British motorcycle manufacturers - N

Last update June 6, 2003

ND 1928
Neall 1904-14 (1910-14?)
Neall-Dalm 1919
Ner-A-Car:  The product of American Carl Neracher in 1921, it was also made under licence in the UK by Sheffield Simplex from 1922, using a stronger 285cc two-stroke of Simplex's design (compared to the original 221cc). plus a few other enhancements. In 1924, Ner-A-Car went out of business in the USA, but continued in the UK. In 1925  they upgraded to a 350cc sv Blackburne engine. But production stopped abruptly in 1926 when the division ran out of money.
Nestor 1913-24 (1913-14?)
New Bowden 1902-03.
New Comet 1905-32. Ceased production in 24, but attempted revival in 31.
New Coulson 1922-24. Leaf-sprung suspension at both ends. Formerly the Coulson-B.
New Courier 1919-23. Low-end motorcycle made by Olympic.
New Crescent 1912
New Era 1920-22. Liverpool.
New Gerrard Founded ?1922 in Scotland by ex-racer Jock Porter. Made a single 346cc ohv JAP-engined machine throughout the 1930s, closed in 1940.
New Henley 1920-29 (1920-31? 1926-30?)
New Hudson Started as Hudson Bicycles in 1890, it restructured as New Hudson Cycle Company after a financial failure a few years later (1903). They made their first motorcycle in 1910 (1909?), using JAP engines until 1911, when they designed their own (although still using JAPs in some models). Post war production saw the company making several changes and improvements although it wasn't until 1927 when  Bert Le Vack on a New Hudson was the first to break 100 mph at Brooklands on a 500cc machine, that they achieved much success at the races. They continued with slumping sales until 1933 when they closed. In 1941 an autocycle was launched using a 98cc Villiers engine, but the company sold the rights to BSA and disappeared. BSA continued the autocycle until 1958 (57?).
New Imperial

Based in Birmingham, founded by Norman Downs who bought the ailing bicycle business of Hearl and Tonks (founded 1892). He created New Imperial in 1901, and made the first motorcycles, but didn't enter production until 1910 when he used a 293cc JAP engine. After a mediocre performance at the 1913 TT race, he retired until 1921, and continued until 1939 when the company was deep in debt. This company was known for pioneering innovations in unit construction on motorcycles starting in 1932. They made the Unit Minor 150 and Unit Super 250 in this manner and by 1938 all of their machines were unit construction. They also made a 500cc V-twin from 1933-35. New Imperial was a force in the racing world and used 246-996cc engines from precision (later Beardmore-Precision). The company was bought by Ariel's Jack Sangster in 1939, after he bought Triumph, and did not continue production past WW2. Edward Turner's 3TU model was supposed to carry New Imperial badges, but never saw production.

A 250cc New Imperial ridden by Bob Foster won the 1936 Lightweight TT, the last British four-stroke to win the event. In the early 1930s, New Imperial was among the most innovative manufacturers, featuring unit construction and pivoted-fork rear susepnsion. Production ended in 1936.

New Knight 1923-27
New Paragon 1919-23 (1922-23?). Previously known as Paragon.
New Ryder 1914-22. Birmingham.
New Scale 1909-25 (1919-25?)
Newmount 1929-33. Rebadged Zundapp.
Newton 1921-22
Nicholas ??? Pre WWI, London.
Nickson 1920-24 (1920-26?)
NLG 1905-12. North London Garages.
Noble 1901-06
Noble-Precision 1912
Norbreck 1921-24
Norman Small manufacturer in Kent. Founded as a bicycle manufacturer by bothers Charles and Fred Norman in 1935 (Charles had created the Kent Plating and Enameling Company before WW1). Started making motorcycles in 1935, but didn't show them until 1938. Known for their 98cc autocycle made from 1938-39. Took over Rudge autocycles in 1939 for a short while until war ended production until 1948. In the 1950s they made a range of Villiers- and Anzani-based small-capacity two-strokes and mopeds with only modest performance. Taken over by Raleigh, closed in 1962.

One of the great marques,  Norton was founded as a bicycle components company in 1898 by James Landsdowne Norton, who first manufactured a powered bike in 1901 (1902?) using his own frame and a French Clement engine. Norton's reputation as a superior machine was gained through its early successes on the race track. A Norton powered by a V-twin Peugot engine won the very first TT race in 1907. In 1908, Norton started making its own engines (a 4bhp 633c side-valve single called the Big Four) and made its first ohv singles in 1922, starting with the Model 18 which proved a successful race winner. Norton made its first parallel twin in 1948.

James Norton raced in the TT himself, unsuccessfully on his new 494cc model, in 1909, 10 and 11.  Norton went into liquidation in 1913 while its owner recovered from an illness contracted on the Isle of Man, but a new company, Norton Motors Ltd. was formed shortly after with Norton and Bob Shelley, using the services of Dan "Wizard" O'Donovan, racer and master tuner. They soon built the world's first production racing bike, the BRS, or Brooklands Racing Special, as well as a slightly slower BS, Brooklands Special. Not large enough for wartime production levels, Norton managed to obtain a small contract to provides bikes for the Russian army in WW1.

After WW1, the company returned to civilian production, and Norton developed a number of innovations, including a desmodromic valve system, although he opted for another design using overhead valves for production. Norton bikes were entered in several TT races in this time, with some successes in 1923, 24. Norton died in 1925 at only 56 years old. By then he had built a reputation for fast, reliable bikes. Walter Moore, its other major designer, left for NSU in 1929 after designing the CS1 (Cam Shaft 1), which won the TT race.

The 1930s were the glory days, when Norton was winning many races, including all but two Senior and Junior TT races between 1931 and 1938. The most successful Norton racer was the 499cc single Model 30 International, first released in 1932 and made until 1958. International was used for Norton's top line of sports-roadsters, originally intended for racing but sold  until 1939 in road guise to the public..

Prototype telescopic forks were introduced in 1939, but were not brought into production until 1948. During WW2, the company produced bikes for the Allies, including the venerable 16H, developed from the Model 16 around the turn of the century (dropped only in 1954).

From 1949 to 51, Norton won at Daytona, but the company withdrew official support for racing in 1955.

Norton released its first parallel twin in 1949, the Dominator, designed by Bert Hopwood. They would later put the engine in a featherbed frame (1951) and release it as the Dominator 88, in 1952. In 1955, a 600cc Dominator 99 was added. But the really fine version was the 1962 Dominator 650SS with its upgraded engine, and a challenge to Triumph's sports models. In 1963, production was moved to AMC's factory in south London.

The most famous and most popular Norton was the parallel-twin 750cc Commando, released in 1968 designed by a team led by Dr. Stefan Bauer. It was upgraded with electric start and 850cc in 1974. The last Commandos were the Mk3 built in 1977. The last production Norton was a 50cc moped using Italian-made components offered in 1977.

After World War 2, Norton was controlled by several companies. The company faced financial problems when smaller models failed to sell, and was bought by Associated Motor Cycles (AMC, a combination of Matchless and AJS) in 1951. Then after AMC collapsed in 1966, Manganese Bronze Holdings took over AMC in 1966-67 and promoted Norton's name under Norton-Villiers. Finally, the company became part of the Norton-Villiers-Triumph group, which went bankrupt in 1977.

A small number of Nortons using Wankel rotary engines were made from 1977 to 1987. In 1998, a new group offered motorcycles under the Norton name emerged with promises of big, powerful and heavy V-eight bikes, but so far only sketches have emerged.

NUT Newcastle-Upon Tyne. Founded by machine shop employee Hugh Mason in 1906 who joined with cycle dealer Jock Hall to make motorcycles. First machines in 1912 had handle starting and Mason's 'HM' monogram. Later he built bikes under the names Jesmond and Bercley until he used NUT in 1912. A JAP-powered V-twin NUT machine won the 1913 Junior TT. Other racing successes followed and the company moved to larger premises in 1914. After the war the company went bankrupt when partners pulled out their capital, but the firm was bought by Robert Ellis who restarted it in 1921 under the name of Hugh Mason and Company but it closed again in 1922. It re-organized again in 1923 under NUT and built a 698cc engine of its own design.  They continued making 698cc and 750cc V-twins, plus a 172cc single Villiers two-stroke and 350cc Blackburne model. In 1933 the company finally closed in financial trouble.
NVT Norton-Villiers-Triumph, the final incarnation of the famous British motorcycle marques, created in 1972 out of Norton, AMC, BSA, Triumph and Villiers, but also including James, AJS, Ariel, Matchless and other names under their control.
Nye 1910
Click here to reload this site. Click here for my Sources
Compiled by Ian Chadwick. Send comments and corrections to me at: