BUCEPHALUS: A NORTON COMMANDO 850 FROM FCR ORIGINAL
THE COMMANDO IS one of the all-time greats of the motorcycle industry. In Britain, its status is iconic: even people with no interest in motorcycling know of it, or know someone who used to own one.
Seventies-era Nortons can be temperamental though—troublesome to own and expensive to repair. So we’re always pleased to see one that has been rescued from the scrapheap and restored. Or even better, resto-modded with tasteful upgrades.
This gorgeous 850 Mk 3 with a hint of street tracker style comes from the premier French workshop FCR Original, which has a sterling reputation for top-drawer customs and a level of finish way beyond factory spec.
Recently, FCR were approached by a client who wanted a custom using an English motorcycle as the base.
“Our customer is very adept at extreme sports—he’s a specialist downhill bike racer,” reveals FCR’s Sébastien Guillemot. “He wanted an old motorcycle with a sleek and sporty look, but gave us no other instructions on the project. So we had carte blanche.”
By lucky chance, Sébastien had a completely dismantled Commando Mk 3 850 in his workshop in Chauvigny, a small country town in western France.
It was a 1975 model, making it one of the earliest 850s—and one of the last Commandos to be built before Norton went into receivership. The bike had an electric starter, a left side gear change and a rear disc brake.
FCR started with a full engine rebuild, restoring the 44-year-old air-cooled parallel twin to immaculate condition. They used a mix of OEM parts and improved modern components, and also installed a Mikuni VM38 carb—an improvement over the twin Amal concentrics that were fitted at the factory.
After polishing the engine cases to match the shiny new internals, FCR built up a custom set of pipes. There are no end cans, but an array of decibel killers inside the end pipes tones the volume down just a little. (“We wanted to keep a raging noise for this old bike!”)
Installing the engine back into the ‘isolastic’ system of rubber mounts was the trickiest part of the build—since it’s critical to the handling quality of the Commando.
Alongside the engine are new footpegs and controls, on slimline brackets, and there are new passenger pegs too.
But the big change on this bike is the suspension. FCR have installed Ceriani GP35 racing forks and matching triple trees, and machined up new wheel hubs and axles.
The front brake disc is integrated into the hub, with black calipers supplied by the German brand ABM and installed using custom caliper supports. The brake discs are from the aftermarket specialist France Equipment; a set of 18-inch ‘H’ section valanced alloy rims shod with Dunlop K180 rubber add to the 70s tracker vibe.
The rear suspenders are new units from Shock Factory, and hooked up to a lightly modified rear frame. The rest of the frame has been cleaned up, detabbed and polished.
After new brackets and supports were welded on for the custom bodywork, the frame was given a stunning nickel-plated finish—an FCR signature trick.
The wiring loom is all-new, with an electronic ignition, a compact new starter that’s more powerful than the original, Dynatek ignition coils that provide more juice.
The stock Commando 850 is a looker, but this one takes it up to whole new level with fresh custom bodywork. The smooth aluminum tank is handmade, and there’s a custom-made under-seat battery box too.
FCR also used aluminum for the rear fender, and since these images were taken, they’ve added a matching front fender too.
FCR machined up the headlight plate in the workshop, and fitted a bright halogen light. Right behind are tracker-style bars fitted with Motone buttons, and a Motogadget Tiny gauge. Kustom Tech supplied the polished brake and clutch masters.
The saddle is covered with a deep burgundy Italian leather, and matches perfectly to the blue-candy-over-green paint—which FCR applied themselves.
“The client calls his bike Bucephalus, after the indomitable horse of Alexander the Great,” says Sébastien. It’s a great name that befits the 250 hours of work that FCR put into the Norton.
And like all good horses, this Norton rewards its rider. “It’s very agile—light and with good power. We love the flat track look, but this bike can also be used on a daily basis. It’s a motorcycle for country roads, with a touch of modernity for the city.”
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