- Dec 21, 2010
This project started when Melling was approached by an American, John Silseth II, who ran an investment brokerage business and was enthusiastic about motorbikes. He met someone in London who founded March racing cars – Robin Herd. Silseth suggested to him that he could get some manufacturers and a designer to make a world superbike using the March name: he then obtained the rights to it and decided it was perfect for the American market. Having done that he finalised a contract with Melling to design the engines for this range of superbikes and contacted a Formula One team to produce the bike. Melling's company went ahead and designed this range of engines, and after discussions with the Formula One team it became apparent that they were not capable of fulfilling their contract, and so this was transferred to the Melling team as well.
At this time, a real estate company run by the Aquilini family in Vancouver, who owned the rights to Norton motorcycles, approached Silseth to do a contract whereby the March bikes would carry the Norton name instead, and the Aquilini family would draw royalties from production sales. The deal was completed and a year later the centenary of Norton came round – 1998. It was suggested by Melling, who was the Technical Director of Norton and a major shareholder, having invested £4.5M – that a special design of the motorbike should be produced.
Originally Melling was commissioned to design four Norton motorcycles: the Manx, the Nirvana, the Buffalo and the Nemesis.
The 750cc in-line four motorcycle, to be called the Manx, was then on test – all the tooling having been completed. Melling suggested for the centenary that the new motorcycle should be a V8 – which was basically two 750cc joined in a V – becoming a 1500cc. It was also envisaged that this V8 engine could be made into a 2-litre engine, being ideal for small sports or racing cars.
However, Norton motors failed. There was a court case held for the appointment of blame in London. This was not attended by the certain two investors pulling out – and Melling was awarded all the rights of the project and possession of the tooling of the new Manx, Nirvana, Buffalo and Nemesis bikes.
The prototype Nemesis and a test engine are now on view at the National Motorcycle Museum near Birmingham, England.