Norton – the motorcycle brand, not the antivirus software – is one of those iconic marques that has been on a very, very long journey. Much like Indian, which has been through a similar existence, Norton is hugely popular and iconic within the motorcycle world to this day. However, the company has barely existed over the last several decades, a candle in the economic wind that has often almost been blown out, only to be rekindled by passionate keepers of the flame with the best of intentions, but their efforts were often plagued by shortages of funding, vision or business acumen.
Even today, motorcycle lovers, and not necessarily all of them vintage bike aficionados, are still transfixed by the brand and the lovely machines of yore, especially the beloved Commando P-twins from the halcyon days of the 1960s and early ’70s. Indeed, this journalist lovingly cared for a bone-stock 1973 Norton Commando (below), and it was one of the best looking, best sounding, best riding and maddeningly unreliable motorcycles I have ever owned.
If only someone, somewhere would finally rescue the beloved marque and do it justice, both with some financial muscle and modern design, while also honoring its glorious past.
At last, it looks like someone has finally done just that.
More and more, it seems like India is the place where once-hallowed motorcycle companies are going to be reincarnated. Decades after the Brits let Royal Enfield slip away only to have it soldier on in India, the brand has been modernized and revitalized by agri-glomerate Eicher Motors.
So it is with Norton, which finally seems set to revive and thrive under the vast umbrella of the massive Indian scooter, bike maker and transportation juggernaut TVS Motor Company, better known as just TVS. TVS snapped up Norton in an all-cash deal in April of 2020, following years of UK government handouts, corporate hand-offs and stints in administration, Britain’s version of bankruptcy. A striking new headquarters and a new Norton factory in hallowed Donington Park in England will head up operations.
What about new bikes? While TVS has been showing off the opulent and modern new HQ as well as the new clean room-style manufacturing facility, the company has also unveiled a potent and modern sporting machine, the V4SV (below). Full-size motorcycles are not a new venture for TVS; besides home-market machines, they also produce a model for BMW.
The V4SV is a 185-horsepower plasti-clad superbike-style machine that will only see 200 units get made, and they are going first to buyers of the recent (pre-TVS) Norton V4SS, which the new Norton says has problems so numerous they are trying to convince owners to trade them in for the new V4SV at a price (reportedly £10,000) that none of those owners should refuse, seeing how the bike should sell closer to £45,000 by many estimates. Additionally, TVS/Norton is doing the right thing by also completing backlogged production of the air/oil-cooled 961 Commando Classic P-twin machines that have been on back order – in some cases for years – by their saintly patient and hopeful new owners.
After their obligations for bikes on order are met, Norton’s CEO Robert Hentschel says the company has a 10-year plan to bring a wide slate of machines to market. Hints say those plans may include a more civilian/affordable version of the V4 superbike, a new Commando similar to the 961 Classic but reworked and improved, a 650 twin and possibly a V4 naked bike or street-fighter.
All in good time, as they say. But with a fancy new factory claimed to be capable of turning out 8,000 bikes per year and TVS’ deep-pocket funding on tap for R&D, marketing, design, expansion and leadership, it does appear that Norton fans like myself and around the globe could put a new Commando, V4 or some other new model in our garages sooner than later, and even ride it every day with confidence.
That will be a very, very good day.