The Harley-Davidson Sportster 1000
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The 1980 ES model was the first with electric start, followed by the Executive (with hard luggage) and the 8-valve TSS in 1982. Final Meriden Bonnies were the TSX and rubber-mounted TSS, both with the 8-valve engine.
The 1970s Bonneville and Sportster make for interesting bedfellows, motorcycles that evoked earlier glories and appealed to an older rider. That the Bonneville defied economic logic and continued in production well beyond its sell-by date underscores the power of the brand: the Sportster likewise.
1968-1975 Norton Commando 750/850
• 56hp @ 6,500 rpm, 115mph (750)
• Air-cooled OHV 745cc parallel twin
• Disc brake front/drum rear
• 398lb (dry)
The 750 Commando hit the U.S. in 1968. It made more power than the “stripped” 61-inch XLCH Sportster and weighed 50 pounds less, though it took until 1975 for the Commando (then 850cc) to acquire electric start like the XLH.
Cycle magazine’s 1973 seven-Superbike shootout included both the 750 Commando and the XLCH. The Commando’s lighter weight helped a lot in the timed tests, but both finished well behind Kawasaki’s 750 2-stroke triple and the new 900 Z1 four. The writing was on the wall in the performance stakes.
In 1973, Commandos came in two basic flavors: Roadster (2.5-gallon gas tank) and Interstate (5-gallon). Interstates are very collectible, so gas tanks are rare, and swaps are common. How can you tell? Interstates came with a trip odometer, Roadsters didn’t. Perhaps the best Commando of all is the 1974 Mk1 850, with the added torque of the bigger engine, but without the extra weight and complexity of the 1975 Electric Start model.
With routine maintenance, Commandos (especially the later 850 models) are reliable and easily keep up with modern traffic. Electrical issues are almost always the result of ham-fisted home repairs, and modern electronic ignition makes for easy starting. Amal carbs need to be re-sleeved or replaced with a modern Mikuni. MC
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