Al Melling is an automobile engineer.
At the beginning of the 1980s he was involved in the fashion industry, and owned a company in London throughout the 1980s which designed ladies' fashion garments. As owner he became interested in the whole lifecycle of garment production and learned how to make the garments himself. Melling has had ambitions to launch a brand.  Melling's factory and company were based in Rochdale, Greater Manchester, however the launch of the Wildcat coincided with one of the worst recessions the automotive business has had. The company also had a major problem in finding employees with the level of skill to make the components: a problem which would have been solved by the purchase of TVR. At this point, in an attempt to turn the business around, Melling and his wife decided to move everything to the Autodromo do Algarve in Portugal, where a deal was completed on factory space. At the end of negotiations his wife died.
There has been controversy surrounding the Norton, and there has been much speculation on why the project never succeeded.
This project started when Melling was approached by an American, John Silseth II, who ran an investment brokerage business and was very 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.
At this time 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 finished model of the Nemesis weighed 217 kg - Carl Fogarty (the most successful world super bike rider of all time) rode it and stated that it was more compact and lighter than his Ducati race bike. Also, two of Hollywood's most successful action movie stars bought a Nemesis for themselves. The prototype Nemesis and a test engine are now on view at the National Motorcycle Museum near Birmingham, England.
Melling became involved in Formula One in 1989 and subsequently worked as a consultant to companies such as Lamborghini, Chevrolet, Leyton House Formula One and Benetton. The breadth of experience he gained led him to become a general consultant from 1999, finally leaving the sport in 2005.
Melling was involved with the development of an engine for the ill-fated MasterCard Lola team for the 1997 season, but the new team folded after one race without running the engine. Some elements of the enging design were sold to Monte Carlo Automobile, and also to a company in America where that engine and the 4-valve Silk Cut Jaguar engine technology was used in design of the new Aston Martin V12.
Rolls Royce/Bentley Bid
Melling was approached by Professor Donald Longmore, a keen fan of Rolls Royce/Bentley. They came to an agreement, along with Mr John Richards (who had very close connections with Prince Philip), that they would organise a consortium to finance a buyout bid of Rolls Royce – this being offered for sale by the Vickers Group.
During the course of obtaining the funds the sale being operated by Lasard's of London, a business plan was organised by Melling for the future of the company. This was accepted by the consortium, and a meeting was arranged with the shareholders for the following Friday morning to put forward an offer. They were also informed that an offer was going to be made by BMW/VW, and another offer by Ford had already been rejected.
The overriding reason for the consortium was not just to try to keep the company under British ownership, but also that the owner would have control of the pricing of the luxury car market, and it was important to have that control in Britain.
It was all agreed and the funds were laid out in a Swiss bank where the consortium raised £550M, and the meeting with Lasard's and the shareholders was to have been at 11.30am on the following Friday morning. However, when they arrived at this time BMW/VW had already met with them, and their offer had been immediately accepted. This caused great consternation with not only the consortium, but many other influential people in Britain. After Melling's bid to secure Rolls Royce lost out to a German buyer, he was asked by other members of his consortium to build a new luxury car that would be quintessentially British, and fill the void left by sale of Rolls Royce/Bentley. Momentum gathered behind this idea as certain members of the British establishment, including a central member of the British nobility, gave their support. Melling proceeded to design the car, called the Melling Xavier, and make deals to form another technical consortium to fit the car, including Cartier, Asprey's and Alfred Dunhill. The project fell apart after some time, leaving Melling with a V12 engine which was completed and running, but could not be put to commercial use: he suffered hefty financial losses.
Melling Consultancy Design, (MCD)
His team played a part in TWR's V12 engine which helped Jaguar win Le Mans four years on the run, and he has always wanted his own car in the world's most exciting road race. "The sale of the Hellcat would enable me to take a team to Le Mans but doing so has proved elusive" he said.
Rochdale based MCD designed the AJP8 and AJP6 which TVR developed into the TVR Speed Six engine – a high-torque, 24 valve canted straight six – which was cheaper to produce and more refined for road cars. Although TVR carried out further extensive in house development of the engines, these landmark power plants proved that MCD could finally produce an engine. MCD's work ranged from outboard motors and motorcycle engines to the still born Formula One engine. The F1 engine, which features four vales and three tiny MCD designed spark plugs per cylinder, fell behind in its schedule leading to the Mastercard Lola formula one team not qualifying for the 1997 season.
Melling and his team of draftsmen have tried F1 engine designs on several occasions. Working for Scott Russell Engines, a conventional 90-degree V8 was built and tested but never got into a Grand Prix car. Another design, purely on paper, was to have been a wide 165-degree angle V12 to be built with General Motors support but GM withdrew and the project died. The V10 design that was ultimately intended for the MasterCard Lola GP never appeared in 1997 leaving the team to run with customer Ford EC V8 engines. This project sank together with the Lola GP team in the beginning of 1997.
In the late 1990s, Norton Motorcycles, Inc. utilisex the classic Norton name and had at its heart an engines designed to be innovative, powerful and reliable. The power output figures for both the Nemesis and its cruiser-like sibling, the Nirvana reflected Norton's focus on the power and efficiency in its engine designs. The sport-oriented Nemesis contained a 1500 cc V8 engine with a claimed 235 horsepower (175 kW) and 111 foot-pounds force (150 N·m) of torque. This horsepower figure significantly surpassed the horsepower-per-litre derived from Yamaha's R-1, for example. The project was shelved before full production was achieved. The Norton name has since been resurrected by an entirely new consortium which plan to see the brand back in showrooms and race circuits.
Al Melling has long dreamt of owning the TVR brand and in 2007 made an attempt to bid for it.
1175bhp 6-litre V10-powered Sports Car
Melling's concept, The Hellcat car is said[by whom?] to have 1175 hp delivered by a 6-litre V10 engine with the block and heads milled from solid billets of aluminium rather than cast. Taking influence from TVRs, the car is front-engined with rear-wheel-drive using a fibreglass monocoque body and box section steel chassis, independent wishbone suspension and a six speed trans-axle, from the Chevrolet Corvette. Its weight is estimated at 1,200 kg, with 60 mph (97 km/h) coming up in an F1-rivalling 2.8 seconds, and a Vmax of 200 mph-plus. Melling planned a GT1 version to challenge Aston Martins, Vipers and Corvettes at Le Mans in 2007. The cabin is race-inspired with deep bucket seats, harnesses and carbon trim. The plan was for only 50 a year to be produced in Rochdale, Greater Manchester, and sold through one national dealer. So far, the Hellcat and its power plant remain on the drawing board.
An early concept car made on the chassis of the TVR Cerbera and powered by a standard TVR AJP8, underwent tests in California, the biggest market being in the United States. Melling is quoted to have said: "A market survey revealed the Hellcat would look best in silver, so you can have it any colour – as long as it is silver."
At the launch of the "AJP8 Hellcat" code named JS1, Melling said: "The Hellcat would be the climax of my career – the car I've been working towards all my life. One day, God willing, one of my designs will be in production"
The Melling Wildcat is a high performance roadster. The first prototype was completed in 2008 and production is scheduled in America and the UK in 2009. The Wildcat is powered by either the 4.5 litre AJP8 V8 producing 440BHP or a tuned 5.7 litre version of the Chevrolet small-block V8 producing over 450 bhp (340 kW). Its styling is similar to the TVR Griffith. Initially a proposed 150 units was supposed to be completed a year, with production starting in 2009; this did not happen.
The engines in these bikes are unique and sought after by custom bike builders due to them being manufactured from solid billets of aluminium instead of castings, and so easy to polish.
The smaller of the bikes, The Monos (which is Greek for 'The Only One'), has an engine size of approximately 2.5 litres. The Titan, a copy of a bike that Melling had initially made for himself, where he sculpted the cylinders of the engine to look like the American fighter planes of the Second World War.
How the Monos came into being: At that time Melling had a contract to redesign the Indian Motorcycle engine in America. He acquired one of the Indian Chief motorcycles and he was quite appalled with some of the design features and especially the engine. He redesigned the engine, to the benefit of Indian Motorcycles and also advised them on various aspects of the bike. At the same time he had a contract to design a similar V twin engine for a new company; Viper Motorcycles in Minnesota.
Subsequently his company began production on this range of heavy cruiser motorcycles similar to Viper/Indian/Harley Davidson.
Some completed projects
- Camshaft designs for numerous Formula One engines
- Complete design of G.M. of 3.5l, 165deg V12 engine
- Feasibility study of Formula One engine for Porsche, design consultations on Formula One engines with Matra (3l V12), Renault (3.5l V10), Ferrari (3l F12 – 3.5l V12), and Lamborghini (3.5l V12)
- Major development of Judd (3.5l V8) for Leyton House
- Design of turbo-supercharging systems for Alfa Romeo, BBC, Brown Boveri, and turbo-intake system for Japanese V6 Formula One engine
- Design and development of Scott Russell 3.5l, 32 valve V8, 660 bhp obtained on standard fuel
- Design consultant to Motori Moderni
- VW and Renault Formula Three engines
- Design of F3000 AJP V8
- Feasibility study of Indy car engine for Porsche
- Design work for T.W.R.'s World Championship winning Jaguar sohc 24 valve V12 engines
- Complete design of 48valve, 4 camshaft cylinder heads of 7l engine in initial Jaguar XJ-220 sports car
- Feasibility study for normally aspirated Type 962 engine for Porsche
- Aluminium V8 for IMSA racing car
- 4valve per cylinder head for British Leyland
- Design of 7l, 48valve, V12 engine for Monte Carlo Super Car
- Consultation on design of 16valve engines for G.M.
- Complete design, development and management of turnkey project for AJP8 and AJP12 automotive engines for use in TVR sports car
- Design of 1100cc four-cylinder, 16-valve, air/oil cooled engine for Japanese superbike
- Calculations and valve-gear design on 4-stroke engines for Japanese manufacturer of motorcycles
- 750cc inline four engine for Norton
- 1500cc Nemesis V8
- Designed arguably the biggest power-steering system in the world for Caterpillar/Tiger Engineering in Perth, Australia. It utilised hydraulic cylinders of 8" diameter. The vehicle was for work in open-cast coalmines Chile and Alaska. For the Alaska vehicle, heating tapes were fitted to the hydraulic cylinders against the extreme cold weather.
- Plus various consultancy and design work for Indian Motorcycles, Triumph, Viper Motorcycles, Honda, Suzuki, BMW, Chrysler, Aston Martin, Rolls Royce and Bentley.