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Norton Rotary Development (6): Norton Prototypes

After the banks had discouvered Philippe Le Roux and his team had ruined Norton Group PLC through investment deals that went seriously wrong, they brought in a liquidator in early 1991 whose job was twofold; whilst, to the public and the disgruntled shareholders, he had to pretend business was going on as before, and he was to save Norton Motors Ltd, he was in fact selling off everything that could be turned into money- the Norton Commando Spares Operation to Andover Norton Ltd at below inventory value(!), the "Heller" CNC-machining centre at 1/10th of what it had cost new 2 years before, and the components left over from F1 production were built into the "F1 Sports" bikes whilst parts stocks lasted and, again, sold below cost- whilst, at the same time, money was squandered on the "development" of the very first Norton not designed by motorcyclists, the "F2". This was but a re-styled F1, bringing back all of the old problems of the F1, and adding new ones- the all-enclosure of the F1with its inherent overheating tendencies was skillfully combined with a fairing design allowing virtually no steering lock and a design which was neither particularly innovative, nor exciting or called for. What a sorry sight if put against the elegance of an F1!

Two-and-a-half motorcycles were built for the 1992 Birmingham show, two being delivered by "Styling International" on the morning of the show opening, neither rideable nor very convincingly executed. Steering lock was minimal, the Yamaha FZ1000 components, including a silver-painted exhaust, looked cheap in comparison to the previous "White Power" suspension, PVM wheels, Brembo brakes and purpose-made exhaust system, and few if any showgoers were excited by it.

Whilst this went on, the TT was won by Steve Hislop, and the motorcyclists in the firms management dreamed up a "civilian" version of the Hislop bike, basically converting the "F1Sports" with a few known improvements on the ignition and exhaust side, using the works racer fairing moulds, and thus, at very little cost, creating a very desirable machine that was to cash in on the TT sucess. The then CEO, himself a confessing non-motorcyclist, was totally against it.

This design drawing was commissioned by Norton Motors (Deutschland) along ideas discussed with Richard Negus and Bob Rowley, and was executed by John Hancox. It shows a motorcycle that resembles the Steve Hislop TT-winning bike and was to be the very first bike actually cashing in on the long but so far unutilized Norton Race Team efforts and successes. Unfortunately, it took another 13 years to finally be built.