Colorado Norton Works
Colorado Norton Works keeps the snarly, but smooths out the gnarly on classic Norton motorcycles
A Colorado Norton Works-built Norton.
For fans of Britain's classic Norton motorcycles, the seemingly bipolar terms "Snortin' Norton" and "Gnarly Norton" are near and dear to our leatherclad hearts, and help explain the origins of the Colorado Norton Works. The unique bark and snarl of the parallel twin engine, the joys of handling imparted by the classic featherbed and later vibration-isolating isolastic frames, and the lean, clean and purposeful styling all tally up on the "Upside" list of Norton attributes.
However, spotty electrics that helped foster the less than complimentary phrase "Lucas, the Prince of Darkness," some peculiarities of Amal carburetion, mediocre braking, and some engine internals a little on the soft side conspired to form a "Downside" list.
While the Norton motorcycle company faded from existence as the sun finally set on the British motorcycle industry, fans of the bike endeavored to keep them running, and one fan in particular endeavored to keep them running better and longer.
Enter Matt Rambow, who came to the rescue (in Rambo-like fashion) with Colorado Norton Works (CNW), a company he located in the canyon-hugging town of Dolores, Colo. (population 848). He figured it was a nice, quiet place to resurrect motorcycling history.
Named for the Dolores River that runs nearby, the town is also on the doorstep of the famed Million Dollar Highway, an eight-hour twisty-rich motorcycle loop that goes from Cortez through Dolores, Ouray, Durango, and then back to Cortez. It's an all-Colorado loop that could easily be defined as bike heaven.
Dolores does get chilly in the wintertime, but that doesn't faze Rambow, as he hails from Gothenburg on Sweden's west coast. In Sweden he worked on staid and trustworthy Volvos, but he always had a passion for American cars. In 1984 he decided to emigrate to the U.S., forcing him to sell his pride and joy, a restored 1961 Lincoln Continental convertible (white with red leather interior). "It was the one and only such car in Sweden. It was a rust bucket when I got it, and I replaced everything from the waist down."
Rambow had a penchant for putting vintage machinery back on the road — and in much better shape than he found it. He also had a thing for motorcycles, especially Norton twins. Those two passions eventually resulted in Colorado Norton Works, which opened its doors in 1997.
While Ranbow has completed several dozen of his Colorado Norton Works Nortons, all based on 750 and 850 Commandos, he admits one of his favorites is #038, the lipstick-red-framed and polished-alloy café beauty seen on the opening pages of this story. It's a fine example and highly illustrative of his skills.
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