FEATHERLASTIC TALE

THE MOTORCYCLE THE NORTON FACTORY SHOULD HAVE BUILT

THE SEED

The seed was planted in my head at the INOA Mancos, CO. rally in 2009 when I attended a seminar by Randy Ullery on his Featherlastic conversion using a mockup Featherbed Atlas Slimline frame with isolastic mounts on engine plates he designed and built adapted to a 750 commando engine and transmission. I was also impressed by his featherlastic motorcycle complete and running. I also was further smitten by Bob Cox and his featherlastic which was featured in Cycle World in May 2007. In 2009 I toured the Continental Divide from Montana to Arizona and spent some time at the INOA rally in Mancos, CO. It was there that I met the featherlastic crowd and devoted Norton enthusiasts from the Midwest and beyond. After this trip I decided to keep a lookout for a donor Atlas slimline bike. The Featherbed frame is a marvelous blend of handling, comfort, and stability which is still being produced, and raced to this day.

At the NY INOA rally in 2011 a friend from CO. brought his Flastic there and let me ride it. I was amazed at the smoothness, supple handling, and lack of vibration from the powertrain. I was addicted, and I decided I would search for a donor bike. If one looks long enough one will find, and by the fall of 2011 I located a 65 Atlas, no title, but straight frame. I finally convinced the owner the merits of my project and concluded the sale. He kept the engine, trans, tank, and I rolled the rest home from northern NJ.

During 2012, I scoured the planet for ideas, info, parts and the direction of the project. I wanted to keep the project all Norton with factory parts if possible. I did not want rearsets, clip on handlebars, remote oil tank ,and other aftermarket items like the other builds I have seen. I would build the bike that the factory could have built with all the parts from the Atlas and Commando that they already had. Norton had dropped the highly regarded frame and put all their resources into the new Commando. That story has been well documented, but what if I could put the best parts Norton has and make a bike that I could ride all day, a merger of the 2 models, the best of both models, a blend of the Nortons, the bike that they easily could have produced, very much what some manufacturers are producing and selling today.

In 2013 I collected numerous parts to mock the bike up with, after acquiring a real title for it. I wanted to use the stock Atlas front end, center stand, frame, headlight, battery box, oil tank, seat pan, but paired with the 750 Commando engine, transmission, 19 inch front wheel, 18 inch rear, Mk 2 green sun gauges, control switches, and most important the Zee mount plates for the pegs for the driver, which provides a great riding position. The gas tank from the Atlas was a bit porky but the Manxman smaller version adds sleekness and is well fitted for the look of this build. During 2013 I fitted the parts, measuring , cutting, welding , to adapt the Zee plates, battery tray support, center stand, iso mounts, chain guide, fender and horn support, coil mounts, and so on. I mocked up 3 sets of used Zee plates before I settled on the final design and by November 2013 I had it all together and knew it was going to work.

After tearing it all down, it was time to send all the parts and frame out for powder coating, vapor blasting and polishing. The petrol tank which took me a year to locate went to the painter for massaging the factory seams , apply paint, and the awesome Norton Dominator logo theme I wanted. The Zee plates were fabricated by a machinist I met at Barber Vintage Festival who thought highly of my project. After shipping him my templates, and a mock up seat knob he machined and polished the parts. The engine and trans were rebuilt, I purchased the new wheels rebuilt (Don Pender) with SS spokes, hubs, bearings, all polished ready to mount. I used a 520 O ring chain with a new sprocket hub drum rear to match along with some spacers/ shims to get a perfect alignment from rear wheel to trans sprocket. I built the chain guide, plans from Randy, which keeps the chain where it should be. I rebuilt the front end with tapered roller bearings in the steering head, the stock front suspension, and used a 6 piston floating caliper system, and a master cylinder that matches up to the MK 2 control switches (Don Pender), with a lower fork tube slider with lugs for the caliper. The project really took shape when I got the tank back from Ken Mondello with a eye opening PPG tri color burnt orange color. The stock Atlas seat had to be lengthened because of the shorter Manxman tank. I got the sparkling Zee plates in and mated them to the modified battery tray, the stock oil tank and battery box with the modified coil mount stuffed in between. I use a podtronics box , tri spark ignition, with a jeweled LED warning pilot light that looks stock in the headlight shell with the original headlight switch. The battery is a 8amp agm which fits perfect in stock box. The wiring harness is made from scratch. I used NOS and many reproduction Andover british parts to keep the Brit theme. A belt drive was installed, a NOS Bates taillight assembly, Euro SS bars, Amal grips, 32mm Amal Premier carbs, Smiths new electronic green sun gauges, and SS turned down Hex Head bolts along with some chrome hardware and so much more.

THE FINISH

Finally in early July 2017 weeks before the INOA rally in Virginia the bike stubbornly roared to life after full assault on the wiring(Dan Sellers) of the bike. The custom seat arrived days before the rally started After some electrical gremlins were released from the wiring harness I had two days to sort out why I had no second gear , which was resolved the last weekend and literally only 12 hours before I was to leave for the rally. When I blasted around my neighborhood hitting all the gears I had a huge smile. For my friends that contributed their knowledge, time, expertise and labor from the beginning to right down the stretch(George Roetenberg) to show time, I always have a spare key for you. I thank all who have taken an interest in my dream and helped bring it to life.

Awards
2017 INOA Best in Show
2017 INOA Best in Class Cafe/Custom

 
EngineDon Kuterbach
Wheels/Disc BrakeDon Pender
WiringDan Sellers
Engine Mounts/ISO ConversionRandy Ullery
PaintKen Mondello
Mechanics Bob Katz and George Roetenberg
MachiningHarry Villers
Advice/Info/EncouragementRich Casey/Bob Cox and more

Thanks to all my suppliers : Frank @Clubman Racing.com Walridge Motors, British Cycle Supply, Bsanut, Bonehead Performance Inc.(powdercoat), Bike Works(polishing)

Bob Katz, August 2017


 
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Last modified: January 16, 2011.