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1973 850 Engine
and Gearbox For
Export to AU

Updated 12/03/23

Two Norton Frames
and Other Parts For
Export to NO

Shipped 10/31/23

US Flag Tuesday, December 5, 2023
33July 10, 2023 I've been discussing building a 1973 Norton 850 Engine and Gearbox and exporting it to a guy in Australia (AU). We agreed today. Edit 9/10/23 I had AZ instead of AU!

Since this is the first time I've done an export like this, I'll document it here. He will be able to follow along with what's in his engine and gearbox and all will see the crating process. I've done a lot of woodworking in my time, but not engine crating!

I'm in the middle of a couple of other Norton projects so this will fill-in time while waiting for missing things on those projects.  Once they are done, this will speed up.

July 11, 2023 Let's get started by inspecting what we have. The first picture shows the content of the bin this has been in since I've had it.  I guess it should be called a bin case rather than a basket case!  Here's each thing inspected:
  • Crankcases - they are in good shape but dirty.
  • Crankshaft - this was apart.  It is in excellent condition - just needed cleaning.  The journals measure perfectly after a quick polish with 800-grit paper and WD40.  On the timing side, as I've often found on 850s, did not have the oil holes chamfered.  I'll do that, give a final clean, and assemble with new hardware.33
  • It came with two really good rods and two OK rods,  I'll polish up the good ones and install with new standard shells.
  • Cylinders - They are tapered out of tolerance so will need to be bored (see the comment below about the head).
  • Lifters - Great shape!
  • Timing cover - OK but some bad scratches.  If the owner doesn't opt for a MK3 cover, I'll use one I took from another bike when installing a MK3 cover.
  • All the stuff that goes in the timing chest - didn't come with any but I probably have good use parts except maybe the oil pump.
  • Pushrods - Grrrrr! Didn't come with any!
  • Camshaft - Grrrrr! Didn't come with one!
  • Crankshaft sprocket, primary chain, rotor, and hardware - Grrrrr! Didn't come with any.  I probably have used parts for most of this.
  • Head – beautiful, rebuilt with new valves, springs, covers, etc.One problem – it’s a 750 head!!!! I have quite a few heads, but those I've checked so far are all 750.  If I don't have an 850 head and I can't find one reasonable, I have a complete 850 engine that I won't get to for a long time.  I'll check that head and the cylinders before I go too far.
People always ask how long things take so like the High Mileage Combat engine I'm rebuilding at the same time, I'll keep a running total of the hours here. In don't include time ordering parts or updating this page. (3.5 hours)

Getting Started

Crank 1

July 12, 2023 Too many calls for help today to get much done. I studied the conrods. It came with four. On was slightly bent - recycle bin. The other three could have been used but would have taken quite a while to get rid of scratches and to polish. So, I cleaned up another set and polished them. I also chamfered the drive side oil holes and did the final clean on the crank. I should be able finish the crank done tomorrow. The buyer decided to install a reed valve later so as soon as the crank is done, I'll start beautifying the cases.

July 13, 2023 If a picture is worth 1000 words, then a movie must be worth 2000. (5 hours)

Crank 1

July 14, 2023 Phase on of the crankcase cleanup is done. (7 hours)

July 15, 2023 Quite a bit of progress today!
  • Finished cleaning the cases and testing/cleaning all threaded holes.
  • Checked all the used camshaft I have - all were either bad or unsuitable so used a new camshaft.
  • Tested the camshaft busings in the crankcases - both were in great shape.
  • Installed new top case studs and cleaned up and installed the case location dowels.
  • Installed new "SuperBlend" bearings in the cases and on the crankshaft.
  • Applied the sealer and assembled.
Now I need to scrape up all the timing gear. I should have good used spares of all except maybe the oil pump. I also make to strip another 850 engine I have to see if the cylinders are good. It takes forever to send them out to be bored so if I have good ones I would prefer to use them and send the other out when there is no rush. (13 hours)

Bottom End 1

July 17, 2023 The timing side only came with the cover - fortunately for the buyer, I've accumulated good used parts I didn't need many new parts.  I did need a chain, the chain tensioner, and some other minor things.  Then, I went on the great oil pump scavenger hunt!  I knew I had some, but where my helper or I put them – turns out in several places! In the end, I found complete ones, partial ones, partly damaged ones. After some testing, I chose a complete one to service even though it had a minor bind.  Once I got it apart, I saw that the return side driven gear had a chip out of it, and it was catching as it turned.  So, I discarded that gear and the one it meshed with even though that one looked good.  Then I did a complete service and test.  This is now an excellent pump.  Of course, I was missing one stud to install it and I didn't find a used one.  I have new but by then I was too tired, so I quit for the day. (16 hours)

Timing Side 1

July 18, 2023 I didn't have much time today but I did get some things done.  I installed the oil pump, polished the timing cover, and installed the internal seals in the timing cover.  However I could not find a circlip for the crankshaft seal and it was late so I didn't get the cover installed. I have a new one so I can install it tomorrow.  I'm also missing the pressure relief valve - hopefully I have a good used one. (17.5 hours)

Timing Side 2

July 19, 2023 Put the timing cover on, but forgot to take a picture.  Also took apart another 850 engine I have hoping to use the cylinders and head.  The cylinders are functionally fine, but they have two broken fins so I'm still looking.  I think the head is good, but I haven't stripped and checked it yet. (18.5 (spent 4 hours on thee other engine by that is not directly a part of this project)

July 21, 2023 Finished striping the head. The picture shows an ugly, dirty head that even was a home to mice – it's ready for phase one of the beautification process. The next time you see it, assuming I find no problems, it won't look the same! (20 hours)

Head 1

July 22, 2023 The head and gearbox shell are looking great now. I hate to let this head go - it's the least porous 850 head I've ever seen!  It's ready to go back together.  I'll get rid of the carbon on the valves and inspect them.  Sometimes the valve that was open needs replacing - we'll see.  I already checked the guides, they are fine.  So, I'll lap the valves in and if need be change any that are bad.  The seats look fine and as long as they lap-in and pass the leak test we'll be good. (25 hours)

July 23, 2023 Well, the head is done for now. Had to deal with some surprises which caused this job to take most of the day.
  • Good: All four rockers and spindles are good – usually at least one spindle is bad and has to be replaced
  • Bad: Both exhaust valves were heavily pitted on the combustion chamber side. They would have run just fine because the sealing side was fine on both, but I can't let things like that go. Fortunately, I had some lightly used valves in great shape to replace them.
  • Good: The stems on the two intake and the two exhaust I had all showed no wear on the micrometer. The valve guides show only minimal wear.
  • Bad: All eight valve springs measured short (worn out). Fortunately, I had a set that came with a buyout that measured perfectly. They appeared to be new.
  • Good: The exhaust valves and one of the intake valves lapped in easily. The other intake was never fully lapped in by whoever did the last head service. That valve took twice as long as the other three combined, but in the end it is perfect.
  • Good: Both the light test and leak tests pass without problem.
The rocker spindle covers are uuuggglllyyy. I normally stock polished stainless versions from Wassell but they have been out of stock for a while. Supposedly British Cycle Supply has even nicer ones; but, their site it so terrible I can't get a price so I've written to them. I still have to polish the rocker covers and find polished stainless (if possible) nuts for them.

Besides the minor things, I'm now stuck looking for a set of cylinders. The set I have has two broken fins. I also need a gearbox inner cover. I have one I could use but it's on a ready to install 1971 gearbox and I at least want to use a 1974 gearbox (even though it doesn't really matter.) (31 hours)

Head 2

August 3, 2023 I found a new company to bore and hone today that are more reasonable and (in theory) quicker. I'll send to them as soon as I find a set. I can finally work on the gearbox. I had everything but the inner cover - I won one on eBay at an excellent price and it arrived today. I already beautified the case, and I just cleaned and inspected the inner cover. It has the bearing installed and that is frozen solid so I have get it out,  Then, I will beautify it and then I can assemble it.

August 5, 2023 Did a lot of blasting today.  Since I had to do the inner cover for this gearbox, I collected up all various cases for projects I'm working on and upcoming ones to. Everything gets washed, then blasted clean with GA #75, and washed again. Then every speck of GA #75 is removed from the cabinet and it's loaded with #8 bears. When blasted with beads at lower pressure, the cases go from weird looking to new looking and the metal is closed up (peened).  Now all the parts must be cleaned until every last beads is gone. Since I put a screw in every threaded hole, after two complete cleanings they will be close.  Then I'll removed all those screws and clean each part over and over in the stainless sink until I can feel no beads on the bottom of the sink. (32 hours (inner cover time).

August 6, 2023 The Good, the Bad, and the Brain Fart!

In the movie, the Good and the Ugly worked together when not trying to kill each other. Today, the Brain Fart ended up being the Good! I've been looking for a set of 850 cylinders for this bike every day. Look at the first picture above! I even wrote up that they need bored! I do need a set of cylinders but that's for a bike I'm working on in between getting parts for this one and waiting for the cylinders to come back for the other one I'm working on. I guess juggling three at once is not good!

The Brain Fart also ended up being the Bad! Started assembling the gearbox. Bearings went in fine. Gear change quadrant and cam plate cleaned and inspected – they are in excellent shape. OK, time in install the sleeve gear – oops! Don't have one with the gearbox but I do have a new on that I got at a good price. OK, check everything. Main shaft: bent! This is going the wrong way. Layshaft: Excellent. Gears: Excellent, Miscellaneous: Good or being replaced. Kickstart: Don't have one with the gearbox but I do have a NOS one from a guy I bought out. I do have a complete gearbox. Can't find any of it at reasonable prices and hate to pay new prices. I do have another complete gearbox I can check – would rather do that and keep looking for good parts. Two years ago I found three perfect NOS main shafts for $100 – maybe I will again.

I wrote all that while taking a break. When I went back to the shop the first thing I saw was a second plastic shoe box marked Norton Gearbox Parts.  Main shaft: Yes and a good one at that. So, back in business.  The sleeve gear would not slip properly into the bearing - common problem - those SHOULD NOT be forced home.  This is a case where I wish I had a lathe.  Chuck it up, use some emery while spinning - 5 minutes and your done.  Instead was two hours with 400-grit wet and dry. It now slips most of the way in and some light convincing gets it home - perfect!  Next I realized I don't know what sprocket the buyer wants and it is much easier to put it on without the main shaft installed so I spend the rest of the time cleansing and getting things ready to go together. (36 hours)

August 7, 2023 The buyer decided on a 21 tooth sprocket so I've ordered one and will wait for that.  In the meantime - STILL no communications from the shop boring the cylinders!

August 10, 2023 The cylinder are finally on their way back for the other bike.  When my crate gets here, I'll pack the cylinders for this bike and sent them off - but not to those guys! I've had recommendations for a couple more that promise two week or less turn around. the AN order may arrive tomorrow - they didn't get me tracking. Once I get it I can finish the gearbox and as soon as we have a cooler day, I'll go in the attic and find a cradle so I can get that done.

August 12, 2023 Surprise! Surprise! The Andover Norton order that was scheduled to arrive Monday arrived this afternoon! So, I was able to put the gearbox together other than the outer cover. All three of the lockrings I have for the clutch mechanism were removed last by gorillas. Naturally, I don't have a new one. I'll have to see if I can clean up so the proper tool will work with it – they do thread in OK. (39 hours)

August 13, 2023 The gearbox should have been done today - it isn't :-( I got all the parts for the outer cover in one place, cleaned, and inspected.  That included going through all my outer gearbox covers that were not on a gearbox. Found a ugly one with minimal dings and scratches. Cleaned, blasted, sanded, and polished - looking good! Needed to stick it on to mark the clutch cable location so I could finish the clutch actuator.  It would not go on - it was hitting the kickstart return spring. That's when I realized that it's not a Commando gearbox outer cover, it's an earlier Norton gearbox outer cover! None of the other loose covers I have are usable on a decent looking bike.  I have a few complete gearboxes - I'll have a look at them, too frustrated today! (42 hours)

August 27, 2023 Been trying to finish the other bike, but I had a stud pull out of the head, a machine shop supposedly fix it, but they got all three studs in crooked so the head cannot be installed. Trying to resolve that. Have the cylinders for this one ready to go but I don't want to send to the same people that took 11 weeks to get the last one back, so I got more recommendations – none of them will call or write me back! I understand having too much work but I don't understand not communicating!

August 30, 2023 Bought a 73 850 assuming that the seller finds/gets the title. I have no room for it so I'll break it down right away. It has low mileage but has sat indoors for about 20 years.  I'm hoping the cylinders are in good shape and well within tolerance so I don't have to have them bored.

September 3, 2023 Still trying to get someone to bore and hone the cylinders, but now I have a solution.  I have a basket case 850 (where I got the head from.  I inspected the cylinders today and was shocked to find that they are standard bore with NO taper. I started a thread on it today on Access Norton. Long story short, I have a good set of cylinders that I can blast, paint and after a quick hone and cleanup install!

See the head stud study I did here. That problem is resolved for this head and I've also installed the other parts I received. Of course, the rocker covers are just on finger tight since I'll need to adjust the valves once the head goes on. They are not perfectly polished but they started out REALLY ugly and now they are nice. (47 hours)

Head 3

September 4, 2023 Next, minor, problem.  I generally stock standard, 20, and 40 over pistons for both 750s and 850s. The standard size for 850s has been out of stock for a few months and I don't have any. I just checked and they are due in this week so assuming that happens, no problem, the cylinders aren't ready to go on yet anyway. I wanted to check the skirt clearance before painting them to see how much if any honing I need to do but I can do that with them painted.

September 13, 2023 I was informed today that the piston sets are back in stock. Placed the order right away - they may get here Friday but probably Monday.

So, I figured I best get the cylinders ready.Put them in the blast cabinet and within minutes I knew I was going nowhere! I forget that last I was finishing crankcases and I had beads loaded. No problem, put in some glass abrasive (I knew I was out of garnet). Guess what, I am out of glass abrasive too! I just ordered some of each so that will slow me down!

September 17, 2023 The blast media arrived late yesterday. On the recommendation of the "expert" I get my media from, course garnet would do the best job. Today, I cleaned out the beads and put in the garnet and started blasting. I was doing better but not great. So, I installed a new jet and a new nozzle – still removing the paint like molasses in winter. I've used fine garnet in the past and it cut very well. I think my setup is not powerful enough for the course garnet (even though I have $6000 in it). So, I cleaned out the garnet and put in my old faithful GA #75.

OK, now we're getting somewhere. I quickly realized that the idiot who painted them last, did not remove the original paint, did not remove the rust and most importantly left chunks of grease and grime and then to make it really hard, used epoxy paint. Blasting will not remove grease! To make a long, back breaking story short, after almost 4 hours I had them mostly looking like cast iron. Now I must wash them in very hot water to get the grease and grime off, then blast again which should be quick, and then do the final very hot water wash followed by quickly going in a hot oven to dry – prevents rust. Then, finally, I can mask and paint them. The whole process including painting is usually 2.5-3.5 hours! (50.5 hours)

September 18, 2023 Today was one of those days when I was on the phone a LOT. I would be helping someone, and the phone would be ringing with another call so I didn't get done all I wanted. Also, UPS was supposed to deliver today and didn't. I finished getting the cylinders completely clean and masked. That also took longer than expected. It's hard to see between the fins while in the blast cabinet and every time I would take them out, I saw another spot. All good now. (52 Hours).

September 19, 2023 The cylinders are painted. I do four light coats upside down and four light coats right side up, check with a flashlight In between the fins for coverage. I wait six minutes between coats (all coats must be done in 60 minutes). I use VHT Gloss Barrel Paint. This paint will be ready to handle tomorrow and cured in seven days. Since it contains ceramic, once the engine runs, the paint will become even stronger. In the meantime, the inevitable little chips that come from handing and shipping are easily fixed with a small brush and the leftovers from the rattle can.

Thursday, I'll give the cylinders one more soap and water wash to be sure the cylinder walls and tappet tunnels have no embedded media followed immediately by a WD40 wipe down. Then the cylinders and head can go on the engine. The cylinders are a gloss deep black – the pictures never do them justice. (53 hours)

Cylinders Painted

September 20, 2023 Unmasked the cylinders and inspected them under a strong light. I found a couple of spots deep within the center of the cylinders that didn't get coated (not uncommon) and touched them up. Next up is washing them as I described before and then installing – I need to check if I have the cylinder base studs, washers, and nuts in good shape. I definitely have the through Allen bolts – I've already tested those and the other threads in the crankcase. (54 hours)

September 21, 2023 If you have a wife or significant other, this is were you show them how lucky they are to have you instead of me! Yes, that's the kitchen sink. This is the last water change – next drying and WD40 (of course, in the kitchen – it's dark outside! Any wonder I'm alone in the world? (56 hours)

Cylinders Final Scrub

September 22, 2023 Checked/cleaned all holes (threaded and not) in the cylinders, slightly countersunk the threaded holes and then checked the cylinders for flatness on the surface plate - all good. Resurfaced the tappets - they didn't need much - and installed them. Re-checked the crankcase threaded holes and installed the studs with blue Locktite. Then rigged the cylinders for lifting. They and the head may go on tomorrow - I have a morning commitment that I can't get out of (wish I could) and I don't know when it will be over - hoping for early afternoon. (60 hours)

September 23, The cylinders are on.  The head will go on as soon as I find out where the black hole put my box of good pushrods! I just checked, cleaned and bagged them about two weeks ago - now I can't find them :-( (63 hours)

September 24, 2023 Found them - they were in a weird place - where they belonged! The cylinders are installed but the head is just sitting there. I realized once I found the pushrods that I only have ugly head bolts. Everyone is out of them in stainless so I ordered standard ones from Andover Norton today.  (66 hours)

Cylinders On

September 30, 2023 My parts orders arrived yesterday. Long day checking in the parts and sorting out what I need for each project. Then I decided no matter what I was going to get two heads on today. Once I started in this one, I decided to finish the engine - which I did. The head is on and torqued, the valves are adjusted, and most holes are plugged. The head steady and rocker feed holes will be needed to move the engine and during crating. I need a cradle for this one and for another, so I'll blast and paint them soon. I already blasted all the head steadies I have - just need to powder coat them. The gearbox for this one still needs an outer cover – just haven't gotten to it. Now for some bad news. The project I was working on before starting this one has been a PITA but the head is back and installed so I can finish that bike. That's my number one priority now. I need it finished and gone – I can barely move for all the bikes. Right after that, I have another one I have to finish and get rid of. As it stands right now, I have nowhere to build crates. So, expect some delay until the next update. (70 hours)

Engine Done

October 29, 2023 I'm in outer gearbox cover hell! When I last wrote, I was looking for one. Before that I polished one and then realized that it is not for a Commando. I've ordered and returned two since then.

Te frames going to Norway are finally crated and waiting for the truck.

The high priority bike, is still here. Something happened to the throttle cable and wiring when the tank went on (I had a helper). The engine started easily and sounded great but wouln't go below 3000 rpm. While looking into that, the fuse holder and master switch started smoking! I haven't had time to look into that yet.

Today, I took the outer gearbox covers from the two basket cases I have. One had something wrong with the kickstart shaft and that hole is damaged beyond use. The other is so cut up that I can't stand to use it. I have an engine and gearbox coming - hopefully that outer cover will be good.

November 2, 2023 I decided to use the inner and outer covers from the donor as a pair on a different gearbox since this gearbox already has an installed and tested inner cover. I have two more outer covers on the way - hopefully both good!

November 9, 2023 I have finally received two outer gearbox covers in OK conditions. I will clean them up and make sure they are good before assembling the inside. I also identified a good outer primary cover that just needs some time at the buffer. Finally, the Engine/Gearbox going to France is enough together that I could check some thing for making the crates. That set has no cylinders but does have the head. It has a Seely cradle so the mounting to the crate will be different, but the crate will be about 24" long, 16: deep, and the height is to be determined.

December 3, 2023 It probably seems like I have forgotten this but I haven't! The big crate has bee gone since early November, and the second one is awaiting pickup. I spent the last two days rearranging and cleaning up from that project (I'm pretty slow these days). I hope to have high-priority bikes done this week. Then there's the other bike that wasn't a priority but he wants to go on a New Year's day ride so I need to finish it - should be quick. Then this will be the priority to finish. I'm pretty sure I have everything to finish it.

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