Installing an Alton Norton Commando Electric Starter


| 4/10/2018 12:00:00 AM


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The Norton Commando is one of the most popular classic motorcycles ever made — and they made lots of them, an estimated 60,000 over an almost 10-year life span. Endowed with excellent handling and a torquey, train-pulling twin, they were the Superbike of their day.

Although electric starting was planned at least by 1970, the first electric-start Commando didn't appear until 1975, the last year of full production. That means that most Commandos, whether 750 or 850, were kickstart only. The Norton lump can be a challenge to kick over, and as the Norton faithful aged, the market for an electric-start conversion grew. There are now several available, including the one from Alton in France that we installed in our subject 1974 Norton Commando 850 MkII.

Applicable to pre-1975 750 and 850 Commandos (except early Fastbacks with the ignition at the rear of the timing cover), the Alton kit uses the stock chain-driven primary and can be used with many belt-drive conversions.

This is a comprehensive and extremely well-designed conversion. The replacement inner primary cover carrying the small but powerful electric starter is beautifully cast and nicely machined. The starter sprag clutch and drive setup seems very robust, and the Alton alternator, rated at a maximum output of 150 watts and 90-95 watts at cruising speed, should provide ample charging. The kit is available for either positive or negative ground systems.



You'll need a higher output battery. U.S. distributor The Classic Bike Experience in Essex, Vermont, where we sourced our Alton starter, suggests an Interstate FAYTX20HL sealed lead-acid battery (pre-1971 bikes require a smaller battery; call CBE for options). We found one locally for $85. CBE also suggests replacing the crankshaft seal. It's cheap (typically only $2 or $3) and easy to replace while the primary cover is off. You'll note that we did not, however, as the seal had been replaced just a few months earlier during a clutch overhaul.



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