I just picked up this bike today, owner said it was a 1939 16h but as I look at the frame number #87055 and engine #84056 it seems to me that this would mean it was a 1938 as 1939 numbers started at 87920. So if it is a '38 and from what I read off the internet at this link then it would seem this bike is either a Model 18 or ES2 based upon the engine number but from the looks with no external push rods, it doesn't seem this is the case? This is my first Norton so can anyone here help me out? Here are a few photos if this helps?
So who can tell me why it would have the War Department marking on it yet have civilian numbering system on the frame/engine? Bike was totally rebuilt 10 years ago and dry stored since then so no, not ran it yet. Can't wait to get her on the road on those very few days in Norway when we have no rain!
In 1939 in the UK every available motorcycle was pulled from factory/dealers stocks and some private owners and requisitioned for war use. This was regardless of their suitability but a 16H would have been top of the list as it was already used as an army bike. If your bike is one of these it has an interesting history if you can trace it, how and when did it get to Norway.
Nortons also supplied the British military with a lot of bikes prior to the war - could see what was brewing and were getting prepared. That stamp would seem to indicate it was BUILT for the military though, rather than just impressed into service, although that is a good suggestion.
The NOC can provide details of members bikes, for a fee, could well be worth investigating if this number is recorded and what its initial history is ?
I agree, I'm interested to find out the history of this bike, bit of a mystery. I do know the papers show it came into Norway in 1946 but that is where the info stops. I'll try the VMCC and NOC to see what they know! Any other suggestions or ideas are appreciated!
Worth a look on the website www.wdnorton.nl, a mine of information on military 16H's. Including a section comparing military vs civilian features. There is also a forum on there, or a more active general wartime bike forum at www.wdbsa.nl where there will be someone who can most likely help.
Its also worth noting that after the war, a lot of ex-military bikes were sold off/civilianised/reconditioned.
For ex-military Enfields at least, this also included in some cases stamping civilian type numbers into them and registering them as such. With a few army reconditionings along the way, icluding getting new or changed engines/gearboxes (and everything else?) in some cases, this can lead to a very jumbled up trail of trying to identify what you have. Some of this was at a Factory level, and some large Dealers advertised similar type ex-army bikes and services.
Marble Arch Motors in London particularly come to mind - in postwar motorcycle magazines they advertised extensively their range of ex-military bikes and spares and services - for quite some decades later too. (Whatever happened to them, anyone know ?) Cheers.
And the fact that your cylinder's serial number doesn't match the crankcase serial number means the cylinder has been changed at some time (or the crankcases were !).
This could have been in the army workshops during overhaul time(s) (they apparently didn't care about matching numbered parts, just pulled the first one off the shelf). Or could have been postwar, when getting spares meant it was easier to just replace the cylinder than get it rebored and find a new piston. Or, it had had so many rebores another cylinder was required...
Some ex-army bikes have a little tag, often inside the toolbox, which show which army workshop(s) did the rebuilds - REME (Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers) was the british army one. Hopethishelps.
P.S. The fact that the replacement cylinder has a serial no so similar to the crankcases/original one means it is VERY likely this was an army replacement at overhaul time. In civilian life, it would be less likely such a close number was available close at hand...
Bike is definitely a 16H - 490 cc side-valve single. The bike was not originally built for the War Department - it should have a 'W' on the frame and engine before the serial number. That does not mean it never served, as noted above, because many bikes were requisitioned at the start of the war. The mismatched, but close in number, cylinder and crank case may also mean the bike served as a police bike. Generally, only the military or police would have service fleets, increasing the likelihood of close-in-number replacement parts. If you contact the NOC, they may be able to tell you the original manufacture date, as the pre-war records should be converted by now from the original hand-written ledgers. These records list which frame, engine, gearbox, and forks went together, along with whether the bike was built with foot or gate shifter, came with mag or magdyno, what wheels came with the bike, etc. If known, the customer was also noted (such as RAF, WD, Sleightholme Constabulary, etc).
The 16H was built for over 30 years, and more than 100,000 built for the War Department alone. 16H and Big 4 production ended in '54.
This bike is a wonderful piece of history and was originally built for the War Office. Nortons first used the 'W' prefix after the outbreak of war in October 1939 when they started a new system of matching numbers. Prior to this, the War Office contracts utilised blocks of numbers within the civilian production and numbers did not match.
The machine bearing Frame No.87055 and engine 84056 was despatched on 12th January 1938 to the War Office. The tester was named 'Turner'. It was finished in gloss bronze green and was intially sent to the Royal Ordnance depot at Chillwell Nottinghamshire for further distribution.
The number 382898 when prefixed 'C' was the original War Office serial number. The Inspection stamp numbers were unique to each inspector. '56' is the only one that I've seen on pre-war Norton engines.
The engine no. 84045 from which the cylinder came, incidentally was originally fitted to frame no. 87071.
I can check the original fuel tank, gear box and front girder serial numbers for you.
With the exception of a few later parts (headlamp, handlebar levers, long gear indicator), this is a very original 1938 WD Norton. There are a number in Norway as, although it's often overshadowed by the BEF's loss of equipment in France a month later, when the British Force to Norway was evacuated in 1940, they left all their motorised transport behind. As in most countries, the farmers must have been quite good at hiding motorcycles for the duration.
This one looks too standard to have endured five years of Wehrmacht service so the cylinder swap probably occurred in a British Army Ordnance workshop.
It would have originally looked something like this one, complete with large nickel-iron battery.
about 10 years ago or so dick barnes from domiracer told me "a whole bunch of 16h's were sold in norway" they were disposed of by the norwegian govt.as well as a lot of u.s.military ww2 vehicles that were in storage for decade's. maybe you have one,and that would endorse all the previous posts!!!
Norway as a friendly post-war government certainly received a quantity of WD16Hs from British stocks (along with Ariel W/NGs) These generally have very late 'W' prefix numbers and were probably unissued machines. There were vast stockpiles ready for the expected longer war against Japan.
This example with its early carrier etc (no pannier rack)really does look like one of those that went to Norway in April 1940 with the British Army North West Expeditionary Force.
Thaks for all the input guys, really appreciate you taking the time to fill in the knowledge gap about this bike! Now the question remains, restore to its original state or leave in its latest renovation state, AKA civilian paint scheme.