|Manufacturer||Ariel Motors (J.S.) Limited, Selly Oak, Birmingham, United Kingdom|
Contributor: Alan Chanter
ww2dbaseLargely forgotten today, one of the most interesting motorcycles supplied to the British Armed Forces during the Second World War was the Ariel W/NG. A machine that was not only functional but also considered by many to be the most fun to ride.
ww2dbaseThe man who designed the W/NG's engine was one of Britain's longest-serving motorcycle engineers - Val Page. He had learned his trade at J. A. Prestwich (JAP) in London and the single-cylinder overhead valve engine that he designed after joining Ariel in 1926 looked very similar to the well engineered motors built by JAP. It would become the forerunner of the W/NG engine, and a unit that was still in production 30 years later. Page, who concentrated on power with reliability, introduced into his engine the plunger oil pump adopted by Triumph, and a centrifugal oil filter set within the flywheel assembly.
ww2dbaseAriel's fastest sports single, the 1932 Red Hunter used variants of this engine and were much respected as good-looking bikes with superb performance. When, in 1940, there arose a pressing need to replace the motorcycles lost at Dunkirk, France, the Ariel company submitted a detuned version of the Red Hunter, called the W/NG, with better ground clearance but still retaining its ancestor's throaty exhaust.
ww2dbaseWell balanced, with a low saddle and wide handlebars the Ariel was both simple and reliable. Riders were generally able to fix most mechanical problems with the toolkit and the parts that filled one toolbox without needing the assistance of a specialist mechanic. The only suspension provided was a girder front fork, but this was one of the best of its kind. To conserve supplies of rubber no footrest rubbers were fitted and the handlebar grips were of canvas. There was usually a passenger seating on the rear mudguard. All W/NG Ariels were fitted with canvas pannier bags for messages and parcels, as well as an extra steel toolbox. A blackout mask was fitted to the headlamp so that aircraft would not be able to spot vehicle movement at night, but the small amount of light allowed through the mask typically made riding at night somewhat hazardous undertaking.
ww2dbaseWartime motorcycles were generally used for carrying messages, escorting convoys of trucks, or tanks, or carrying officers as passengers. In these roles the Ariel proved well suited and, being both faster and having better brakes than the rival Matchless G3/L (with had BMW-type telescopic forks) was an extremely popular choice among British army messengers.
ww2dbaseWhilst most W/NGs went to the British army some were supplied to the RAF and Royal Navy too. The finish was basic: drab green, brown or blue paint. One unique feature, however, was the gearbox whose first three gears were of low ratio to cope with marshalling slow-moving convoys. This made acceleration up to 45mph rapid, but then, a big gap between third and top gear took the edge off performance.
ww2dbaseAriel, which was part of the Triumph group until it was sold to BSA in 1944, eventually made about 43,000 W/NGs, many of which were demilitarised at the end of hostilities and sold on to a civilian public desperate for cheap and reliable transportation.
Motorbike Fact Files magazine
Last Major Revision: Jan 2015
|Machinery||One 346cc Single-cyl pushrod overhead valve four stroke engine rated at 13PS @ 5,O00rpm|
|Suspension||Front: Girder Fork; Rear: None|
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George Patton, 31 May 1944