Norton Motorcycles Ownership Returns to the UK

Norton Motorcycles back in British handsNorton Motorcycles has been purchased by Stuart Garner. All of the trademarks and development work relating to the Norton, Manx, Atlas, Commando and Dominator brands are now owned by the British businessman and owner of Norton Racing Ltd. Plans are to return to the street and track in 2009.

After the abrupt end of the effort to bring back Norton in the U.S. and following Kenny Dreer's departure from the company, everything kind of disappeared. There was talk of negotiations but I heard nothing until I saw this.

It looks like they've developed a 588cc twin rotor Wankel racebike with plans to produce 200 road versions late this year and early 2009. It also appears they have purchased the bike developed by Norton in the U.S., the Norton Commando 961, and plan to finish that project as well. Pretty cool. Now we'll just have to see if things work out as planned. I'm rooting for their success.

Norton press release below:

After nearly fifteen years of US ownership, Norton, the quintessential and most famous of British motorcycle brands returns home.

As a result of prolonged negotiations and a multi-million pound deal we can announce that the Norton motorcycle brand is, at last, back in caring British hands.

Stuart Garner a UK based businessman and owner of Norton Racing Ltd has bought back all the trademarks and development work relating to the Norton, Manx, Atlas, Commando and Dominator brands.

Norton Racing Ltd is already in development of a new rotary engined race bike and now with the ownership of the brand itself plans are being developed to introduce a new road bike for 2009.

‘This has been a challenging and exciting period for us’ Commented Garner ‘We are proud to have brought the brands back home and we now intend to focus on re-establishing Norton as a premier motorcycling brand across the World’ he added.

In the early nineties the brands were bought by Norton Motorcycles Inc in the USA with the view of developing a new Commando road bike for the US market. Nearly $10 million was spent on IP, design and development, and this development work has formed part of the new deal. The investment can now be brought to bear on the new global project for the Norton Commando 961.

Norton intend to develop a strong presence on the track and on the road during 2009 with a new 15000 sq foot factory and office complex based at Donington Park - Norton are at the heart of motorcycle racing once again and committed to investment to make the initiative work.

As well as creating a new ‘state of the art’ road bike the Norton brands will see a vigourous licensing programme through Norton Global Brands to safeguard and develop licensing of all kinds from spare parts to clothing.

Commenting on the programme Garner said ‘Our trade marks and brand have incredible strength and value, we will strongly enforce our position as the new owners of these world famous brands and ensure our new partners benefit from a robust protection programme going forward’.

‘This is the beginning of a new and exciting era in a brand that was started over 100 years ago by James Lansdowne Norton. It has sustained ups and downs over the years but still stands for performance and excellence. These will be the standards we live by from now on’ stated Garner.

Link: Norton Racing

Comments

  1. OMMAG says

    I know you’re not a fan of negative comments ….

    BUT..

    “As a result of prolonged negotiations and a multi-million pound deal we can announce that the Norton motorcycle brand is, at last, back in caring British hands.”

    Please …. I’m all for it but if hype like this is what they are setting expectations on then I’m worried they are doomed to fail.

    Wankel engines? Seriously… ??

  2. thruxton-texas says

    Wankel engined Nortons were under serious development in the late 70’s, before they went out of business. Personally, I’d like to see a resurgence of another British marque; just look at Triumph.

  3. jamesbowman says

    Norton Wankels won races and were blazingly fast. Wankels seem at home on a race track where they shine. They do everything a two stroke does only better in most cases with much lower fuel consumption wider power band and greater endurance.

    Look at the Rotary Le mans 787B from Mazda, it won in the class were fuel was limited against 4 strokes! Bad timing, less developement, misinformation and politics have severely hurt the Wankel.

    Norton had great success with this engine, but the company was already doomed. This is the only bike that I think would make a better track day bike than the 500cc Aprilla 2 stroke which also is very exciting. Check out the Aixro xr50 karting engine which is essentially half of this engine I believe at 294cc. Bring it on and prove the naysayers wrong, 170hp 287lbs is tough to beat.

  4. says

    Dang, there goes another “dead motorcycle company” t-shirt of mine that just went down in value.

    Anyway, this is great news and I’m all for a Norton comeback.

    -brian

  5. Nicolas says

    I’m little bit scared by the part that says “develop licensing of all kinds from spare parts to clothing”, I hope these guys are really founding their poject on the resurection of the motorcycles, not just a way to sell derivative products …
    Bringing a legendary brand back to life is tricky, it’s like Bjorn Borg coming back to the courts, it more often hurts the brand than it makes anything good to it.

  6. stacius says

    Feh.

    Folks…we could be standing on the verge of a new Golden Age of motorcycling!

    I think it’s exciting. Also, I think with the vast fortunes (so far lost) on reviving brands, I hope the new owners will make a product that is affordable, well-built and fast.

    Triumph showed that it can be done. There’s no reason Norton couldn’t come back.

    I wish them the best!

  7. Steve says

    Bad timing??? Perhaps not. If a company has the resources to get started during a recession, they can take advantage of lower costs is getting started. The key is having the resources and the courage to use them. Once they get up and running, the rest of the world economy may well be in a better place and ready to buy.

    Since my first New motorcycle purchase was a 1970 Commando while I was finishing college, I have always had a fondness for the brand. I have not had the opportunity to buy another, but I do love my 2000 Triumph Sprint RS. I expect to ride it many more miles and several years, yet. However, if I could hope to someday own modern Norton of the same quality, I would be very happy.

    God Save the Queen!

  8. says

    James Bowman – exactly. “Bring it on and prove the naysayers wrong, 170hp 287lbs is tough to beat.”

    Does anyone here think that manufacturers have given the rotary engine a legitimate amount of R&D?

    Many people believe the reciprocating i-c engine is just now starting to reach additional levels of development potential. The rotary hasn’t even reached its first iteration potential.

    looking forward to this in many ways.

  9. Mark says

    Please oh please, let them build a new Manx. I really want a lightweight, big-bore single that’s not a supermotard.

  10. B*A*M*F says

    I look at the Mazda RX-8 as a solid example of what can be done with rotary engines. It still has faults, but they would have less impact on a motorcycle. I’ve heard of fuel as a factor for buying a scooter or small bike. I’ve not heard that from sport bike owners. The cold start issues are not as big a deal on a bike either. I don’t ride on ice, so I rarely ride when it’s below freezing.

  11. joda2weils says

    It’s about time!
    Been waiting a long time to hear that Norton will rise again like the Phoenix of mythology lore. I wish “Sir” Stuart Garner tremendous success with this new venture.
    I call him by “Sir” prematurely perhaps but I suspect that title will be bestowed upon him in due course if he succeeds and brings the mighty Norton namesake back to financial soundness and much needed revenue back to the “Crown”.
    The sad part of this is that I will have to decide which of my nine Commandos’ I will have to sell off to get the cash to purchase one of these new machines.

  12. Dirk says

    If they really do get the Dreer 961 going I’m sure they could sell all they could make if they keep it below $20k (hopefully well below). It does seem to be the “what if” evolution of the original Commando package. Not like the various H-D clone “Indian” bs.

  13. Clivemsanders@gmail.com says

    It seems that for the retro cafe market, they have some relatively inexpensive competition being sport classics and thruxton, both priced under 12,000. I will buy a 961 if its 11,000. maybe 12.

  14. JC says

    “This is the only bike that I think would make a better track day bike than the 500cc Aprilla 2 stroke which also is very exciting. Check out the Aixro xr50 karting engine which is essentially half of this engine I believe at 294cc. Bring it on and prove the naysayers wrong, 170hp 287lbs is tough to beat.”

    IF two strokes become a thing of the past due to emissions regulations, a rotary would be the next best thing in terms of power to weight.

    That kart motor is something, but what a steep price tag. Seems perfect for a series hybrid, small, light, and more than enough power, perhaps could even be de-tuned for longer time between overhaul.

  15. OMMAG says

    I figured that I would draw a lot of fire for being a doubting Thomas.

    Believe it people …. I really do want the Norton Brand to come back and to be a leader in the industry.

    I’m willing to wait and see.

  16. Bjorn says

    Stuart Garner has a very good pedigree in business in the U.K. with among other things a share in Spondon Engineering. Spondon were responsible for the chassis of the Norton rotary race bikes which dominated British Superbikes in ’94. He also has Brian Crighton, the original designer of the Norton rotaries, on board. Crighton’s current race engine design features fly by wire throttle, traction control, variable engine mapping and throttle bodies that are infinitely variable in length through 120mm, that’s nearly 5 of your inches.
    Well resourced and well suplied with engineering talent they are in a good position to succeed with their goals of racing success and streetbikes available within 18 months.
    I’ve pinched most of the information above from the 23rd July issue of Australian Motorcycle News.
    The Norton Rotary roadbike was available in limited numbers here in Australia in the mid nineties. I desperately wanted one, maybe the future still holds one for me.
    Suzuki had their stab at the rotary with the spectacularly unsuccessfull RE5. Can anyone think of other rotary motorcycles?

  17. WRXr says

    Can anyone think of other rotary motorcycles?
    Hercules

    Also…

    Suzuki
    Van Veen
    DKW (really badge engineered Herc)
    A bunch of eastern block prototypes

  18. jamesbowman says

    I actually have the SAE paper on the developement of the Norton Rotary engine from 1978. Very interesting the steps they took and the power they achieved by doing so. I have Mazda’s Le Mans SAE papers as well as a few others. I think this engine is extremely under developed relative to a 4 stroke and if the developement was equal it would be no contest. A lot of the serious obstacles have been overcome, but I think complete combustion is the last major obstacle due to combustion chamber shape, which I think Mazda is addressing in there 16x. by changing the rotor dimensions. DISC fuel metering is being employed as well. I hope they succeed.

  19. Jack MacPherson says

    The quality and superior components of the 961 show that it is worth more than mass produced machines of similar size.Iwill own one…or two.

  20. Barry says

    Having owned both 850 Commando and Classic Rotary bikes currently riding Triumph 900 Trident, I looked in envy at the 961 Commando in US and thought “what a good idea”
    Best of British Mr Gardner. Don’t cut corners and don’t price the product out of range.
    Hesketh, another fine product.

  21. joda2weils says

    Keep this new developement on the front burner–the interest must be maintained in order for this to become a reality.
    Points for the marketing people—the history of Norton raceing, a unique motorcycling experience, pure motorcycling as it should be, play on the emotions of why people ride motorcycles to begin with–make people want to have one of these bikes for the enjoyment of the ride.
    And most importantly, don’t build it in China.

  22. Roy Ramsbottom says

    In 1976 and in 1982/3 I made 2 trips around Australia on a Norton Mk 3 are you interested in any informationof it or pictures?
    Thanks
    Roy

  23. Roy ramsbottom says

    Hi WRXr and Den.

    I was in Australia in the 1970s and there was an article in the Aussie magazine Two Wheels June 1975 and there were 2 rival Rotarys the DKW W2000 in section 8 with the Wankel engine and the Suzuki RE5 in section 38.
    If anyone is interesested I may be able to scan the articles and email them.

    Roy

  24. Michael Brett says

    Finally someone has the guts (and money) to do what should have been done from the begining. The development of the mighty Commando should have gone on slowly and quietly like things do in Germany, or Italy, or Japan. Playing on the name and the classic stuff is getting really boring these days (mini, beetle etc).The original designs of the Norton Interstate/ Commando, and the Triumph Bonneville are iconic to British design as is the flat twin to BMW or the V-twin to Harley. Lets not mess too much with superlative words and instead get back to the basics, THE LOOK, THE SOUND, THE QUALITY, THE MADE IN ENGLAND label AND THE PRICE . Don’t forget the looks.