Just like in the automotive world, some motorcycle names are too big to really fade away. Polaris, for example, managed to bring the Indian back about a decade ago. And we’re about to see BSA make a comeback. However, it’s not the only British motorcycle brand making a comeback. Things have been tough the past few years, but Norton Motorcycles is really, really ready to roll again.
Norton Motorcycles’ initial comeback didn’t go smoothly
Until the mid-2000s, Norton was one of many historic British motorcycle brands that were, well, history. An American, Kenny Dreer, had tried to resuscitate him and the iconic Commando, but the attempt came to nothing. However, in 2008 Stuart Garner and some investors bought the rights to the name and made plans for new bikes. And a few years later, the first of these new models, the Commando 961, went into production.
Unfortunately, things went downhill quickly after that. You see, Garner didn’t just reboot Norton: he also tied several non-motorcycling companies to the brand. One of them, Spondon, was a frame design company, which was good for the reborn bike maker. However, the other companies included a hotel business and a real estate company. And in addition to these companies, Garner was also the CEO of Manorcrest Limited, which organized pension funds.
In 2012 and 2013, Manorcrest set up several pension funds focused on Norton Motorcycles, with Garner as sole administrator. Although this is not problematic in itself, UK law limits the amount trustees can invest in these situations. Garner, however, basically funneled everything into Norton. But wait, there’s more.
After Norton filed for bankruptcy in 2019, financial investigators discovered that Garner had made some very shady deals. For example, Donington Hall, the mansion he supposedly bought as Norton’s HQ, was really his personal residence, RevZilla reports. Additionally, the money Garner used to buy the Norton Motorcycles name came from illegal tax evasion in the first place. And that’s only the beginning.
Long story short, Garner got away with a fine and a slap on the wrist while Norton Motorcycles went bankrupt. And so, it looked like the brand would join Matchless and Ariel in the history books. At least, until recently, it is.
The British bike brand now has a new CEO, owner and life lease
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About a year after Norton went bankrupt, Indian motorcycle company TVS Motor bought the company and its assets for about $20 million. Soon after, he appointed a new CEO, Dr. Robert Hentschel, who promised the company was turning over a new leaf. And after TVS’ recent $125 million investment, those promises seem to be paying off.
As of this writing, Norton has two bikes in the works. The first is a redesigned version of the V4-powered superbike that Garner teased before his legal mess happened. Nicknamed “V4SV”, it features a 185 horsepower 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. Also, in addition to several riding modes, traction control and electronic quick-shifting, the V4SV has a rear-view camera.
The other upcoming Norton motorcycle is a cafe racer version of the V4SV. This V4CR has the same engine and chassis, although the rear subframe and seat are shorter, bike world reports. Also, like the V4SV Manx, it has Oz Racing forged alloy wheels. However, being a cafe racer, the V4CR has less bodywork, although it is still carbon fiber, as well as a redesigned dashboard, different air intakes and a new engine spoiler. .
In addition, Norton already has an operational factory. The company says the factory in Solihull, England can produce up to 8,000 motorcycles a year. And finally, he recently bought 55 of his classic models to start a heritage collection.
Will Norton Motorcycles return to the United States?
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At the time of this writing, Norton has not confirmed whether its new motorcycles will arrive in the United States. However, the Commando 961 came here in small numbers, but not through dedicated dealerships. So once full production of V4SV and V4CR begins, those bikes could be federalized for sale here.
Still, just like in the case of Buell, I’m sure many riders are happy to see Norton operational again.
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