BOMBA’S BRITISH BEAST: Norton Commando

Photography: Luke Ray

In Sydney’s North Western suburbs we found Damian Bombardiere (aka Bomba) and his custom ’69 Norton Commando. He’s got 30 years experience in the saddle on both the road and racetrack so Bomba is no newcomer to motorcycles. When it came to customising his Norton, Bomba’s racing experience paved the way for how the bike would perform but it’s styling would be something entirely new.

Damian’s passion for bikes stems from a generation of Bombardiere’s before him. “I first got the bike bug at an early age looking at photos of my Dads Triumphs from the '50s & '60s. He would tell me stories of how he and his 5 brothers would rat bag around town on them, tweaking the bikes, riding without helmets, out running the cops”. Unfortunately things have changed a bit since those days, but Damian still got his fair share of two-wheeled fun competing in motocross, supercross and the odd short circuit/flatrack event. With all the motorcycles he owned over the years though it wasn’t until around 7 years ago that he got his first Brit bike, “I bought a ‘71 BSA Thunderbolt 650, sourced locally on the cheap - to my Dads disgust (it wasn't a Trumpy!). It began as a piece from here piece from there build that just sort of came together in the end to be a 60s inspired chop/bobber.”

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In mid 2010 Damian got his hands on the Norton and his second Brit iron custom build began. “It started out as a ‘69 Norton Commando Roadster with non-matching numbers and a bizarre offset backbone frame. I rode it like this for nearly a year while I worked out what I wanted to do with it.” His initial concepts for the Commando included a Dunstall styled Cafe Racer, a purpose built dirt track racer and he even considered returning the bike to original spec/condition. “I ended up with a kind of mix of all those ideas. I wanted it to have all the ingredients I love in a bike, light and lean, the bare necessities and constructed from nearly 100% Norton parts.”

With a clear plan for how the bike was going to end up the build began by working on the issues with the bikes frame and dimensions. “I sourced a stock Commando frame that I narrowed and shortened so the seat and cowl didn't overhang the frame. The original hubs were laced to some 18-inch Akront alloy rims and I shortened the forks to level out the bikes stance”. To give the Norton a dose of dirt racer style a set of Renthal speedway bars went on the stock clamp and a Norton Hi-Rider tank sourced from eBay, replaced the original Commando tank - “It went on the bike without any modification, it’s exactly as I found it”.

As with any build the Norton had it’s challenges but for Damian it was simply a matter of rethinking a strategy to keep the build progressing. “The hardest and easiest part of this bike has been the rear cowl; the first attempt consisted of about 3 weeks worth of struggling with a fibreglass plug that just didn't work out the way I wanted (free to a good home). I simplified my approach and ended up making it in one afternoon using good old sheet metal. My multi-talented wife made a pattern which I cut out, folded and worked myself”. With the new tail section in place Damian’s wife was called in again to upholster the seat - “for a first attempt ever, she did a pretty good job. I might get it reworked at a later date in leather.”

Anyone who’s had a play with an old bike, or any bike for that matter, knows that electrics can be a real nightmare. Luckily for Damian he was able to call on a mate to get the job done. “Matt Joyce kindly wired up the Norton. The motor now runs off a Joe Hunt magneto with the lighting taken care of by a tri-spark capacitor/regulator and a battery tucked away out of sight in the rear cowl.”

When we first contacted Damian the Norton was off the road and a photo shoot was pretty much out of the question. He explained that “The motor was a real strong runner when I got it so I didn’t perform any work on it…until it recently decided it gobble up a cam follower and spit metal out through the cases!”. By some lucky coincidence though Damian managed to book a week off work just before we were heading up to Sydney for another shoot and he got to work. “A bottom end rebuild was in order so I called on JS Motorsport to give the old girl a bit of botox. While I was at it I added lightened pistons, Carillo rods, a stage 1 race cam and upgraded the cam followers. A single Mikuni carb conversion and a belt drive primary drive also went on and all up I shaved about 12kgs of weight off it. Once it’s worn in it should be a real mover.”

Tucked away in the bikes frame you’ll also notice a nice custom touch in the form of a small jerry can repurposed as the bikes oil tank. It’s features like these that make Bomba’s custom Commando exactly the kind of crossbreed bikes we love at TANK. Tradition is great but creativity shapes the future of the custom scene. Bend the rules, break the rules, write your own damn rules.

Damian’s next project will be a Norton Hi-Rider which is currently in transit from the States. The bike has only 6000 original miles on the clock and sounds like an awesome find. He assured us though that he wouldn’t be tampering with this one…much.