Britain's Premier Norton Motorcycles - Euro Notes

Britain's most notorious nameplate makes another comeback

Founded by James Lansdowne Norton in Birmingham in 1898, Norton Motorcycles rose to become one of Britain's premier motorcycle brands, winning the Isle of Man Senior TT every year from 1947 -'54. Following numerous mergers as the British bike industry eroded in the '60s and '70s, Norton ceased continuous production in '75. Many parties have since tried to resurrect the brand, some with favorable results (Philippe LeRoux's Wankel Nortons), and others exposed as frauds (Robert Kilpatrick's V8-powered Nemesis). Now Norton is back in British hands, having been purchased from its former American owners by Derby-based entrepreneur Stuart Garner.

The new owner hopes to revive the brand by stitching together a patchwork of existing Norton projects. Step one will be a production version of the Kenny Dreer-designed Commando 961 retro-sportbike, now fuel-injected, with an initial run of 200 available for sale in August. Garner is also working with Brian Crighton on a next-generation NRV rotary-engined roadracer, slated to compete at this year's TT with Michael Dunlop in the saddle. Additionally, he has purchased a controlling interest in Maxsym Engines, whose parallel-twin engine design could power a modern line of 750cc and 1200cc sportbikes--as well as a prototype racer to compete in the new Moto2 GP racing series, provided rules makers don't adopt a spec engine, as has been discussed.

That racer is already under construction at Norton's new, 7500-square-foot factory located at Donington Park, and Garner says production versions could come as soon as 2011. A full staff of engineers and management executives--including former Triumph designer Simon Skinner, who now serves as Norton Design Chief--are driving this development full-speed ahead. Keep tabs on their progress at