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Ariel W/NH anyone??

John Blackman

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I recently came across an Ariel with '1942 W/NH' painted on the tank. The owner believes it to be a W/NG that has been incorrectly marked by the previous owner after the fitting of a civilian NH tank. It certainly looked like a W/NG.


However, a colleague has suggested that there actually was a W/NH model , but I'm blowed if I can find reference to it on the web...


Can anyone tell me if there was a W/NH and it what way it differed from the W/NG?


Thanks guys


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I'm not an Ariel expert but I have a copy of Orchard & Madden's "British Forces Motorcycles". The NH was the pre-war sporting 'Red Hunter' and does not seem to have been made in 'W' (War Dept spec) form. There was a small contract for 38 NHs in May 1940 but after August 1940, Ariels only seem to have supplied W/NGs.


According to O&M, the NG was based on the 1938 Trials model so presumably higher ground clearance and lower compression etc. I can't see any obvious major differences between NHs and NGs.


It looks as if a W/NG should have a frame number prefixed 'XG and an engine number begining 'BH'

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  • 1 month later...

Although I am the 'colleague' John refers to, I have spent some time digging deeper into this and the W/NH seems to be something of a mystery. The Ministry of Supply contract records for the period show that a single 500cc model W/NH was supplied to the War Office under contract C7373 in 1940 amidst a batch of 30 other 500cc machines of unspecified type.


The nomenclature 'W/NH' would suggest that this was a War Office version of the NH – known as the 'Red Hunter' in its civilian form – but this was a 350cc machine and the contract record clearly states that the W/NH was 500cc. The 500cc 'Red Hunter' was known as the VH which would suggest that the clerk in charge of recording the contract, or somone transcribing it at a later date confused the 'V' with an 'N'.


It would probably be safe to assume then that this was actually a W/VH machine.


But... it is always dangerous to be specific in the face of a mystery... does anyone know more.


Pat Ware

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Pat, Do you mean C.7372 ? 7373 was an AJS contract.


Which MoS records have you been looking at ? This contract was of course placed at the point where the BEF needs were great and many bikes were taken from factory stocks or built up from available parts.


The Ordnance records suggest that a total of 215 machines were supplied, made up as follows :-


150 x 500cc


65 x 350cc


87 x 500cc VH

38 x 350cc NH

63 x 500cc VG

27 x 350cc NG


I can find no reference to a 'W' prefix so these should have been normal civilian spec machines, perhaps with simply (but not necessarily) a colour change. In fact, Orchard & Madden state that the Ariel factory records show supply of both single and twin-port head versions.


Only a check of the engine and frame numbers of the bike in question will shed further light on whether this particular bike was a VH. Bearing in mind subsequent rebuild procedures, it is not without precedent that a VH engine was placed in a W/NG rolling chassis and then reissued with a new census number. I don't believe that any breakdowns of these rebuild numbers survive.

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