Marian Norton Seeley restoration

Crowning Glory: Marian’s street legal Norton MkII Commando Seeley

New York based, fashion and beauty photographer Marian Sell loves a good side project. He cut his teeth with two-wheeled engineering growing up in Germany. Tinkering on the Vespas and Lambrettas he and his friends terrorized local streets on. Decades later he’s still tinkering on motorcycles in his spare time, but his latest project is his crowning glory.

Building a Norton street racer has been a long-time desire of Marian’s and he’d even attempted one in the past, but this time around he was determined to succeed, and succeed he has. Built with the help of Norton aficionado Kenny Cummings of NYC Norton, this is Marian’s Norton Seeley MKII Commando.

Marian Norton Seeley restoration

“I built this Seeley Commando through all of 2023 in my living room,” says Marian. “I’m a good friend of Kenny Cummings, and when one of his racers and long-time customers decided to sell his bikes, I went over to the NYC Norton shop to have a look at what was on offer.”

After perusing the options Marian decided against the purchase of a running race bike which the intention of making it street-legal. Instead, he opted for something a little more complicated that would put his skills to the test. A rolling Seeley MkII frame built by licensed Seeley chassis builder Roger Titchmarsh.

Marian Norton Seeley restoration

Along with the frame Marian’s purchase included a set of classic Akront 18″ shouldered rims wrapped in Avon rubber. At the pointy end of the chassis sat a pair of Ceriani forks that were sporting a highly desirable Fontana 4LS front drum brake. In the rear, a Manx hub sat within the swingarm and there was a Maney clutch ready to mate to a motor. Another strong selling point was the inclusion of a Seeley-style fuel tank by Molnar Precision made from lightweight aluminum and a matching oil tank. There was, however, one very important component missing, the engine.

Marian Norton Seeley restoration

“I took the bike home after the purchase, then with Kenny’s help we wrote a long list of parts that would be needed for the build,” says Marian.

Since he was working with a vintage bike, sourcing everything on the list was made even harder, but with no set deadline, it simply came down to Marian’s determination to see the project through.

“I eventually sourced Molnar race engine cases, a Molnar crank, Combat cams, and an Andover Norton 750cc Cylinder. These were then put together under Kenny’s supervision in his shop. Then I brought the engine home, and found a Combat head on eBay which needed a lot of work, like new valve guides, etc.”

As the engine started to take shape Marian sourced more components to realize his vision. First came a TT Industries 5-speed gearbox setup for right-side GP style shifting (1 up 4 down). Next, a pair of Mikuni VM32s were affixed to the intakes, a Maney belt drive and Pulley installed, and with the help of fabricator Aleksey Kravchuc at Works MFG, they massaged a Minnovation 2 in 1 exhaust into place.

“Aleksey let me use his machine shop and lathe to build the head steady, rear peg brackets, exhaust brackets,” Marian recalls. “He also cut the exhaust fit and did all the welding and bronze brazing work on the chassis.”

Marian Norton Seeley restoration

Around the time the engine work was completed, New York slipped into an “ice-cold polar vortex“. This allowed Marian to focus on getting the Norton’s electrics wired up.

“I prepared the Motogadget accessories which are hidden beneath the customized seat with my cats,” he jokes. “It consists of a Motogadget mo.unit, Motogadget switches, and a self-made wiring loom.” Other features from Motogadget’s catalog include a set of bar end turn signals and the tacho which has been customized using a replica Smiths dial face. In addition to the Motogadget gear, the bike is wearing an LED headlight and tail light courtesy of Purpose Built Moto in Australia.

Finally came the fitment of the remaining missing components to get the bike ready for its inaugural ride. The shopping list included a breather, rear pegs and kickstarter by NYC Norton, Magura levers, a set of custom-made cables, and the fitment of countless custom brackets to mount everything in place. At this stage, Marian also decided to fit the bike with a full front fairing so he sourced a Kirby FRP unit which had to be modified to fit with the custom headlamp.

Marian Norton Seeley restoration

The final step in completing this project was to get the Norton legally registered for road use in NYC. Thanks to Marian’s dutiful approach to this build the bike passed with flying colors and he’s been clocking up miles ever since. “I put about 650km on the engine and gearbox at the end of last year, and I’ve only opened it all the way up a few times,” he says. “The bike is very much ready for this season, but it’s also in a version 1.0 tune right now. My plan was always to leave some room for future improvements.”

Being mostly put together in a living room clearly hasn’t prevented Marian from building one hell of a classic Norton. If  Colin Seeley was still with us I have no doubt he’d approve.


Marian Norton Seeley restoration