The 1973 Norton Commando Tale – Peter Baldasera

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Peter and Ruth Baldasera were two of Upsticks first NLV clients back in 2021 and it’s safe to say they have embraced their new life in the sun with gusto. Both big motoring fans, they didn’t wait for the UK driving licence agreement and (in another first for Upsticks clients) took their Spanish driving tests and passed with flying colours. Read about Ruth’s experience here.

Peter’s story
I bought the bike from a guy near Barcelona via Wallapop. He had inherited it and hadn’t done anything with it. It wasn’t running and had some damage, so it had probably been left in his garage for twenty years. A deal was struck and I transported it back on my trailer. There was a Permiso de circulation document in the seller’s name, but there was no technical inspection card, and it hadn’t been ITV’d for years because he had lost the TI card. The seller and I made the necessary contract to change the bike into my name.

Back at home, I stripped it down and discovered it was a Gus Kuhn Special. Gus Kuhn was a TT rider who sold modified Nortons in the 70s. So, it was a special bike.

I ordered various replacement parts from the UK, which was a challenge due to paying import duty and one episode of using Correos who sent the parts back before I could administer the paperwork. However, I eventually got the parts I needed and rebuilt the bike. During the rebuild,  I changed the handlebars and the seat to non-standard, which I didn’t know would cause big problems down the line.

Once I’d finished the rebuild, I went to the ITV station to start the process, explained the bike didn’t have the Technical Inspection card, and asked what I needed to do. They said they would apply for a copy of the card from Madrid. They would then inform me via telephone when they got the card, and it would be 26 euros. About a month later, I got the call to go back for the appointment for the inspection of the bike.

So, I took the bike to the ITV station and presented it for inspection by a young man a lot younger than the bike. I then received a list of requirements and was given a photo from their database of a standard Norton Commando which had a rear drum brake, whereas mine has a modified rear disc brake (as per Gus Kuhn’s modifications). We then had a discussion on what the procedure was for ‘homologacion’ of the bike, even though it had been tested successfully in Spain years ago. Then, I was given contact details for an engineer.

During the following weeks, I liaised with the engineer to plan the process, sent photos etc… We met in Leroy Merlin car park in Elche and he took several measurements and inspected the bike with it running. He said because it had a non standard rear brake, he didn’t have the facility to test it, so I’d have to go to his colleague in Murcia to have the brake tested. It was explained to me that if the rear brake had come off a modern post 1996 motorcycle, and that I could prove it, then it wouldn’t need testing, but I didn’t want to go down that route.

Eventually, I received an appointment to take the bike for a brake test in Murcia on a piece of road on an industrial estate about an hour’s drive away.

So, the brake test:

The engineers fitted sensors to the rear brake mechanisms to test pressure and temperature, plus a dynamic speed monitor onto the bike handlebars to record my speed. I was connected to a laptop, which I had in a rucksack, while I did the test. I was instructed what speed to ride at and where to come to a dead stop several times. After several tests, they downloaded the information and calculated that the brake was inefficient.

Undeterred, I modified the brake system. I bought some softer material brake pads from the UK, modified the lever to the master cylinder, and skimmed the disc to increase efficiency.

Some time later, I received a 2nd appointment and took my bike for the 2nd brake test at the racetrack in Murcia. This time it reached the criteria. I waited for the results (during August holiday period) to go to the engineer so he could create his report of about 100 pages, listing all the mods and measurements and test results etc.

Once the report was finally completed, I collected it from the University in Elche where he had an office, and took it to the ITV station, and waited again for another appointment.

Finally, I attended the ITV station with the bike, and after an argument about a missing reflector (which was not on their original inspection as a requirement), I received 2 year ITV.

Start to finish – about 6 months.

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Work in Progress
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How the Norton looks now
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Peter proudly accepting his First place at the Motorshow
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