that it will probably sell for between £20,000 and £25,000.

The Commando was built by Norton between 1967 and 1977, which makes this one of the last examples produced. They are classed as a “naked bike,” which means they were produced without fairings or skirts. This one has quite a story to it and is much-traveled. The Norton left the factory in September of 1977 and was dispatched to its first owner, a Norton dealer located in Belgium. That owner retained the machine in an untouched state until he passed away. It is believed that he had kept the Norton hidden away in a store-room for the entire time that he owned it, and refused repeated offers by people who wanted to buy it. The bike was purchased from his estate by its second owner, who was in Holland. From there, that owner shipped the Norton to Spain, which is where it remained for 10-years. The Commando has now found its way home and is set to find its next owner.

The Commando was initially offered with a 745cc engine, but this was updated to an 828cc engine in 1973. This is an air-cooled parallel-twin engine that produced a respectable 51hp. This power was fed via a chain to the rear wheel through a 4-speed transmission. This combination gave the Commando a potential top speed of 118mph, which was respectable back in 1977. Naturally, this engine hasn’t been fired since the machine was built in 1977. If the next owner is going to make it roadworthy, then they will need to check everything thoroughly before they coax the engine into life. They will also need to refit the front wheel and the exhaust, as these were removed for shipping. Included in the sale are all of the original documentation and sales invoices, three sets of keys, and the original bottle of genuine Norton chain lube.

Classic motorcycles have always been popular, and Nortons are no exception. Good examples of any Norton will be highly-prized by collectors. However, this one takes that desirability to a new level. The auction estimate is eye-watering, but then again, it is probably quite realistic. This offers someone the opportunity to unpack and assemble a brand new Norton that is 43-years-old. That would be a once in a lifetime experience. The question is, would you unpack it?

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Comments

  1. Howard A Member

    As many know, I’m not fond of things in a crate, and the wild price tags to boot, but this is a neat find. Unpack it? Wait, let me get my rolled up newspaper and swat da’ backside across the haid, OF COURSE UNPACK IT,,,sorry, it’s just, it should be a crime to have a beautiful machine, like a “Snortin’ Norton 850”,,,in a freakin’ crate,,,for goodness sake. I think I made my point.
    As a kid in the 60’s, Norton was this exotic name, before the Asians, that would beat any bike the world had to offer. It was well known. Didn’t see many in Wis. for obvious reasons, even though, the “Limey’s” were okay, I don’t think there was a dealer in town. Guy across the street had a Royal Enfield, but hardly ever, a Norton. Now, this comes out to about $25-$30 g’s( in dollars), like all “sitting in a crate for years”, it’s going to leak oil like a,,,well, vintage Limey, more so, and will need everything. Again, if the crate is your thing, then hang it on a wall for all your millionaire buddies to gawk at, but, I’d probably just go find a nice one, already “sealed up”, be done with it. I’ve had many motorcycles, and would have to say, from what I’ve heard, the Norton was THE nicest of them all.

    Like 26
    • luke arnott Member

      The best was Brough Superior.

      Like 4
    • ken tilly UK

      Never owned a Norton, other than the 350cc that I raced back in the mid fifties, however, if I could get my hands on this one I would build it and ride it like I stole it! I also owned several Yank HD’s that leaked oil worse than my 1956 Triumph Tiger 110 so the US bikes were not much better than the UK bikes of the same era..

      Like 6
    • pete

      Not to badly written for a Yank.

      • Rick

        That reminds me. I need t-o go out and buy t-w-o bottles of oil, t-o-o. ;)

  2. Nevadahalfrack Nevadahalfrack Member

    This is a fantastic example of 2 wheeled English art, and it’d be a shame to leave it crated. “Ride it, don’t hide it”, to quote a magazine dedicated to classic motorcycles, and enjoy it. One of the gripes I remember of this model was the increase of bore size led to more vibration though I never rode either enough to feel the difference.
    Wasn’t it a story about a trip on a Commando that gave us the imitable writing icon, Peter Egan? 👍🏻

    Like 8
  3. Chas358 Chas358 Member

    Can’t ride it the crate!
    Chas

    Like 7
  4. Mike1955

    Wow! Just Wow!

    Like 3
  5. FordGuy1972 FordGuy1972 Member

    While I own a Kawasaki Vulcan 900 Classic LT, I don’t consider myself a biker; rather a guy who enjoys riding a bike. I would definitely uncrate this classic Norton, assemble it and get it road worthy. Who wants to look at a classic bike in a crate? But then you’re faced with the decision of whether to ride it and rack up the miles or trailer it to shows to preserve it’s time capsule appearance. I faced the same decision with a rare 1893 Triumph TSX that I found with 11 original miles. I chose to not ride it though I did bring it to quite a few bike shows on the back of my pickup. After a few years I sold it to a guy who had a Brit bike museum somewhere in the Carolinas. It was a nice find but if the mileage is so low you can’t (shouldn’t?) ride it, then it’s basically just an oversized paperweight. More people can enjoy seeing it now anyway in the bike museum which is much better than to have it hiding in my garage.

    While I own two low-mileage vintage Fords, I still drive them and enjoy them as they were meant to be enjoyed; they’re not trailer queens. I really have no interest in owning another vehicle that I can’t drive because of ultra-low mileage or rarity.

    Like 7
    • Snotty Member

      FordGuy. How do you like your big twin? Gotta be one of the biggest Japanese twins made.

      Like 1
      • FordGuy1972 FordGuy1972 Member

        I’ve owned my Vulcan for 10 years and I love it. It’s got decent power, it’s nicely optioned and I like the color and chrome. The only complaint I have is that I wish it was a six-speed. It seems to work pretty hard above 70 mph and it would have been nice to have another gear. It’s belt driven which I find to be smoother and quieter than a chain driven bike. Compared to a Harley, they’re a lot cheaper and in my opinion, as good a cruiser as any Hog. If you’re looking for a comfortable, good-looking cruiser, I’d recommend a Kawasaki Vulcan, you won’t be disappointed.

        Like 2
    • Snotty Member

      What year is your bike FordGuy?

      • FordGuy1972 FordGuy1972 Member

        It’s a 2009. I bought it used with only 1,500 miles in 2010 and probably saved over $3,000 compared to a new one. It was in showroom condition and the previous owner added chrome spot lights, passenger floor boards, chrome crash bars, chrome front fender guard and an eagle front fender ornament that lights up. It’s been a great bike for the money and the only money I’ve spent on it (besides regular oil changes and routine maintenance) has been for new tires, a new battery and new rear brakes. It’s a great bike that I’ve enjoyed for 10 years and 20,000 miles.

        Like 2
    • Michael

      I have a 2006 Vulcan 900 Classic. Great bike. I love it. This Norton needs to be put together and loved.

      Like 4
  6. Stangalang

    If I were still able to ride..this would be mine and YES I would ride it..I rode a friend’s back in the day his was the 750..and it handled well and rode well with plenty of power. I would love to uncrate this baby

    Like 4
  7. dirtyharry

    The last version, a MKIII sold for 30k, which is a lot. I remember at the time, riding one and thinking this feels old, but it had some great mid-range punch to it. You could really corner it too. It felt small compared to my CB750, which felt light years ahead in refinement. The CB was so smooth and the Norton still had too much vibration, even with every trick to quell it. I could see owning this and buying another one, just to ride. A win-win.

    https://www.motorcycleclassics.com/blacksidedown-last-norton-commando-sold

    Like 4
  8. luckylugnut

    Back when the Commando was in it’s heyday, it was awarded motorcycle of the year for like 4 or 5 years straight. The “isolastic” mounting system was a really clever way of reducing the felt vibration by mounting the whole power plant and swing arm assembly in rubber. The only downside of it was, that it required regular adjusting or the handling really suffered. You knew when things were too loose ’cause going into turn felt like the arse end was trying to pass the rest of the bike….sort of like riding a barn door hinge.
    Sadly, this iconic name has suffered from one financial flop after another since the original factory closed. It remains to be seen if someone will try resurrecting it again and bring it like Royal Enfield has enjoyed.

    Like 4
    • JoeBob396

      That was my experience. If it wobbled in a turn, the isolastic mounts needed to be shimmed or torqued. If it vibrated unpleasantly, the mounts were over-shimmed or over torqued. When it was right it was nimble and torquey. Nice rumble, too. I wish I’d never sold mine. 30 – 35 pounds? (Howcome no pound symbol). Look for an excellent assembled one for half the price and enjoy it.

      Like 4
      • luckylugnut

        What made the isolastics a PIA in the beginning was that you needed to add or subtract shims and then check with a feeler gauge. I think the MK3 finally got the vernier adjustable version where you dialed in the fit by screwing the washer in or out, while checking with a feeler gauge and then tightening the set screw. My ’71 750 has the shim type set up and I bought Mk3 replacements, but have yet to install. That bike was the most fun of any of my Brit bikes to ride..until the isolastics got out of wack.

        Like 2
      • Russell

        hold down the “alt” key and type 0163 … £
        Better than “alt” 0128 …€ ((grin))

        Like 1
  9. Tom Lange

    I remember reading that Big Sid Biberman used to drive around on his Vincent looking for Nortons, would encourage both bikes to a hundred or so, and then shift into 4th, accelerating away while yelling “That all ya’ got?”, leaving the Norton in the dust…

    Like 1
  10. Bill S.

    the odometer is showing mileage

    Like 3
    • ken tilly UK

      Yeah, I noticed that. How come it’s done 17.5 miles while supposedly a disassembled bike in a crate? Maybe it was run-in first before being stripped for overseas delivery, whatever, it can’t be guaranteed a brand new, unridden bike, can it?

      Like 2
      • Peter starkey

        The reason is all the bikes were taken out on the road and tested before crating them, I used to see them go out , the engine was built for Norton under contract to Villiars in Wolverhampton . They fitted them in the bike .They were cleaned and crated after the test run , hope that solves your question.

        Like 5
  11. C5 Corvette

    How can it be “never removed from the crate” when the OD shows 17 miles and the trip OD shows 16 miles? Also the writer states the exhaust and front wheel needs to be “re-installed as they were removed for shipping”. The gas line shows yellowing which says to me it was started and driven. It might be in the crate, but not new!

    • Peter starkey

      They were all road tested before crating , thats how they looked after quality back then .

      Like 4
  12. Chris

    That mileage would be the test shakedown before they broke it down and crated it.

    Like 2
    • Peter starkey

      Dead right Chris I witnessed seeing them go out on a road test before crating.

      Like 2
  13. ken tilly UK

    The one on BAT, in very nice, restored condition, sold for $12,300 just to give you an idea.

    Like 1
  14. Joseph E. Saad

    Wow just wow, always loved Norton’s…

    Tough choice, but yeah unpack it, professionally video the opening with someone affiliated with Norton and do an assembly, then P.D.I. Inspection, and first start it.

    A good first run.

    Definitely it would deserve that at least!

  15. Bubba5

    43 years and it’s not yet fulfilled its purpose. Kinda sad.

    Like 1
  16. Dave Mathers

    So it’s been leaking oil for 43 years? LMAO

  17. Chris Londish Member

    I knew a guy that had an MV Augusta in a crate down here only he died before he could uncrate it and he had no heirs so it’s anyones guess where it is now

  18. stillrunners stillrunners Member

    Will the motor turn over ?????

  19. 4501 Safari Member

    Lord this brings back memories. A friend of mine in the Navy left his 850 Interstate with me while he was on deployment. I thoroughly enjoyed the bike although the electric start was a work in progress and often visited by the Prince of Darkness. Anglophiles will know what I mean. Last I heard of him, some years ago, he still had the Norton. I first rode one on a freezing Christmas holiday in the snowy mountain roads of Spain on the way to Granada, another USN adventure. Ae the time, it would have been better were I more familiar with the reversed rear brake and shifter, per Brit bikes of the time. Made for a memorable first braking experience, in the snow, when I power shifted down rather than braked. Nothing happened except my heart rate was higher than the bike speed. The subject motorcycle is an archeological find and will be a joy for someone. Back in the day Nortons were cheap bikes, with the company in distress, but no more…

    Like 1

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