Yes, That’s a Norton: Meet the Norvarna

Meet the Norvarna, a dual-sport custom Norton Commando.

| September/October 2013

  • Norvarna side view
    The Norvarna was built to handle the rough dirt roads of Death Valley.
    Photo By Lee Greenwell
  • Norvarna back view
    And now for something completely different: A custom dual-sport built from a 1974 Norton Commando and a 1980 Husqvarna 390.
    Photo By Lee Greenwell

  • Norvarna side view
  • Norvarna back view

We get all kinds of interesting phone calls, tips, emails and photos of motorcycle-related creations large and small, weird and wonderful — and sometimes just downright nutty. Several of those adjectives could be used to describe Lee Greenwell’s custom Norton, but we love it. We’ll let him explain. — Ed. 

“This project started out as a completely stock 1974 Norton 850 Roadster. I purchased this bike new from Ironhorse Motorcycle Works, a Norton dealer in Salt Lake City, Utah. After riding this bike around for 20 years, I was offered a job in Death Valley National Park at a remote backcountry campground. Access to my new place of residence was a 50-mile rough dirt road, not suited for a Norton street bike. The bike went into storage. After missing riding the Norton for 15 years, I decided to adapt the Norton into a dual-purpose dirt/street bike. Something I could ride where I live.

“Having owned a Husqvarna dealership in the 1970s, I had access to many Husqvarna parts. The donor bike was a 1980 Husky 390. The Husqvarna front forks, Öhlins rear shocks, Husky front and rear wheel assemblies, handlebars, Magura levers and throttle, and a Husky folding shift lever were used.

“Adapting the Husky parts to fit the Norton was surprisingly easy. The front forks slipped right into the Norton fork yokes. The upper fork yoke required some welding and machining to get the pinch bolt to function correctly. The rear wheel bolted right on and used the stock Husky axle. The rear Öhlins shocks bolted right on and gave 8 inches of wheel travel. The front fork damping rods had to be shortened to give 9 inches of front wheel travel. Surprisingly, the Husky folding shift lever slipped right on to the Norton shift shaft. The splines were the same!

“The bike is a joy to ride on dirt roads and still cruises well on the highway. With the increased wheel travel it has a plush, smooth ride on rough dirt roads. It handles better than a KTM 950 Super Enduro that I also own. I call my creation a ‘Norvarna.’” MC 

10/24/2013 8:55:21 AM

What a great idea to keep the Norton on (and off) the road. Looks like the seat height isn't crazy high like the KTM 950 Super Enduro and its ilk. I'll bet it's lighter too; and when he want to return it to stock, it shouldn't be that hard to do.

10/24/2013 7:19:27 AM

I like it. instead of siting in the garage it's being USED and enjoyed. Sounds like everything he did is reversible. I'll bet a dime to a donut he has all the stock parts Good on him for doing it. Two thumbs up.

10/18/2013 7:48:51 PM

This is so sad. As an owner of A Norton Commando it pains me to see this. If you want to ride in the dirt then get something appropriate, like a dirt bike. Using this owner's logic, I guess if I just purchased a home with a long dirt drive it would make sense to retrofit my Ferrari with 4WD and fit some monster-truck tires.

The sound and the fury: celebrate the machines that changed the world!

Motorcycle Classics JulAug 16Motorcycle Classics is America's premier magazine for collectors and enthusiasts, dreamers and restorers, newcomers and life long motorheads who love the sound and the beauty of classic bikes. Every issue  delivers exciting and evocative articles and photographs of the most brilliant, unusual and popular motorcycles ever made!

Save Even More Money with our RALLY-RATE plan!

Pay now with a credit card and take advantage of our RALLY-RATE automatic renewal savings plan. You save an additional $5.00 and get 6 issues of Motorcycle Classics for only $29.95 (USA only).

Or, Bill Me Later and I'll pay just $34.95 for a one year subscription!

Facebook Pinterest Instagram YouTube Twitter