Comeback talk for Ariel, cash for Norton

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Production for the Norton Commando may increase after the U.K. government slipped the manufacturer a huge loan.
This is the concept drawing for the new Ariel. It certainly doesn't have the same chrome barge look that many other vintage brands espouse.

Motorcycle marques are like comic book villains; no matter how hard you try, you can’t kill one off forever. For proof, look at this week’s news that Ariel is making a comeback, and Norton landed some serious funding.

Ariel is a good example of a brand that’s back in business, even though everyone’s forgotten about it. Once famous for their square four engine, in production from the early 1930s to the late 1950s, the company sold to BSA in 1944 and the brand was cancelled in 1970. Sport car builders Solocrest Ltd. revived the name in 2001, but they haven’t been building motorcycles – at least, not until now.

Now, company boss Simon Saunders says he’s planning to build a bespoke motorcycle under the Ariel name, likely with an engine from Honda. The machines won’t be cheap – he figures they’ll cost around 20,000 pounds (he’s based in the U.K.), but for that money, you’ll get a custom machine with bars, pegs, and a seat tailored to fit you.

It should be interesting to watch as this project develops. Businessmen trying to revive a long-dead marque often fail due to lack of capital (look at Indian’s many abortive restarts, before being bought by Polaris), but Saunders has years of experience as the U.K.’s smallest car manufacturer, so he may be able to figure out how to keep his costs down and his demand high.

Production for the Norton Commando may increase after the U.K. government slipped the manufacturer a huge loan.

The other British brand in the news this week has been Norton. It’s been a long climb back into the market for the iconic motorcycle marque; developers have been tinkering with the Commando for years now, and production numbers are still fairly low for the company.

However, the British government gave them a boost this week with a 625,000 pound loan; company officials are hoping to use the cash infusion to hire 30 new staff and expand their factory, allowing them to build about 1,000 bikes a year.

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