When I graduated from high school in 1971, I got a summer job at a furniture factory in neighboring Winooski, Vermont. Just down the road lived a British racing green 1968 Norton Commando Fastback. With the factory windows always open, I could hear whenever that glorious machine was approaching, and I would drop what I was doing to watch it pass by. When I noted a “For Sale” sign on the bike while headed home one day, I had worked long enough to stash the necessary cash — so I bought it that day.
I got a couple of months of riding in before turning the bike over to a mechanic for a tuneup. A mutual acquaintance attempted to steal the bike from the mechanic’s shop, and exposed wires around the ignition remained when I got the bike back. To celebrate its return, I took a wonderful ride from Burlington to Stowe, through Smugglers’ Notch and returned the back way on Route 15. I parked the bike wearing a huge satisfied smile — as an errant drop of gas dripped from the air filter-less carburetors onto the bared ignition wires and POOF — we are now dealing with an 8-foot fireball threatening to ignite the house! In my panic I quickly learned that a cereal bowl full of water was no match for the inferno, and in a few moments absolutely nothing salvageable remained.
Marriage and too many (20+) bikeless years followed before Harley turned 100 and I turned 50, demanding the purchase of my first new H-D. More recently I’ve teamed up with a group of guys doing a weekly wrench night on vintage (primarily British) bikes. After selling the 1976 Trident that we had revived, it was time for a new project.
Last year one of the members showed up with pictures of a Fastback exactly like the one I had lost, for sale a few miles down Route 7. My fate was sealed — I had to have it, and I bought it within a few days. Everything needed adjustment and all of the fluids were changed. I have about 100 wonderful miles on it so far, and it feels like I’m 18 again. Tonight the new front brakes get their final adjustment as we watch the fall weather moving in.
Steven Herberg/Richmond, Vermont
First, congrats on your new ride. Having had a Fastback all those years ago, you knew exactly what you were in for this time, but we are glad to hear it’s just a good as you remembered. Enjoy it, and thanks for reading Motorcycle Classics! — Ed.