Norton was founded in Birmingham in 1898 by James Norton..
Within four years they had begun manufacturing motorcycles
with bought-in engines. In 1908 Norton built there own engine
and was added to the motorbikes. This was the beginning of
the single cylinder engine for Norton Motorcycles.. They were
one of the best names of the British motorcycle industry,
producing machines ran for years in the motorcycle races of
its time. The Norton, in 1907, won the twin-cylinder class
in the first Isle of Man TT race its first year and
won the senior race every year between 1947 to 1954.
1937 - 1945 saw the British Military using Nortons Motorcycles.
Over 100,000, which was over 25%, of all Military bikes at
the time were Norton. The two they mainly used were the Norton
WD16H which was for the solo rider and the WD Big Four which
was supplied with a side-car. Following the war Norton could
not maintain its racing dominance as the single cylinder was
to slow against the new multi-cylinder engine. 1949 became
the turning point for Nortons racing team. They produced the
Featherbed frame that lead the market and 1949 saw there first
win in 5 years.
Even with the racing successes Norton was in financial difficulty
and in 1953, Norton was sold to Associated Motorcycles (AMC).
AMC also owned the brands AJS, Matchless and James. In 1962 the
Birmingham factory was closed and production was moved to Southeast
The 1960's brought competition from Japan and had driven the whole
British motorcycle industry into a precipitous decline and in
1966 AMC folded and was reformed as Norton-Villiers. In 1969 the
Commando was introduced with its styling and innovative isolastic
frame it made a lovely bike.
The problems faced by Norton never stopped and in 1972 they fell
into decline again. By this time the British motorcycle manufacturing
(BSA) was also in trouble and the British Motorcycle was in trouble.
It was given government help in 1973 under some conditions. Both
Norton and the BSA would have to merge, this was now named Norton-Villiers-Triumph
(NVT). In 1974 saw the release of the Roadster, Mark 2 Hi Rider
and the JPN Replica even tho the company had mounting losses.