One of the world’s most famous motorcycle brands is back under British ownership – in the Midlands.
Derbyshire businessman Stuart Garner plans reviving Norton from Castle Donington racing circuit after buying rights to the name from an American company in a multi-million pound deal. Included are legendary Norton names such as Commando and Dominator.
The Donington site is only 20 miles from Hinckley, home to another legendary British bike name, Triumph.
Mr Garner’s company, Norton Racing Ltd, is developing a rotary-engined racing bike and a road bike is planned for next year. The venture could create between 50 and 100 jobs.
“We are proud to have brought the brands home and we intend to focus on re-establishing Norton as a premier motorycycling brand,” he said. “Our trademarks and brand have incredible strength.”
With Triumph, Norton was once the pride of the strong West Midland motorcycle industry. Its history began in Wolverhampton in 1898 when James Lansdowne Norton began making chains for bicycles.
The first Norton motorbike was produced in 1902 and production was boosted when the British army began using them in the First World War.
Production was moved to Birmingham and Norton began a golden age that saw the production of world class machines combined with dominance on the race track. Norton bikes dominated the Isle of Man TT every year from 1947 to 1954.
By the early 1950s the company began to hit financial problems and passed through the hands of a number of owners, including Manganese Bronze, the company that makes the iconic London taxi at Coventry. After an ill-fated merger with Triumph the company went bust in 1976. Attempts to restore production from a site near Lichfield, Staffordshire stalled despite a Norton victory in the TT in 1992. The brand was bought by Norton Motorcycles Inc of the US, which spent $10 million developing models.
The intellectual property, design and development work that went into developing a new generation Commando form part of the deal struck by Mr Garner.
He said: “Norton remains a very strong brand and our aim is put it back on the map again as a British product.”