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UK

19/05/2021

Leading Norton specialist and former Norton, Triumph and Suzuki dealer Mick Hemmings died at the John Radcliffe Hospital, Oxford on 17 May after collapsing in his workshop at Long Buckby, Northamptonshire. He was 77 and leaves wife Angie and son Steve.

Hemmings built up a reputation second to none in the Norton world. The late Norton works rider Peter Williams chose Hemmings to build the engines and gearboxes for his limited run of five £70,000 replicas of the 1973 Norton John Player monocoque racer, starting in 2014.

Hemmings bought his first Norton, a crashed Commando, in 1969. He rebuilt it as a production racer, scoring more than 50 wins on it.

After leaving school he joined the motorcycle trade in 1959 as apprentice to TT rider Joe Glazebrook of Northampton. He moved on to Bert Avill Motorcycles (1962) and Andre Baldet Motorcycles (1964), both Northampton dealers.

In 1972 he joined the advertising team of motorcycle industry magazine Two Wheeler Dealer, followed by Motor Cycle News as Midlands ad rep.

In 1974 he set up Mick Hemmings Motorcycles in Northampton, gaining a Norton Villiers Triumph franchise the following year. In 1977 he added Suzuki to his portfolio. Wife Angie handled the paperwork and spares.

In 1990 he moved to new premises in Northampton concentrating on Norton and Triumph and developing his own range of improvement and race parts, building up an international clientele. 

In 2015, aged 71, he closed his town centre shop to concentrate on engine and gearbox preparation from an extensive home-based workshop. In 2020, aged 76, he decided to further scale down by building gearboxes only.

In 1975 he had become an agent for Quaife five-speed clusters and worked closely with Rod Quaife on developing a six-speed version. He was on target to build and supply his 1000th gearbox.

Hemmings was the race winner of the inaugural Goodwood Revival meeting (1998, 500 Matchless) beating twice 500cc world champion Barry Sheene. He won the Revival again in 2000. He also won international classic races in Japan, Italy, and France as well as in the UK.

Apart from two years Hemmings spent his 62-year working life in the motorcycle trade. At the time of his death he still owned his 750 Norton Commando production racer, surely the world's most consistent Commando winner. And he was looking forward to starting restoration on a 500 Excelsior Manxman he had owned for many years.

Hemmings made his mark through his racing and mechanical skiils. Assertive and confident he was a brilliant mechanic with sound business acumen, and he gave the impression of being indestructible. Energetic and with a good sense of humour he championed the Norton marque gaining high profile international repute. He was a Norton Dominator personified.