Just as it is in the car world, some motorcycle names are too significant to truly fade away. Polaris, for example, successfully brought Indian back roughly a decade ago. And we’re close to seeing BSA make its return. However, that’s not the only British motorcycle brand that’s coming back. It’s had a rough time of things these last few years, but Norton Motorcycles is really, truly ready to ride again.
Norton Motorcycles’ initial comeback didn’t go smoothly
Up until the mid-2000s, Norton was one of several historic British motorcycle brands that were, well, history. An American, Kenny Dreer, had tried to resurrect it and the iconic Commando, but the attempt went nowhere. However, in 2008 Stuart Garner and some investors bought the rights to the name and laid out plans for new bikes. And just a few years later, the first of these new models, the Commando 961, did enter production.
Unfortunately, things went downhill quickly after that. See, Garner didn’t just restart Norton: he also tied several non-motorcycle companies to the brand. One of those, Spondon, was a chassis design firm, which was beneficial to the reborn bikemaker. However, the other companies included a hotel firm and a real estate company. And in addition to those companies, Garner was also the CEO of Manorcrest Limited, which organized pension funds.
In 2012 and 2013, Manorcrest created several pension funds focused on Norton Motorcycles, with Garner as the sole trustee. While that’s not problematic in and of itself, British law limits how much money trustees can invest in these situations. Garner, though, basically funneled it all into Norton. But wait, there’s more.
After Norton declared bankruptcy in 2019, financial investigators found that Garner had made some seriously shady deals. For example, Donington Hall, the mansion that he supposedly purchased as Norton’s HQ, was really his personal residence, RevZilla reports. Furthermore, the money Garner used to buy the Norton Motorcycles name in the first place came from illegal tax fraud. And this is just the start.
Long story short, Garner got off with a fine and a slap on the wrist while Norton Motorcycles went bankrupt. And so, it seemed like the brand would join the likes of Matchless and Ariel in the history books. At least, up until recently, that is.
The British bike brand now has a new CEO, owner, and lease on life
Roughly a year after Norton’s bankruptcy, Indian motorcycle company TVS Motor bought the company and its assets for about $20 million. Shortly after that, it installed a new CEO, Dr. Robert Hentschel, who promised that the company was turning over a new leaf. And after TVS’ recent $125 million investment, those promises seem to be bearing fruit.
As of this writing, Norton has two motorcycles in the works. The first is a re-engineered version of the V4-powered superbike that Garner teased before his legal mess happened. Dubbed ‘V4SV,’ it features a 185-hp 1200cc V4, hand-welded aluminum chassis, slipper clutch, Brembo brakes, and Ohlins suspension. And while the Manx and Carbon models have carbon-fiber body panels, the latter also has carbon-fiber wheels. Plus, besides multiple riding modes, traction control, and an electronic quickshifter, the V4SV has a rear-view camera.
The other upcoming Norton motorcycle is a café racer version of the V4SV. This V4CR has the same engine and chassis, though the rear subframe and seat are shorter, Cycle World reports. Also, like the V4SV Manx, it has Oz Racing forged alloy wheels. However, as it’s a café racer, the V4CR has less bodywork—though it’s still carbon fiber—as well as a redesigned instrument panel, different air intakes, and a new belly pan.
In addition, Norton already has a factory up and running. The company claims the Solihull, England facility can produce up to 8000 motorcycles a year. And finally, it recently purchased 55 of its classic models to start a heritage collection.
Will Norton Motorcycles return to the U.S.A.?
As of this writing, Norton hasn’t confirmed if its new motorcycles will make their way to the U.S. However, the Commando 961 did come here in small numbers, albeit not through dedicated dealerships. So, once fully V4SV and V4CR production starts, these bikes could be federalized for sale here.
Still, much like the case with Buell, I’m sure many riders are happy to see Norton up and running again.
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