Norton motorbikes back in UK hands
A famous motorcycle brand is back in British hands after nearly 15 years of US ownership.
UK-based businessman Stuart Garner said he bought back all trademarks and development work relating to Norton bikes in a multimillion-pound deal.
The owner of Norton Racing Ltd said the company was already developing a new rotary-engined race bike and it planned to launch a new road bike next year.
"This has been a challenging and exciting period for us," he said. "We are proud to have brought the brands back home and we now intend to focus on re-establishing Norton as a premier motorcycling brand across the world."
The brands were bought in the early 1990s by Norton Motorcycles Inc in the United States.
Mr Garner said his company was planning to build a 15,000 sq ft factory and office complex at the Donington Park motor sports venue, in Leicestershire.
A DERBYSHIRE businessman who is resurrecting the Norton motorcycle brand says that his new factory at Donington Park could eventually create up to 100 jobs.
Yesterday Stuart Garner, who lives near Repton, announced he was bringing Norton production back to Britain after buying all the trademarks and development work from American-based Norton Motorcycles Inc in a multi-million-pound deal.
On October 30, his company, Norton Racing Ltd, will start producing bikes in an existing building at the Castle Donington circuit.
And the company already has planning permission to build a second unit.
Mr Garner said that if sales went well, within 18 months the firm could employ between 50 and 100 people.
He said: "This is a really exciting project. Norton is one of the most famous names in the industry and I'm thrilled that we've been able to bring it back to Britain.
"Norton remains a very strong brand and our aim is to put it back on the map again as a British product that stands for quality."
Mr Garner said Donington Park was his first choice for locating the new factory.
"Donington Park is the natural home for this company," he said.
"Not only is it next to the circuit, which will be ideal for testing, but it also provides a great shop window for us as the track already hosts the Moto GP and will be the home of the British Grand Prix."
Mr Garner already runs a number of companies, including pyrotechnics firm, Fireworks International.
He became involved in motorbikes when he became a partner in Spondon Engineering, a bike engineering specialist in Nottingham Road.
Mr Garner joined forces with long-time friend Stuart Tiller, who was already joint owner of the engineering firm.
He became interested in buying Norton after seeing Mr Tiller develop his own prototype Norton bike.
Mr Tiller, a director of Norton Racing Ltd, who will be responsible for producing the bikes, said: "Stuart saw potential in the bike and started looking into the possibility of bringing Norton back to the UK. Amazingly, he went to America and came back with all the rights.
"I'm incredibly proud that we have brought it back. Norton holds a special place in the heart of anyone who likes motorbikes."
Mr Garner said that during its first year, production numbers would be in hundreds rather than thousands.
As well as producing racing bikes, the company will also make a new road bike – the Norton Commando 961.
Before being sold to Norton Motorcycles Inc in 1993, Norton was based in Shenstone, Staffordshire.
Former racing ace Ron Haslam, who rode Nortons in the early 1990s, welcomed the news that the bikes would again be built in Britain.
The Smalley ex-racer, whose race school is based at Donington Park, said: "It's marvellous that they've come back.
"Racing fans love to see British riders on British bikes. I remember racing in a Grand Prix at Donington on a Norton.
"The bike wasn't competitive but every time I came round, the crowd roared more than usual because I was on a British bike."
The fact that Nortons will be made in Britain again has also been welcomed by enthusiasts.
Bryan Harwood, chairman of the Nottinghamshire branch of the Norton Owners' Club, who has been riding Nortons for more than 30 years, said: "It's great news for us and for Britain."