Stop wondering, and start believing. It’s taken more than five years of hard graft comprising long hours, a good bit of risk taking to bring the born-again Norton Motorcycles Company to where it is today, but it’s most definitely back on the map.
It has necessitated endless meetings with bankers, politicians, accountants, local government functionaries, suppliers, engineers, importers, dealers and most importantly of all, customers. It’s entailed moving from a compact 8000-square -foot factory and 12 employees into a six times larger and modern home nestled in the heart of England, with a major international airport and Grand Prix race track right next door. And the workforce now numbers 45.
It has involved returning to the Isle of Man two years in a row to race in the Senior TT, with a third visit planned this year with a two-time race winner and former lap record holder now aboard the bike. Yes, Norton Motorcycles has finally shifted into top gear, with some 1000 of its Commando 961 models now constructed since company owner Stuart Garner acquired the rights to the historic British marque in October 2008 from its previous American owners.
These are now being sent to a growing number of countries around the globe, with deliveries finally now beginning in the U.S. to those who paid their deposits on the bike as long as three years ago, and chose not to take the refund offered as production stalled for various reasons. But this is now set to rise steeply from the 10 motorcycles a week currently being manufactured, says Garner, after Norton’s cash flow improvement convinced its financial partner Banco Santander to provide extra funds to build up the parts stock, thus allowing production to be ramped up.
To celebrate this, he’s unveiled the first limited production variant on the firm’s existing air-cooled parallel-twin theme – the Norton Domiracer.
“Designing this bike in the first place was a present to ourselves,” said Garner. “We all ride motorcycles here and many of the lads who work at Norton had their own ideas of what the next generation version of the 961 Commando platform might be. After all the disruption of moving the factory last year, when we got back on an even keel we thought it would be good to let each of them have a say in what such a bike might be, then ask Simon Skinner, our head of design, to draw up a bike based on their input. Simon did this, built the result, and then parked it on the factory floor for two weeks for everyone to critique it during their tea breaks. It’s a mark of how open minded he is that several hundred cups of tea later he produced a modified version incorporating many of their suggestions, and the Domiracer here is the result.”
To read more of the Norton Domiracer 961 first ride in this week’s issue of Cycle News, click here