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Uncommon Commando: 1972 Norton Fastback LR

Norton built some 400 Commando Fastback LR models with a larger gas tank for Australia. But did they build any using the Combat engine?

| July/August 2017

  • 1972 Norton Fastback LR 750 Combat Commando.
    Photo by Robert Smith
  • 1972 Norton Fastback LR 750 Combat Commando.
    Photo by Robert Smith
  • 1972 Norton Fastback LR 750 Combat Commando.
    Photo by Robert Smith
  • 1972 Norton Fastback LR 750 Combat Commando.
    Photo by Robert Smith
  • Owner Colin Kelly built his Norton Combat LR from a basket case Combat Commando.
    Photo by Robert Smith
  • 1972 Norton Fastback LR 750 Combat Commando engine.
    Photo by Robert Smith
  • The front brake was upgraded with an SST disc, a sleeved-down master cylinder and a stainless hose.
    Photo by Robert Smith
  • 1972 Norton Fastback LR 750 Combat Commando.
    Photo by Robert Smith

1972 Norton Fastback LR 750 Combat Commando
745cc air-cooled OHV parallel twin, 73mm x 89mm bore and stroke, 10:1 compression ratio (8.9:1 stock), 65hp @ 6,800rpm (56hp @ 6,500rpm stock)
Top speed:
115mph (est.)
Two 32mm Amal 932 Concentric (two 30mm 930 Concentric stock)
4-speed, chain final drive
12v, coil and breaker points ignition
Dual downtube steel cradle w/Isolastic engine mounts
Norton Roadholder telescopic forks front, twin shocks w/adjustable preload rear
10.7in (272mm) SST disc (8in/203mm TLS drum stock) front, 7in (178mm) SLS drum rear
90/90 x 19in front, 100/90 x 19in rear (4.10 x 19in front and rear stock)
Weight (dry):
398lb (180.5kg)
Seat height:
29in (736.6mm)
Fuel capacity:
4.7gal (180.5kg)

Australia has a land area larger than the 48 contiguous states, yet its population is fewer than 25 million people (although it has 74 million sheep!). As a result, population centers are often far apart, which means if you’re riding a motorcycle, you need a good fuel range.

Australia was an important export market for Norton-Villiers, so the company decided in 1971 to make a Commando based on the Fastback model that could run over 200 miles on a tank of gas. They called it the Fastback “LR” — for Long Range. According to the UK Norton Owners Club, only around 400 were made (though quite a few more than that now exist …) and most went to Australia.

The standard Fastback was the first of the Commando model line. Launched at London’s Earls Court Motorcycle Show in late 1967, the Fastback’s fiberglass fuel tank was molded so that “ears” on the front of the seat flanked the rear section of the tank, eliminating the old-fashioned tank-mounted rubber kneepads. It looked sleek and modern.

To create the Fastback LR, the seat was shortened and the “ears” eliminated. A new, larger, steel gas tank based on the Interpol police model (but without the indentation in the top for the police radio) was used. The tank design derived from the earlier 750cc Atlas, but with a modified base to fit around the Commando frame’s tubular spine versus the Atlas’ “slimline” Featherbed frame with its dual top-tubes.

Production begins

The first Fastback LRs were produced in 1971, and production ran sporadically for two years, during which time the Combat engine was introduced in the Roadster and the new Interstate models for the 1972 model year. As has been widely documented, the Combat engine was, in most cases, something of a ticking time bomb. To make the Combat, the basic 56 horsepower, 745cc Commando engine got strengthened cases, 32mm (instead of 30mm) Amal carburetors, a compression boost to 10:1 from 8.9:1 and the hot 2S camshaft for a jump to 65 horsepower. There was also a revised breathing system, and a roller bearing replaced the timing side ball bearing. Combat spec Commandos also got the Norton-Lockheed front disc brake, and were distinguished by black-painted cylinder barrels.

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