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A Brief History of the Norton Motorcycle Company

Norton HistoryA Brief History of the Norton Motorcycle Company

Norton Motorcycle Company, formerly known as Norton Motors, Ltd., is a British motorcycle marque, originally from Birmingham, UK. The company was founded in 1898 by James Lansdowne Norton. His business was started in order to produce bicycle chains, but a short four years later they began manufacturing motorcycles with imported engines. In 1907, a Norton won the first International Isle of Man Tourist Trophy Race (TT), which is a motorcycle racing event, held on the Isle of Man.

For many years, this was the most prestigious motorcycle race in the world, and it remains statistically the most dangerous race in the world. By 1910, there were eight models of Norton motorcycles, two with Norton-built engines. JL Norton was arguably a better engineer though than business administrator, and by 1913 his company was on the verge of insolvency. Fortunately, it was saves by one of its creditors, forming Norton Motors Limited, which secured a government contract to supply the Russian army with engines during the First World War.The famous Norton logo appeared around this time.

Although James Norton passed away in 1925, the Norton brand lived on. During the 1930s, the company cemented its place in racing history, winning seven of the nine TT races between 1931 and 1939, when the factory started to produce the 100,000 bikes it built for the war effort.

In 1949, Norton introduced the Dominator model and continued to race successfully, but got into financial trouble again in 1953, and was sold to Associated Motorcycles. Production was then shifted to London. 13 years later, the company was bought by Manganese Bronze Holdings and re-launched as Norton-Villiers. An injection of new capital resulted in the development of the first Commando. In 1972, Norton-Villiers merged with the BSA-Triumph Group. However, the industrial unrest and reductions in Government subsidies led the company into receivership in 1974.

Norton was re-launched yet again in 1988 with production in Lichfield, but did not make as much of an impact as they did previously. During the mid-90s there were attempts to consolidate Norton and start producing bikes in the U.S. This eventually happened when the company was bought by Stuart Garner in 2007.

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