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The Norton History


The original firm Norton Manufacturing Co. was founded by James Lansdowne "Pa" Norton in 1898 in Wolverhampton.

Since 1913 motorcycles were produced in different series and won a number of races. Norton was thus one of the great names in British motorcycle industry, and especially known for having dominated the European and global motorcycle racing for decades. The race on the Isle of Man, the "Senior TT" (Tourist Trophy), was the most important race of the MotoGP World Championship. This race was wom by Norton riders ten times in the years between the world wars, and then every year from 1947 to 1954. This series of victories is unmatched to this day. No other motorcycle brand was nearly as successful in international competitions.

1953 Norton was merged with other British motorcycle manufacturers (AJS, Matchless, James, Francis-Barnett) in the AMC (Associated Motor Cycles) Group. After the Second World War, the Norton brand was known for the quality of the design and the handling characteristics of the chassis, in particular the so-called "Featherbed" frame with double tube loops from the steering head to the swingarm pivot. Many "Cafe Racer" self- and re-construction was created on the basis of Norton Featherbed frame. They were powered with two-cylinder engines of Triumph, Vincent, BSA or another. As the, in the former Formula 3 so coveted Norton Manx engines were not sold individually, but in form of a whole Motrocycle, one got rid of the Featherbead frame, which then was availablefor the mentioned modifications, or was sold to other parties. When Triumph engines were used, the bikes were called "Triton". This name was composed of Triumph (engine) and Norton (frame). Similarly, there were also Norvin (Norton frame, Vincent motor) and Norbsa (Norton frame, BSA motor) conversions.

In the early 1960s the United States became the main market for Norton Motorcycles. In the second half of the 60s, the emerging Japanese competition had driven the entire British motorcycle industry in a gradual descent. The financial situation of the company deteriorated rapidly, until 1966 by the main creditor bank, a bankruptcy trustee for AMC was ordered. The ailing company, which was part of the Manganese Bronze Holdings Ltd. was repositioned as Norton-Villiers, and took over the production and distribution rights of the AMC motorcycle brands.

1968 Norton Commando was introduced. Their revolutionary "Isolastic" frame and the exceptionally powerful engine made it for a while competitive with the Japanese superbikes of those years. In 1973, the company was renamed with the assistance of the British Government in Norton Villiers Triumph (NVT) by took over the brand Triumph BSA. Despite some model modifications and strong sales, the company was still creeping into bankruptcy, which then occured in 1974. In the wake of clashes and heavy strikes, the company went back into private ownership.

By 1977 the work was continued as a cooperative, and the model Commando was still built in very small numbers further.

In the 1980s, the company went under the name Norton Motors Ltd through various renovations. They had some success in the production of motorcycles for the police, and civilian versions derived therefrom with Wankel engines. The name Norton was reactivated in 1988 for demanding motorcycles with Wankel engines. These new models were again successful in races, for example the NSR588 with two-rotor Wankel in a Spondon frame, won the Senior TT in 1992 again. However, no significant numbers of these motorcycles were sold, so that the few sold examples are popular collector's items today. After extremely dubious financial transactions, the owner of the factory and the rights changed brisk.

During the 1990s, the US Norton restorer Kenny Dreer began to develop a new Commando with the Norton Motorsports company, based on the plans of the 1970s. It originated driveable prototypes of the Commando 952 or 961. For a series production ultimately lacked approximately ten million dollars, so the project had to be stopped in mid-2006. The British businessman Stuart Garner, untill then known as owner of the racing team Norton Racing Ltd, in late 2008 bought all rights and development and founded the Norton Motorcycles (UK) Ltd. The new facility was built in the immediate vicinity of the Donington Park circuit.