Good Things Take Time A Trackmaster From Nyc Norton
There are a few builders we watch like a hawk, because everything they touch turns to gold. One of them is NYC Norton, run by the affable Kenny Cummings. He’s one of the top Brit bike specialists in the States, but he doesn’t build a bike up from scratch every week. When he finishes one, it’s always worth taking a closer look.
This Trackmaster-framed beauty is the latest machine to roll out of his Jersey City workshop, and was commissioned by a Norton enthusiast from California—who also has a very specific interest in the 1970s flat track glory days.
The brief was loose. “Sometimes we work with folks who want to have their hands on every fastener turn,” says Kenny [above]. “Other times we get a sketch, an outline, or a text, and away they go.”
Whenever Kenny got to a crossroads on this build, he emailed his client: “He’d answer with an old picture of Dave Aldana jumping his Norton, with the caption, ‘Like this.’ We were able to have latitude.”
The story of this Trackmaster started five years ago, when it was simply a motor build. The original brief was to build up a 1972 Commando ‘Combat’ engine—itself a tuned-up version of the familiar 750 twin. During the rebuild, Kenny added a bigger cam and a ported head, and machined it to allow for a magneto.
This sits in the traditional spot behind the cylinders, and it’s an elaborate mod that requires a longer intermediate spindle, turning down the timing cover boss, and modifying the points cavity.
Forged JE pistons and Carrillo rods were fitted, and Kenny chose a Mick Hemmings PW3 cam for good lift. “We built the head with KPM Black Diamond valves and bronze guides,” he reveals, “and ported it to give a little more flow, then skimmed it even further than a stock Combat, giving a measured 9.75:1 compression.”
“Once the motor was done it became a static art display, sitting prominently on our bench, awaiting instructions on where to send it,” says Kenny. “The idea was for our customer to source a dirt track chassis so he could dabble with a build in his garage out west. But after a year or so the call came in: would we be interested in the full build of a dirt track-inspired street bike? Yes!”
The NYC Norton shop is a sea of Commandos, Seeleys and Featherbeds, all built around the concept of superior ‘Roadholding.’ So for Kenny, the opportunity to order ‘off the menu’ for once was a welcome change.
A short time later, a Tri-C Trackmaster replica frame was delivered to the shop, and the fun really began. “The scope of the build was very basic,” says Kenny. “Put all foot controls on the RH side—à la flat track racers—and do just enough electronics to get it past inspection.
And when in doubt, Kenny was instructed to take cues from the famous Ron Wood / CR Axtell Norton twin-downtube flat tracker. Owned by Jamie Waters, it conveniently lived close by during this build.
Armed with a couple of cocktail napkin sketches, Kenny and his crew went to work. “The first thing to do was to get the motor and gearbox in the frame, with the proper plates.” The gearbox was built from scratch using an H-D shell, but the increased wall thickness required some relieving of the plates beyond the usual.
Then onto carbs and manifolds. This Norton runs Dell’Orto PHF 34s, just like Axtell’s, but it wasn’t a plug-and-play job. “We designed a custom manifold [above] to create a smooth transition from the carb choke bore down to the inlet on the head, while splaying out the carb bodies slightly for space,” says Kenny. He also designed the low-key but effective exhaust system, with compact reverse-cone mufflers.
The primary is driven by a Steve Maney Racing 40mm Belt drive, complete with anodized lightweight Commando clutch. The wide belt (and the aesthetic desire to run a Matchless G85 primary) meant cutting down the end of the Norton crankshaft, and tapping to add front pulley fastening.
The stunning frame is completed by a Ceriani replica 35mm front end, with caliper hangers. The 19-inch wheels are Borrani flanged alloy rims laced with stainless spokes, and shod with Pirelli and Carlisle tires. The brakes are controlled by AP Racing [F] and Hurst Airheart [R] masters.
Unfortunately, the swingarm bushings that came with the chassis we not up to spec, so the shop has made a custom set of bronze bushings in the same style used on their championship-winning Titchmarsh Seeleys.
After mocking everything up, most of the hard parts went to the plater. “We plated the chassis, swingarm, manifold, center stand, side stand, and so on,” says Kenny. “All the case covers are show polished, and the velocity stacks and rear sprocket are gold anodized.”
The wiring is tidy: a simple harness runs from a key switch to a small battery under the solo seat, which powers the 5-inch Bates-style headlight, a tail light from Analog Motorcycles, brake lights activated by hydraulic brake switches, and the horn—“enough to keep the coppers at bay!” The tachometer is a Veglia, adapted to receive the proper ratio from a Norton Commando tachometer drive.
The gleaming, sleek tank was custom-fabbed by famed metal magician, Evan Wilcox, who had to ensure that there was space underneath for neat cable routing as well as the Dell’Orto carbs. “Once done, it was obvious we couldn’t slap just any decal on this beauty,” says Kenny, “so we reached out to Jen Mussari—who has done some really beautiful lettering work for Belstaff, among many others.”
Jen’s brief was to do create a handmade logo in gold leaf, with clear-coat over the top. “When she brought the tank to our shop for the reveal, it was like our baby was born!”
Top east coast photographer Marian Sell was on hand to shoot these images, but not by accident: he’s a Norton aficionado too, and his 1936 Inter is currently in the shop for a refurb.
Kenny’s latest is almost too beautiful to get dirty or damaged on a track. But if it’s called into action, you just know it’ll hold its own.
NYC Norton | Facebook | Instagram | Images by Marian Sell
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