Norton has revealed exclusive details of its 200bhp, 1200cc V4-powered sports bike and released exclusive official design drawings to Bike Social.
We spoke to Norton’s Head of Design, Simon Skinner, to get the full inside story where he reveals:
The new bike, yet to be named, will take learnings from the TT race bikes, 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.
It will be a premium sports bike aimed directly at bikes like Ducati’s 1299 Panigale, with new versions of the bike set to follow in future years.
The V4 project has been in the minds of Norton boss Stuart Garner and Norton’s Head of Design, Simon Skinner since the new Norton was reborn in 2008. The reborn Norton brand started rolling bikes of its production line in 2010.
But it’s only now with the business in good shape, an academy for apprentices in place and a £7.5million investment in the future, including a £4million Government grant, that Norton can now finally turn their V4 dreams into reality.
The new V4 and a new 650 parallel twin will become the new engine platforms for Norton who will also continue to produce air and oil cooled bikes based on the 961cc parallel twin motor, like the Commando range.
But the new bikes will take Norton's brand and quality of design and engineering to the next level.
Skinner said: “The UK turns out some fantastic design and engineering projects at the moment. 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 you imagine your R1 is your Nissan GT-R and the bloke gets his brochure and turns to the back page to look at the spec list, the bloke who buys the Aston just sits there looking at the cover and thinks ‘f**k me, what a beautiful car’."
He added: “That’s where we need to be. But it needs to be an appropriate level of technology so we need ABS, we need traction control, but we don’t need five anti-wheelie settings. It’s not what we’re about. But it will be a premium motorcycle, there will probably be a couple of different versions."
The firm is aiming high and at a premium audience to reflect Norton’s infamous brand. Skinner explains: “The nearest competitor will be a Ducati 1299 Panigale. 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. It will be that kind of price point (the Superleggera cost £54,000). It won’t be 155kg, but it will be very, very design driven.”
THE NEW NORTON V4 SPEC IN SKINNER’S OWN WORDS:
The project officially started in December but it has been in the minds of the Norton team for a long time. Skinner said: “It has been something we’ve wanted to do as a brand since 2009. 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. Because the growth rate of Norton is so quick we’ve never really had the cash to invest in research and development. We’ve been growing at 50-60% year-on-year growth so all our money is tied up growing volume.”
Last week Norton announced news of a £7.5 million investment with £4.29 million coming from a Government grant.
The investment will also be used to create 600 jobs in the UK, some at Norton, 120 apprenticeships run through the British Motorcycle Manufacturing Association (BMMA) and at least 300 in the supply chain to build the new bikes.
Skinner explained: “Four million quid sounds like a lot of money and I’m sure people think George Osbourne just rocked up with a suitcase full of cash but actually there’s only just over a million quid for Norton, the rest of it goes direct to the supply chain. We have to fund the project ourselves then claim the money back. It’s not like we just got given £4m in cash sat in the bank like a lot of people think we have.”
It’s all part of a drive to grow Norton, and strengthen UK manufacturing by providing jobs.
He said: “The idea is to create jobs in the UK. They will help us to do this project and create jobs along the way. So the 600 jobs we talked about, 120 of those will be apprenticeships here at Norton, and the rest are permanent staff and what we’re calling in-direct jobs, which is 300 in-direct jobs and that will go straight to the supply chain to support us. Because obviously once we’ve designed this bike we’ve got to build it and sell it. So there are a lot of jobs off the back of this to supply us parts. And at the factory we’re actively recruiting. (See separate story)."
The Norton plant at Donington Hall will be further bolstered with a new manufacturing plant built out the back of the factory. Skinner said: “We’ve also got funds to build a new manufacturing plant out in the woods at the back of the current factory so that all fabrication, aluminium tanks and welding and maybe even a paint shop will be done in-house.”
After a year of planning and design, the team is now fully-focussed on bringing the plan to life.
Skinner said: “It’s hardcore engineering now. Obviously it’s scheming out the bike, and working with Ricardo Motorcycles who are doing the engine. It’s not Vepro any more, it’s Ricardo Motorcycles."
The firm have worked on everything from developing new scooters to high-performance BMWs like the six-cylinder K1600GT, and the K1300S motors, and worked for most major motorcycle manufacturers.
Skinner said: "They’re obviously massively experienced in terms of production engines and high-performance engines and are a great partner for us, so they’re working on the engine and we’ll sit down and continue the design and get into the hardcore engineering now.”
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FANCY WORKING AT NORTON? THEY’RE ON A RECRUITMENT DRIVE:
With the new V4 and 650 parallel twin projects officially started and extra investment in Norton, the firm are now in a position to increase staff and are on the look-out to hire new design engineers, an international dealer manager and a host of other staff. If you've ever fancied working for Norton, this could be your chance.
Skinner said: “We need more engineers because the business ticks on, there’s still Commando to support, accessories to do, and a whole business to support so I need quite a few more members of staff which is all a result of this funding.
He added: “We’ve been actively recruiting for a while but now it becomes all official and we begin drawing funds down and it becomes very, very real. We need a number of design engineers, but also there’s other opportunities in the business - we’re trying to recruit anyway international business manager and then it’s not just a design project.
I need members of staff sourcing parts, developing the weld shop, so it ripples throughout the business, so it’s not just three or four design engineers I need, it’s five or six members of staff to support the project outside of the design room too."
Anyone who fancies working at Norton should get in touch via the website