Posted: Apr 23 2015

Scroll down for the full history and build story on this forged metal machine - Misty Green.

Photography by @MatthewJonesPhoto

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Kyle Frey is the owner of our 1968 Norton, Misty Green. Once a resident of New York and part of the hustle of the Financial District, Kyle decided to leave the city behind for a life in the Texas hill country in the aftermath of 911. We recently delivered Misty Green to Kyle following her debut at the Austin Handbuilt Show. But there is a long road before we get to this place, so let’s start from the very beginning…

Kyle had seen our Fuller Moto Cafe Racers and was interested in transforming the 1968 Norton Commando 750 he inherited from his Uncle Fred. Fred Heistand lived in Manheim, Pennsylvania and was a Laverda dealer back in the day. Eventually Fred restored bikes in his garage. One day he found this Norton as a matching number unit with a frame and four milk crates of parts. It had been sitting for years. The spokes were junk and the kicker was stripped, which rendered it unusable. The Commando was an attempt at a Cafe Racer during the last movement of that style bike. It came from the same period as Harley’s 1200 XLCR production bike - a good running bike but neither the styling, brakes, or weight were in line with today’s standards.

We started into the disassembly phase and found a solid piece of 1.5” or 2” round stock used to repair the backbone of the frame...seemingly weighing 5 pounds! At least that made it easy to start over. In this model, oil was in the frame so we decided to do the same for cleanliness and to leave more room in the tail for the Speedcell Lithium Ion battery and regulator.

This was the first bike we had used the frame as the oil reservoir. It’s definitely a challenge, especially on such a minimalist ride. There’s a bit of reserve in the tail that had to be vented back up to the cap. The pump is on the lower back right side of the engine by the transmission. We ran lines up from the frame directly to the pump inlets so they are clean looking and have smooth flow. There are also two bungs under the frame there for draining during an oil change.

We did some special mods for venting, too. Vent comes out of the crank case in front of the left pulley. A tube was welded into the down tube to vent up to a special oil separator box welded into the neck as an additional brace. Here’s the tricky part: In order not to add another tube in that region, we made it vent around the steering tube! Basically a donut that vents to a slot in the front of the neck hidden from view. Works awesome too!

Next up we lengthened the swing arm by 2 inches. It was easier to remove the right tube and put another one in due to its shape and location with the new larger wheel combo. Fox Racing Shox hooked us up with a pair of their modern version of Cafe Racer style adjustable shocks.

I had a set of dirt bike hubs laying around from the Barber Swap meet and they seemed to suit the bike well, so we dusted them off. Buchanan laced them up to Aluminum rims 18” in the rear and 19” in the front. Berringer set us up with their brakes in red anodizing which is beautiful....maybe this is the time to explain why they’re not red anymore! Kyle liked the red rims and brakes as do I but we just felt like Norton Green was called for on this project. We disassembled everything and re-powder coated and anodized to get the colors we wanted. There’s so much shine on the bike, we opted with satin black anodize on the Berringers to give them more of a business look. The front end of the Norton was a heavy pig...really pretty shocking how heavy it was. I had a Honda CB 550 setup laying around that we shortened the springs on and cleaned up to work perfectly. NYC Norton supplied the triples with a custom drill for the CB forks.

About this time, we dropped off the motor to Beno Rodi who is an english bike expert. He’s in his 70’s and still races 100 motorcycle races a year! He knows these old Norton’s inside out and has a stash of old and new parts when necessary to fill the gaps. The motor wasn’t in too bad a shape, he did a basic ring, hone, valve and port jobs. He put it together with custom ARP studs and nuts they made special for us.

Beno also went through the transmission, tidied up a few things and it really shifts nice. Wentworth threads are a needle in my side but we replaced all that made sense again with ARP 12 point SS fasteners. We bought the open primary kit with the included clutch and it works really smooth - light to the touch and doesn’t slip; I’m very happy. Bryan Heidt aka “Super B” cut the original cover into a cool shape that covers the Stator a bit and protects Kyle’s foot from the open belt at the control.

Now my favorite part! Time to design and build the alloy bodywork. I’ve been wanting to do a fairing forever it seems, but this was the right bike for it. I took welding rod and Lincoln 180 Power MIG to create a buck with a shape reminiscent of the old Manx racers but streamlined for more style. Windshield is a cut down reproduction Ducati Double Bubble.

Once the design was done I made Hammerforms out of MDF to create the bubbles on the tank, tail, and fairing. This works well to get a sharp line and makes for easy symmetry. A big dead blow roughs them in well and then I used the JET English Wheel and Planishing Hammer to finish. Tops and sides are trimmed, rolled, and metal-finished. Voila!! You get a tank, tail, and fairing.

Headlight and tail light were cut up from this little old English Lantern that had both bezels in it. Sounded like a good idea, but the vibration from the parallel twin broke two glasses. Sometimes this stuff can just be a pain. We made a new one but it wanted to get melted due to the hot H4 bulb….AARGH! Switched it out to LED which we had luckily and it seems to be fine now, whew!

Once everything was polished, plated, and such Wes Hines our mechanical wiz kid and the Super B assembled most of the mechanical components. I laid out the graphics and had them sprayed by Atlanta paint guru Joe Patterson aka JDK. Color was matched to the green dot on the Smith’s gauge then pinstriped by Chastin Brand. John Whitaker did the Leather upholstery on the seat, tail, and tank.

I did the shakedown on the old girl over the last month riding it back and forth to work and around town. She starts first kick nearly every time and hits with a rumble out of the Cone Engineering Stainless Muffs. The Berringers stop perfectly, clutch works smooth, sounds good, seat is comfortable...proud papa!

Photographer Matthew Jones found a great spot out in the Georgia countryside to take these photos. Our schedules and rain kept delaying to the point we basically had one morning to pull the trigger before it left to the Handbuilt Show in Austin. Driving over I was discouraged because after a couple years of work, the bike then nicknamed "Snorton", still didn’t have a solid name. The mist in the air the morning of the shoot made me think of it, and at that moment she became - Misty Green.

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