Motoring: Norton returns ... at 225mph

The troubled marque has plans for a superbike - but a German rival could trump it, writes Roland Brown

Once-mighty Norton is celebrating its centenary this year amid controversy that must be causing the founder, James Lansdowne Norton, to turn in his grave.

Norton Motors International, owned by the Canadian-based Aquilini property group, recently revealed a remarkable 1,500cc V8 superbike, the Nemesis, to be produced at its factory at Shenstone, in Staffordshire, later this year.

If this does reach production it will signify a tremendous comeback for Norton. The V8's 260bhp output and 225mph top speed would make it by far the world's fastest and most powerful superbike. But as usual with Norton, the story is more complex than it seems. The Nemesis is a concept bike that requires much development before being ready for production. Meanwhile another new Norton is already being produced - by Norton Motors Deutschland, the former German importer, which owns rights to the Norton name in most European countries except Britain. The C652SM is being built by Tigcraft, of Farnborough.

In contrast to the futuristic Nemesis, the C652SM is a simple roadster powered by the single-cylinder engine from BMW's F650. Despite being assembled in Farnborough, the C652SM cannot be sold in Britain. When the first 15 bikes are completed at the end of this month they will be shipped to Norton Motors Deutschland's base near Munich. Most have been sold to German enthusiasts.

There is no love lost between the Canadian owners of Norton Motors International and Joe Seifert, boss of Norton Motors Deutschland. Seifert and Tigcraft have been issued with writs attempting to prevent them from producing the C652SM, although NMI accepts that Seifert has registered the Norton name in some countries.

Seifert, an enthusiast who sells spares for old Nortons and races one in classic events, is convinced that while the Nemesis may attract investment, it will never reach production. "It seems remarkable that NMI should present these proposals as the basis for a serious business plan to prospective shareholders," he says.

The Canadian-owned firm's proposals are certainly ambitious. According to NMI, the Nemesis will outperform Honda's CBR1100XX Super Blackbird, currently the world's fastest bike, by almost 50mph. It will also incorporate features such as a magnesium frame, active suspension and a push-button gear-change and clutch, none of which has yet been seen on a production bike.

According to NMI, the Nemesis will be the flagship of a range including four-cylinder superbikes, a cruiser, the Commando, with a different 1500cc V8 engine, and single-cylinder models. All have been designed by Al Melling, of Melling Consultancy Design in Rochdale, Lancashire.

Melling, 54, says he has worked for many leading car and bike manufacturers. He is known in the automotive world for his work on a controversial but ultimately successful V8 engine for the sports car firm TVR. It may be relevant that the specification of the Nemesis is very similar to that of the Melling-designed 1500cc V8 announced several years ago by March, an American-owned firm that recently formed a partnership with Norton. That bike was due for production in 1996 but was never built. March's UK base at Bicester in Oxfordshire is now closed.

Unlike the exotic Nemesis, the rival Norton firm's C652SM is a down-to- earth single-cylinder roadster that combines the 652cc BMW engine with a chassis based on that of Tigcraft's successful single-cylinder racing bike. The liquid-cooled, four-valve engine sits in a rigid tubular steel frame, which holds high-quality conventional cycle parts.

Styling is retro, with traditional Norton silver paint and low handlebars. The BMW engine produces a maximum of 47bhp - enough for a top speed of just over 100mph. The Norton is lively, pulling cleanly from low revs and reaching about 80mph before typical single-cylinder vibration becomes tiresome.

Where this Norton really scores is with its race-bred handling. The single's light weight (just 158kg) and taut suspension combine with its sticky tyres and powerful single front Brembo disc brake to make it great fun on a twisty road - though there are plenty of cheaper and more powerful machines on the market.

One problem for British Norton enthusiasts is that because the C652SM cannot legally be sold in this country it would have to be bought from Norton Motors Deutschland (00 49 8151 28 708) and personally imported, with the buyer paying VAT on top of the basic price of DM 18,100 - a total of just over pounds 7,000.

Alternatively, those looking for a more powerful Norton could wait for the 225mph Nemesis V8 to reach production. Such an event would be the perfect way to celebrate Norton's centenary - but, sadly, the wait may be a long one.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

    £22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

    Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

    £16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

    Cancer Research UK: Corporate Partnerships Volunteer Events Coordinator – London

    Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...

    Ashdown Group: Head of IT - Hertfordshire - £90,000

    £70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
    Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

    Confessions of a former PR man

    The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

    Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

    Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
    London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

    The mother of all goodbyes

    Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
    Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

    Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

    The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions