Stuart Garner, the New Face of Norton Motorcycles
Legendary brand is back - almost
Stuart Garner’s new Norton 961 Commando SE will pick up where Kenny Dreer left off with his failed 952/961 (952 shown).
It’s only been a few years since Kenny Dreer’s dream of relaunching Norton fell to earth. Despite attracting huge interest and praise, the move from prototype to production took more resources than Dreer and company could muster, and the venture folded before any production bikes were built.
But now, less than three years later, the Norton name is back in the U.K., this time under the sole ownership of a British businessman with passion for Norton motorcycles, Stuart Garner.
The new face of Norton
Garner secured the Dreer prototypes and rights to the Norton name in October 2008, and since then he’s been busily tying up lose ends in other countries, making sure he’ll have total ownership of all aspects of a brand that had been gradually split up over the past three decades.
Various projects surfaced over the intervening years, but with the exception of Dreer’s attempt, they were little more than high profile PR stunts, rather than earnest rebirths of a once proud racing brand.
This time, it’s serious. Garner has purchased two factories in Donington Park, one of the most historic racing circuits in the U.K. and current home to the MotoGP. He’s moved into one, while the second, a 15,000-square-foot facility, is being prepared.
A local man, Garner was born and bred within earshot of howling race engines circulating Donington. A successful entrepreneur, his extensive and diverse business interests have left him “comfortable,” but still interested in a challenge, and with a healthy interest in turning things around. Including, it seems, motorcycle brands.
Talking with Garner it quickly becomes clear this is not a business enterprise designed to be sold off to the highest bidder at some later stage; he intends to be part of it for a very long time.
“I still have to remind myself each morning how lucky I am to be given the chance to own Norton,” Garner says. “I really look forward to going to work each day, and I have structured some of my other companies to allow me to concentrate on getting Norton back into production. By the end of this year our first customer will have taken delivery of their bike, which is after I have the first one to ride to work each day!”
Garner speaks with passion and sincerity, and while he clearly has a comprehensive business plan that he is willing to share parts of — on and off the record — he is moving slowly, getting things right.
“I am very aware that over the past few years there have been lots of public promises about new Norton machines that have come to nothing,” Garner says. “As a result, I also realize people may well be skeptical about my taking over and the future of the company. I cannot answer for the past, but I am not going to be rash and fall into the same trap as those in the past have done.
“I was in the U.S. within 24 hours [of learning Norton Motorcycles was for sale] and, three days later, had signed the first lot of paperwork to buy it,” Garner continues. “At the time, I did not know exactly what I was getting into, but I had a feeling it was the right thing to do. Some advised me that I could not do the deal, but I proved them wrong and here we are,” he says with a huge grin.
Page: 1 | 2
| Next >>