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Considering my first wd bike Norton 16h or bsa wm20

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Hey everyone hope we are all well.

Just turned 30 an starting to look into getting my first ww2 bike with the aim of using it regularly.

(Currently ride a Norton 650ss as a daily) my grandpa was in the desert rats so thinking of riding a wd bike to pay respects to him miss him alot.

Main two I've been looking at are the Norton 16h and the Bsa WM20 and was wondering which is the easier to live with as an every day bike or any preference handing or reliability between the two?

Any other standout models saw the Velo's are quite rare an the Matchless g3l has conventional forks. Not experienced girder forks though so quite curious to own and ride a bike with those.

Thanks in advance,

Tom aka norton.rider on instagram and youtube.

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The so-called frontline bikes were limited in the main to BSA, Matchless, Ariel and Norton, and all used in N Africa.  Dont forget that the Matchless G3WO preceding the G3L has girder forks and its a nice (comparatively) lively ride, with OHV engine, though rarer (and more expensive)....as is the Norton.  Latter is a pretty antequated design cf the Matchless and BSA and parts are more difficult/expensive to source.  The Ariel is also a decent lively riding bike, also with OHV engine (and girders).  They are all simple bikes made to be worked on with none a lemon.  The Matchless is a bit more fiddly to work with but hardly taxing.  As you are not that fussed about which frontline bike you want, probably the best course of action is just to find one of those in good, complete condition at mot silly money.  And when you do, ask back here re the specific bike before you buy, as it might just save you much heartache and hassle!  Motorcycles purporting to be complete and original frequently are offered at top dollar.  They can look very nice.......and be very wrong!  The cost of putting such dogs right can be eye watering.

Edited by matchlesswdg3
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Thanks Matchless really do appreciate the reply and I shall seek advice when I find what seems to be the right one.

Hadnt thought about a g3wo could be interesting.

Not had a side valve yet so not sure of the benefits v disadvantages :)

Trying my best to get a bit more knowledgable on the bikes of the period and the correct an incorrect details. Been reading the forces motorcycles book as well :)

 

 

Edited by Norton.rider

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BSA sidevalve M20 is the envy of Matchless WDG3Ls re roadside tinkering with carb, etc, but they run hot as sidevalves tend to.  So folk can have issues with fuel vaporisation and blown head gaskets, but all manageable.

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Watch out for "ringers"!  16h was in production for a long time and if you want a WW2 bike you need to check out the frame and engine numbers.  Never owned one, but those who do tend to be enthusiastic!  No doubt Ron will be on here and give you detail.

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Thanks Matchless :) yeah I totally get that hopefully the forces motorcycles book I've got should come in handy for that. Looking forward to starting the hunt for one.

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Tom you have had some advice over on the WD bike forum and now from Ferg who is a Matchless fan. I can remain fairly un-biased as I have most WD  makes and models in my collection. 

I would say that without a doubt the G3L is the most nippiest, fastest and comfortable bike from the period, but they are lacking in the girder fork experience. To my mind the G3 is one of the prettiest bikes......But neither are my most favourite bikes to work on. 

From my collection, my most favourite bikes to ride are my WM20 and my Royal Enfield WD/G. 

Royal Enfield WD/CO's are reasonably available and with a second to none spares back up from Hitchcock's it's an option worth considering.    

Personally I think you should meet up with guys and their bikes and form your own first hand opinion. But I'm happy to provide pictures of anything you might want to study. 

DSCF1331.jpg

M20 484.jpg

CO 107.jpg

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Thanks Ron really appreciate the advice and Information stunning bikes! Everyone's been so great with all the advice.

Thanks for posting the pictures awesome to look at.

Yep I'm definitely going to have to get along to a few events have you guys got any suggestions for any? 

Hadn't really considered an Enfield but they sure look stunning as do the Matchless.

I'm a bike a holic so I'll probably end up the same as you with a few eventually in the process of selling most of my Japanese classics at the moment few have just recently gone so I can start the hunt :)

been using my Norton 650ss every single day an it's been super interesting every days been a learning day be exciting to learn and work on the wd bikes.

Been reading forces motorcycles been a brilliant read and the 16h manual as well never read up about side valve engines before so lots to learn.

Thanks again an happy new year to you both :)

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Tom, 

Are you intending to go for a complete finished bike, or a do it upper ?? If your prepared to do minor or major work and travel to collect there are bargains to be had, I've collected mine from 3 corners of the UK, they all fit in a Berlingo van if you take the front passenger seat out......

Price can depend on a lot, as Ferg mentions there are ringers, so do your homework first,  a mistake I made not long ago but it turned out OK ( with the help of Ron and Jan) but was a bit overpriced, but the previous one was a steal even with the bits I had to source, the last one was one you mention a BSA WD M20, a true bargain and needs very little.

I'm like Ferg and love the Matchless (ever since I seen the one on the film "A Bridge too Far" when I was a kid ) I've now a enough spare parts to build another G3L, (except the frame is post war, but intended to build a run a round with these). 

I see your in the North West, If your not far from Liverpool you can drop by and compare the BSA to an Enfield..... one is certainly lighter than the other.....

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Posted (edited)

Hi Duke really appreciate the reply :)

Ideally a runner although I'll probably keep my eyes open to anything all depends on what ends up coming available I guess.

Just on the back end of rebuilding my 68, NV Commando previous owner used it as a show bike an left the cylinder head full of blast media an she started to let go on an run out so I've ended up stripping her right down just putting the crank back together over the next week or so total pain funds wise but on the plus got a ton of tools now haha! Which came in handy when I replaced the rocker spindles on the 650ss :) quite a rare Commando though being one of the first 80 built so will be worth it in the end. 

that's a really kind offer that I'll have to take you up on at some point :) live near the cat and fiddle so not to far a few friends of mine who race live your way out.

just on the way back from the motorcycle museum having popped down to do a bit of research.

 

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Edited by Norton.rider

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Thanks again everyone for all the advice on the hunt for one now :) sold my tz project over the weekend happy days!

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Posted (edited)

Just to add to this does anyone know if there are any tell tale ways to identify the indian repro tinware on the wd bikes?

Many thanks 

Edited by Norton.rider

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The reproduction  Indian manufacturer  petrol tanks that I have seen look ok from a distance but the welding is often very poor and the give away is the underside of the petrol tank ...the original triumph petrol tanks as an example have a series of  inward pressed panels to strengthen the tank bottom ..the Indian copies i have seen have totally flat bottoms an immediate give away they are copies.

I would suggest taking detail photos of any bike you are looking at ..get photos of the frame and engine numbers and share the photos with the forum .you will get an honest critique plus owners will flag the non standard bits ..

A missing or incorrect Speedo can alter a bikes true value by hundreds so it's worthwhile asking the forum ..I recently saw a bike advertised as a triumph 3sw but a critique identified it was a civilian 3s engine in a military  3hw frame .the rest was a mix of 40s to 60s bits ......

Jenkinov

 

 

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Hi Jenkinov,

 

Thanks for the reply :)  must admit I'm starting to realise what a minefield they can be regarding incorrect stuff, learning constantly at the moment which is good on my hunt for one. Seen a few which I spotted things were quite wrong on including a bsa with what I think was incorrect engine stamping. 

Does anyone know about the underside on the 16h tanks?

Totally get that regarding the Speedo's seen that with some other classics I've had where it can be a bit of a pain to find. 

Think I'm right in saying the wm20 and rest of the engine and frame number should all be in one line?

Really leaning towards the Norton's at the moment just because of my familiarity with the brand an I've always loved Norton's my uncle raced them in the 60's.

Many thanks,

Tom

 

 

Edited by Norton.rider

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Tom, there are very slight differences in the press work underneath WD16H tanks but it is a unique 'flat-bottomed' tank with only a small dome in order to make it possible to remove the sparking plug.  They're quite distinctive. Look out too for the presence of the inflator mounts. Not a major problem to fabricate if they're missing (which they often are) but a nuisance if you weren't planning a re-paint.

Don't focus too much on the tank though. There were three or four roughish ones at Kempton Park last month around the £100 mark. As I mentioned on another forum (I think), genuine forks are a much bigger concern. Indian forks have mild steel tubes and cast iron lugs. They do not follow best practice and have not been tested in any meaningful way. A set of genuine forks will cost you at least £600 plus the cost of reconditioning which brings with it a waiting list....Duff forks will spoil your summer.

Early - late comp.JPG

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11 hours ago, Norton.rider said:

Hi Jenkinov,

 

Thanks for the reply :)  must admit I'm starting to realise what a minefield they can be regarding incorrect stuff, learning constantly at the moment which is good on my hunt for one. Seen a few which I spotted things were quite wrong on including a bsa with what I think was incorrect engine stamping. 

Does anyone know about the underside on the 16h tanks?

Totally get that regarding the Speedo's seen that with some other classics I've had where it can be a bit of a pain to find. 

Think I'm right in saying the wm20 and rest of the engine and frame number should all be in one line?

Really leaning towards the Norton's at the moment just because of my familiarity with the brand an I've always loved Norton's my uncle raced them in the 60's.

Many thanks,

Tom

 

 

Tom, 

Can you elaborate on the engine number, I've Some crank cases that have had the small small brass plate riveted on over the original number, the number is re stamped above the brass plate, the plate is just an identification regarding ( I cant remember if its bore size or bearing ??? someone will chirp in.) This would of been done by the REME at some point. 

 

 

 

 

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Thanks 79 that's a really brilliant post very informative yep since you mentioned the forks I need to do some more research on visual differences so I know what I'm looking at difference wise :) the tank pictures are a huge help. 

 

Hi Duke I saw it with the engine numbers with now wm prefix and it had wm20 stamped in huge letters, my limited an I mean really limited knowledge on wm20s was that the engine number was all in one line originally ? :) hence me asking every scrap of info I learn is a really big help 

Edited by Norton.rider

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15 minutes ago, bigduke6 said:

Tom, 

Can you elaborate on the engine number, I've Some crank cases that have had the small small brass plate riveted on over the original number, the number is re stamped above the brass plate, the plate is just an identification regarding ( I cant remember if its bore size or bearing ??? someone will chirp in.) This would of been done by the REME at some point. 

 

 

 

 

That small plate was used by Workshops when the cylinder was rebored, either on overhaul or repair. It helped when having to order piston or rings the next time it needed attention.

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15 hours ago, Richard Farrant said:

That small plate was used by Workshops when the cylinder was rebored, either on overhaul or repair. It helped when having to order piston or rings the next time it needed attention.

Thanks Richard couldn't remember if it was bore or a bearing...... didn't have it to hand as its in storage.

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23 hours ago, Norton.rider said:

Thanks 79 that's a really brilliant post very informative yep since you mentioned the forks I need to do some more research on visual differences so I know what I'm looking at difference wise :) the tank pictures are a huge help. 

 

 

There are always plenty of Indian-made forks on eBay. Have a look at the quality of the castings. If you've been around Nortons for any length of time then it's impossible that you'd see a set on a bike and even remotely think that they could have come out of Bracebridge Street !

https://www.ebay.co.uk/itm/New-Norton-16-H-500cc-Front-Girder-Fork-Springer-Assembly-Pre-War-primered/193252827324?hash=item2cfec420bc:g:4FsAAOSwTNBdu5RQ

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