Imagine that General Motors offered two models: A 1963 Corvette Sting Ray split window, updated with modern brakes and suspension, and a 2017 Corvette.
That's essentially what Norton Motorcycles has been doing: building retro-styled but relatively high-performance air-cooled vertical twins while pursuing a very different and thoroughly modern high-performance superbike in the background. That latter project has been long anticipated and oft-delayed, but Norton has now put a date on its unveiling: Nov. 19. That's the opening day of Motorcycle Live, the largest motorcycle show in the U.K. and a more fitting venue for revealing a new bike from thoroughly British Norton than an international show like EICMA in Italy two weeks prior.
The resurrected Norton Motorcycles has been racing at the Isle of Man in recent years with an Aprilia V4 engine bolted into a Norton frame, while working on its own 1,200 cc V4. The next project on the books, CEO Stuart Garner has said, is a 650 cc model based on half of that V4.
Who is Stuart Garner? Like John Bloor, who resurrected Triumph, he is a self-made entrepreneur who dived in to buy an old British brand when just about anyone with an accounting degree would have advised him not to. Garner never went to business school, however, or attended college at all. As a teenager, he got a job working in a fireworks warehouse because he wanted to date the owner's daughter. From there, he went on to found his own fireworks company and later expand into other businesses, all without losing his passion for motorcycles.
In 2008, he bought the rights to the Norton name from the owner in the United States. Previously, a small number of Norton Commando models had been built in the United States by Kenny Dreer. Garner moved the production back to England and retooled the design. He also moved the company to Donington Hall, an estate next to the race track of the same name.
Britain's Motorcycle News predicts the new Norton will cost £28,000 to start in the home country with a uprated version costing £40,000. So if you've got some excess money burning a hole in your brokerage and an empty spot in your garage you were saving for that Honda V4 homologation special superbike that never comes, you may soon have another option.