GENERAL NEWS

NORTON ON A ROLL

THE STORY OF A NORTON REVIVAL

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First I have to make a statement; I was one of the doubters. Many have attempted to 'revive' British motorcycle manufacturing by trading on well-known names of the past. Triumph is now a successful international brand, but when Stuart Garner bought the rights to make and sell Norton in 2008, I was sceptical. From the point of view that it takes great piles of cash to design, build and sell motorcycles. Wishful thinking, romance and nostalgia are not enough.

'You can't throw money at a problem', a popular cliché that politicians like to tell us. Especially if they don't want to fund or resolve a problem. But in many circumstances, it's the only way to move forward.

Take John Bloor, for instance. A rich property developer who had no interest in motorcycling. Until he bought Triumph. He recognised the importance of investing in top development and manufacturing facilities. And now sells bikes that compete in the world market.

Stuart Garner is a motorcyclist. Like many of us, he began riding in his teens. He loved everything riding motorcycles can bring. He now produces a motorcycle whose name resonates with hundreds of stories of a famous bike on road and track.

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DONINGTON HALL HOME TO NORTON OWN STUART GARNER
He lives and works at Donington Hall. A stately home close to the race track that shares the name. He hosts a monthly bike night there throughout the summer because he likes to be close to his customers and motorcyclists.  

A Done Deal

This didn't spring from nowhere, of course. Garner has made a lot of money as a business person. He developed a large fireworks company and became a successful trader in the world's stock markets. This provided a financial basis for investing in Norton.

In 2007 he bought Spondon Engineering, a motorcycle frame and parts manufacturer. It was when the company was building a prototype Norton rotary racer that it realised it didn't have the rights to use the Norton name.

The following year, dodgy dealing coupled with greed brought the world financial markets to near collapse. An investment banker named Ollie Curme owned the Norton name at the time. He had spent several million dollars trying to get the bikes produced again in the US.

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STUART GARNER, OWNER OF THE NORTON BRAND
He'd given Stuart Garner permission to use the Norton name for the rotary. Curme's financial star waned when Lehman Brothers, the huge investment bank, went under. He telephoned Garner, offering to sell Norton. He agreed, flew to New York, and the deal was done in a few days.

At this stage, Garner had no premises, no bikes, and no staff. Only a few CDs illustrating engineering drawings and specifications, plus four prototypes. Would this venture turn out to be another false start for Norton?

Investing in Norton

In the nineties, the bike brand had several global owners but failed to live up to the promise of a new range of bikes. But Stuart Garner is a determined man. He was able to put a team and the finance together to start bringing the new Nortons to market.

What's admirable about Garner's Norton rebirth is his commitment to training new engineering apprentices.  He successfully attracted government funding for this, recruited and trained people throughout the manufacturing process engaged in by Norton and its supply partners.

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GEORGE OSBORN HELPED YIELD £6.5 MILLION TO INVEST IN MOTORCYCLE INDUSTRY
Apparently, he sent a tweet to George Osborne (remember him?). He'd recently announced an investment of £10 million for the Ford motor company to build cleaner engines. Garner wanted to bring his attention to the successful work they were doing at Norton. His discussion with Osborne yielded some £4 million from the government and £2.5 million from banking sources.  Money to invest in the motorcycle industry manufacturing supply chain and apprentice academy. His aim is to rekindle the skills which have been lost down the years in this type of high-end engineering.

I've gone from being a sceptic, to being one of the thousands who has clustered around the Norton stand at various shows admiring the design and specification of its range.

This is not mass production in terms of taking on the big Japanese builders or the likes of BMW and Piaggio. Norton builds bikes for a newer market. Riders whose motorcycle is a source of pure pleasure. Those who don't necessarily use their bike for utilitarian purposes.

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Last year came news that the company would be launching a new model , the 1200cc V4. It's now confirmed that it will be available in the metal, so to speak, in 2017, as a limited edition model of 200 bikes. Word on the street is that the first batch has all been sold.

It's difficult to get exact information about the price of these 200bhp machines. £44,000 is the figure which has been bandied around the motorcycle media. Definitely an example of 'if you have to ask the price, you can't afford it'. The bike should be on display at Motorcycle Live at the NEC in November.

The Norton Lifestyle

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BEAK STEET, LONDON - THE LOCATION OF NORTON'S NEW SHOP
Beak Street in London's Soho district. An area for restaurants, clubs, bars, some disreputable premises and criminality. Not a place to head for if you're looking for motorcycle related activity.

Not anymore, though. Because on 29th Septemeber at number 47, Norton opened a shop to sell its branded paraphernalia and display its motorcycle range. It had to be seen as part of the 'lifestyle' direction that is becoming familiar. Harley is well established at this. Royal Enfield has too opened several stores that are clearly aimed at attracting new interest through clothing and accessories as well as bikes.

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HARLEY WELL ESTABLISHED AS A LIFESTYLE BRAND
Norton says it will have bikes available for potential buyers to take out on the road. Have you experienced the congestion that is central London traffic these days? Hmm. But anything that presents a positive image for biking is to be welcomed. And in this location, it should attract people who wouldn't normally have the opportunity to see bikes close up and personal.

Stuart Garner and the team at Norton are turning out 1,000 bikes per year, of which around 80% go for export. They are training a group of young people who will have the skills to keep producing the hand built machines and the components that go to make them up. The Norton race team achieved a seventh place in this year's Superbike TT too. Good going for a project that has only been underway for eight years.

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A NORTON RACE BIKE
It's possible to see the Norton revival in practical action by making a visit to the factory set in the grounds of the grand and gothic Donington Hall. Go to www.nortonmotorcycles.com.


Comments

20/10/16 - Let's hope they continue to be a success like Triumph have.

20/10/16 - Looking forward to our trip to Norton in November 😊 some good background to the story of the Norton revival here

20/10/16 - Are Norton still going , don't see many on the road even in the summer .

20/10/16 - Nice bike, but a bit on the too expensive side.... For my bank account.

20/10/16 - Glad to see the old names come back, having worked at Nortons Plumpstead many years ago

          21/10/16 - .it is good to see them trying to maintain the old heritage, having worked in Bracegridge Street in the 1950s. I wish them every success.

          21/10/16 - Long time ago. Maybe you remember the 750 Commando Scrambler and then for American market had 850 Scrambler with high level pipes, then was fastest machine on dirt

20/10/16 - Would have one in a heartbeat, wish they were a bit more affordable to your 'average joe' though.

21/10/16 - Won't survive with just a parallel Twin at that price! How much for the V4?

  
          21/10/16 - Never hurt HD or Guzzi..........

21/10/16 - Beautiful Real shame there Designer Hand Bag Priced most bikers cant Afford them

21/10/16 - A great name in motor cycle racing on the Isle of Man

          21/10/16 - I think HD arnt very stable at the moment as for Guzzi ! Got big lire behind them! Time will tell I hope Norton make it be they need to make a range of Bikes!

          21/10/16 - you're right.... But remember that John Bloor put £83,000,000 into restarting Triumph. Who initially had a range of 6 bikes. Norton started with 3 and now arguably have 5 with the V4 coming next year. Triumph have grown to the point where most of their range is made in Thailand with dubious quality thrown in for good measure. That makes their bikes about as interesting as a new AJS Cadwell or any of the other Chinese fakes.
You pays your money and takes your choice.
I'm happy with the knowledge that my 961 cafe racer was largely made by a group of guys & gals in Donington who even signed my handbook.
Bet none of the Bonneville owners know or could even pronounce the folks that made theirs......👍 Brand snobbery? Absolutely. After all, who would want a mass produced Aston Martin......

22/10/16 - good luck and best wishes from an olde Norton lover in exile

22/10/16 - The new Nortons are achingly beautiful, albeit possessing some sharp metal edges just waiting for the unwary cleaner. The other retro newcomers? A mixed bag to hook the gentleman's wallet.

23/10/16 - Nice motors -but! Triumph, BSA, Norton were all common, household names in the 50's, 60's and 79's - all at affordable prices. The new Norton is far from that - up market and expensive.

23/10/16 - Brilliant news, my favourite bike x

23/10/16 - That is well fugly.

23/10/16 - If only I could afford one.......ah well, dream on..........

23/10/16 - hope he gose from strength to strenght

23/10/16 - Nice bike, but a bit on the too expensive side.... For my bank account.

          23/10/16 - Aston Martins,Rolls Royces are too pricey for most too.

          23/10/16 - About the same price as a mid-range Harley, clearly won't be the same price a Japanese bikes.

23/10/16 - Nice article.

TOPICS: NORTON
Posted by John Newman
for Wemoto News on 20 October 2016 in General News

Edited By: Daisy Cordell

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