Norton to build V4 motorcycle to rival Ducati

AUG 12, 2015 - With the recent backing of a government grant and apparent confidence in its sales, a legend in British motorcycles is making plans for the next leg of its manufacturing journey.

Norton Motorcycles sees a performance-laced future with plans to produce a 200bhp, 1200cc V4-powered sports bike. Understanding what something will look like can usually be judged by its expected competition, in this case the British motorcycle manufacturer feels its new ride will rival Ducati’s 1299 Panigale and the Superleggera.

This is obviously great news for riders who like some raw power in their rides.

The announcement may appear to be an extreme lane change for a motorcycle company which has enjoyed success reviving its classic models, but its actually something that’s been on the to-do list for some time.

“It has been something we’ve wanted to do as a brand since 2009,” Simon Skinner, Head of Design at Norton said in an interview, “When I first started with Norton we had very early discussions talking about V4 and the type of bikes we wanted to do. But we had to get the business right first, get the Commando right first, the suppliers, the dealers and all the boring stuff right.”

It appears a substantial grant from the British government has put the production of the proposed V4 sports bike into top gear.

During a recent visit to the Norton headquarters by Britain’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, George Osborne announced the motorcycle manufacturer had won a project worth $11.69 million aimed at helping the company create more new jobs.

Of the nearly $12 million, $6.24 million comes from the British government with the balance being funded from the Advanced Manufacturing Supply Chain Initiative (AMSCI).

According to Norton, this promise of investment is much needed not because the company has done poorly, but from doing so well.

“Because the growth rate of Norton is so quick we’ve never really had the cash to invest in research and development,” Skinner said, “We’ve been growing at 50-60% year-on-year growth so all our money is tied up growing volume.”

Reportedly, the British motorcycle manufacturer will take the respected Norton brand and quality of design and engineering to the next level to produce the proposed V4 and a new 650 parallel twin, both of which will become the new engine platforms for the company. However, Norton will also continue to produce air and oil cooled bikes based on the 961cc parallel twin motor, like the Commando range.

Photo Credit: Norton Motorcycles

While the new motorcycle doesn’t yet have a name, it has a clearly defined direction as is seen in the released renderings. The performance motorcycle will feature an all-new V4 engine developed by Ricardo Motorcycles and use design influences from some of the greatest names in British engineering including Aston Martin, and the British F1 car industry.

“The UK turns out some fantastic design and engineering projects at the moment,” Skinner notes, “The Mclaren P1, Aston 177, and of course all F1 cars are right up there so the design quality is paramount. At the minute we need to think Ducati, think Ferrari, think Norton, think Aston Martin.”

If readers noticed only one other motorcycle company in Skinner’s comments, it appears that isn’t by accident. The British manufacturer clearly has its eyes on the Italian rival.

“The nearest competitor will be a Ducati 1299 Panigale," Skinner explains, “So we’ll do a normal one for sale in mid-twenties, or £30,000, and then a really high-end one to go toe-to-toe with the Ducati Superleggera, but in an ever so slightly different way.“ 

Photo Credits: Norton Motorcycles

Other details about the new V4 Norton, it will have full-carbon fiber fairings and wheels, while the frame will use aerospace aluminum and billet parts, all welded and polished by hand at Norton. Riders should expect racing ABS, traction control, multiple engine mappings, essentially a street legal performance motorcycle.

It appears Norton will have to be just as fiscally careful producing this motorcycle as it did when they revived the Norton name in 2009. Most of the recently announced funding goes directly to the manufacturer’s supply chain.

“We have to fund the project ourselves then claim the money back, Skinner said, “It’s not like we just got given £4m in cash sat in the bank like a lot of people think we have.”

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