Norton Motorcycle Company (formerly Norton Motors, Ltd.) is a British motorcycle marque, originally from Birmingham, founded in 1898 as a manufacturer of "fittings and parts for the two-wheel trade".
By 1902, they had begun manufacturing motorcycles with bought-in engines. The first Norton engines were made in 1908, beginning a line of side-valve single-cylinder engines which continued with few changes until the late 1950s. This began a long series of production of single and eventually twin-cylinder motorcycles.
The Isle of Man Senior TT, the most prestigious of events, was won by Nortons ten times between the world wars and then every year from 1947 to 1954.
After the Second World War, Norton reverted to civilian motorcycle production, gradually increasing its range. A major addition in 1949 was the twin cylinder Model 7, known as the Norton Dominator, a pushrod 500 cc twin-cylinder machine designed by Bert Hopwood. Its chassis was derived from the ES2 single, with telescopic front and plunger rear suspension, and an updated version of the gearbox known as the "lay-down" box. More shapely mudguards and tanks completed the more modern styling to Nortons new premium model twin.
In 1951, the Norton Dominator was made available to export markets as the Model 88 with the Featherbed frame.
When major shareholders started to leave Norton in 1953, the company declined and Associated Motor Cycles bought the shares. Although motorcycle sales went through a recession in the 1950s, and Norton Motors Ltd was only a small manufacturer, Norton sales flourished. A series of Norton Dominator Twins of 500cc, then 600cc, then 650cc and then the 750cc Norton Atlas kept sales buoyant, especially with sales to the USA.
In 1968, the new 750cc Norton Commando Model appeared, with the engine/gearbox/swingarm unit "isolastically" insulated from the frame with a series of rubber mountings. This kept the vibrations from the rider, giving a smooth comfortable ride. The Commando was a best seller, and voted #1 Motorcycle of the Year a number of times in Britain.
850cc Models appeared for 1973, giving more torque. And for 1975 an electric start arrived in the 850 Mk3.
In late 2008, Stuart Garner, a UK businessman, bought the rights to Norton from some US concerns and relaunched Norton in its Midlands home at Donington Park.
The first Norton logo was a fairly simple, art nouveau design, with the name spelled in capitals. However, a new logo appeared on the front of the catalogue for 1914, which was a joint effort by James Lansdowne Norton and his daughter Ethel. It became known as the "curly N" logo, with only the initial letter as a capital, and was used by the company thereafter, first appearing on actual motorcycles in 1915.
Fri, 11 Oct 2013 00:00:00 -0700
On October 20, Bonhams will be auctioning off a collection of original illustrations by Bruce Smith from the 1960s and 1970s. Each one will be signed by Smith on heavy cartridge paper. The collection is comprised of cutaway illustrations of a 1963 Royal Enfield Interceptor 750cc, Chris Vincent’s 1964 BSA 650cc A65 Race Outfit, and a 1966 Greeves Racer, the largest of this series being 45cm x 62cm.
Fri, 20 Sep 2013 00:00:00 -0700
This is the Triumph Speed Twin Concept, a bike commissioned by Triumph to show what the Bonneville might have evolved into, in a parallel universe. I love the concept. Designed by Roy Norton and Tom Kasher who were on a placement at a design studio, I get the impression the pair are into motorcycle and not just designers.
Tue, 11 Jun 2013 00:00:00 -0700
A year ago, we reported on Keanu Reeves starting his own motorcycle company, Arch Motorcycles. It was a dream that started in the actor’s head five years ago, and is slowly coming into fruition in 2013. In the video below, CNN’s George Stroumboulopoulos pays a visit to Reeves and the Arch facility, where the design and production of the latest model is taking place.
Thu, 30 May 2013 00:00:00 -0700
The guys at BikeExif have found another subtle, yet wild custom cafe racer. This time it’s a Norton Featherbed frame stuffed with a 1969 Harley-Davidson Ironhead V-Twin. And if that’s not strange enough, this bike and its owner/builder hail from Malaysia!
Tue, 14 May 2013 00:00:00 -0700
On June 3rd, Moto-Electra, one of the pioneers in electric motorcycle technology, will attempt to break the world record for electric vehicles in a cross-continent ride spanning over 2500 miles. The motorcycle? Moto-Electra’s signature electric bike based on the Norton Featherbed chassis that was patented in 1949.
Fri, 15 Mar 2013 00:00:00 -0700
Norton Motorcycles has acquired the Donington Hall estate in the U.K., including its 25 acres of land from airline company British Airways. The property also includes the 45,000 square foot Hastings House facility will become Norton’s new production facility and design studio. Until now, Norton has been operating out of the Donington Park circuit, which was formerly part of the Donington Hall estate.
Thu, 07 Mar 2013 00:00:00 -0800
Norton Motorcycles has received approval from Canada’s transportation and environment government agencies, finally opening the way for the British manufacturer to introduce its Commando models to the market. Norton has been working to enter Canada for a while and already has customers waiting since 2010. Deliveries will finally be made in the spring.
Tue, 05 Feb 2013 00:00:00 -0800
Norton Motorcycles has received approval from the California Air Resources Board for its Commando 961 lineup. The 2013 Norton Commando 961 SE, Café Racer, Sport and SF (Sport Factory) are now certified for the state of California. All Norton Commando models are powered by 961cc parallel twin engines.
Fri, 14 Sep 2012 00:00:00 -0700
Moto Electra has found a new, innovative way to combine old and new technologies in its electric race bike. The Virginia-based Moto Electra has been an active participant in electric motorcycle racing for the last few years, competing against much larger, better funded teams with a race bike using an electric motor and 1950s Norton Featherbed frame. That melding of old and new has produced surprising results, including podium finishes in the TTXGP and victory in a race featuring both electric and gas-powered motorcycles.
Wed, 18 Apr 2012 00:00:00 -0700
Norton Motorcycles announced it will compete in the 2012 Isle of Man TT with a new racebike. The as-yet-unnamed racebike will use an Aprilia RSV4 engine with a chassis from Spondon Engineering. If that formula sounds familiar, it’s because it sounds like of MotoGP’s new Claiming Rule Team machines.