Return of the Cafe Racers - Vintage Steele 1972 Norton Commando

Vintage Steele 1972 Norton Commando

Vintage Steele workshop owners Josh Steel and Chris John take pride in giving credit where credit’s due. Their latest build was a team effort, bringing together old friends to create a bike they could all be proud of. Based on a ’72 Norton Commando John explains that the Scrambler styled custom was the perfect distraction during one of their icy Vermont winters…

“This is not the first motorcycle Caleb Matthiesen and the Vintage Steele crew have built together, and hopefully not the last. Caleb Matthiesen, is my long time friend from the 7th grade. Growing up, we were always working on projects together. Whether it was bicycles or the occasional soapbox car. During the winter Caleb decided to take time off his web-designing job to travel China and Japan. Before going back to Seattle he wanted to work on a build with Vintage Steele. So during the winter of 2014-2015, Caleb shacked up with Vintage Steele to shelter from the extreme cold of Southern Vermont. We came up with a game plan and decided that a Norton Commando would be the best base for our “Scrambler Style” custom motorcycle.
Chris John, Co-owner of Vintage Steele, and I found the donor bike locally. The non-matching number motor (’70) and frame (’72), its non factory paint job and the general dismay the bike was in, left us feeling it deserved a new life. The snow started falling and the three of us dug in. With the bike apart we began by shortening the frame to make a more modest seat, and replaced all the tired old bushings and grommets for the complex engine mounting system. The frame then went off to our powder coater, Matthew Hyde. A solution for a new tank was found in the form of a ’76 Honda CB400 four which sat well on the Norton’s backbone. It was then handed over to painter Pat Desalvo who concluded that it should stay the same factory yellow of the harder to find Honda CB400 fours. A ’67 Black Bomber headlight bucket with an intergraded speedometer was then mounted between the forks, the perfect match for the style of the build and a signature of Vintage Steele’s classically styled builds.


We left the motor untouched, knowing that it was mechanically in great shape, so it was dropped back into it’s freshly painted frame. Chris with his incredible patience for wiring went through the whole machine and replaced the entire dreaded Lucas system with a modernized and more reliable custom loom. Along with the many cosmetic changes, we added Progressive rear shocks and front fork springs so it could handle itself when it ventured on to roads less travelled. We also built an external oil tank and the two into one pipes that run high to match our scrambler theme. Caleb, having been the upholsterer of the majority of Vintage Steele’s seats, finished the build and the final outcome exceeded all our expectations.”


Photos by Steve West


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