This week’s awesome barn find is the interesting 1989 Norton Commander. Whilst some manufacturers dabbled with production motorcycles using the wankel rotary engine, for example the Suzuki RE5, these were short lived due to poor sales when compared with their more conventional line up of motorcycles.
Norton started developing their rotary engine for motorcycles during the early 1980s, with a specific target for supplying the UK Police during, exposing them to the daily grind of police work. One of clear issues with the first generation of the Norton rotary motorcycles was overheating, relying on air cooling to keep the heat under control. Fortunately the Norton Commander is equipped with the 588cc water cooled engine, derived from Norton’s experience with their RCW588 race bike which experienced success at the Isle of Man TT and UK national level.
This 1989 Norton Commander is 1 of 253 bikes and would probably be classed as survivor in unrestored condition, a true barn find owned by the same gentleman for the past 25 years and been off the road for the past 19 years. The seller has started and run the bike for a short time, however a full check-over and service is recommended to avoid damaging the engine. The rotary engine is actually a very simple piece of engineering, however contacting a specialist and joining the owner’s community will help you on the restoration journey.
This example has all the bodywork intact but does have age related marks and damage, which should be considered if you are planning a restoration. This bike is over thirty years old the overall look of the of the machine doesn’t look very dated, in some ways it reminds me of the Honda Pacific Coast 800, which suffered a similar fate of not being a huge sales success but very underrated.
Restoring you barn find Norton Commander
First and foremost, the Norton rotary engine should be treated with care because these never sold in big numbers, therefor access to genuine spares could be difficult and expensive. Consider joining the Norton Owner’s Club who’ll be a great source of experience and knowledge to understand how you should approach the project, including any sensible upgrades to address known issues if you are looking restore and ride.
You may also want to consider how you’ll arrange your garage or workshop if you are planning to take on the work yourself. Being organised before you start an overhaul of a barn find bike will always benefit you in the long run. We produced workshop tools and tips page to provide you with some inspiration for all the common usual tools you may need.
If you are bidding on this amazing Norton Commander and become the owner, please let us know your plans for restoration and your first thoughts when you pickup the bike.