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Civil versus military details guide (16H)

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Especially in the pre war years, the differences between civilian and military 16H motorcycles were not very distinct.
The present abundance of "pre-war" civil 16H look alike motorcycles makes it clear that the details are not very known to most people. 
Through the investigation of two "proven to be authentic" pre war civilian 16H machines (one from 1935 and one from 1937), I have been able to at least corroborate the claim that the military motorcycles did indeed have an increased ground clearance. Through measuring and comparing a number of frame dimensions, it can be clearly determined which is a military or trails frame and what is a genuine civilian machine.
Both front down tube and saddle tube of the military bike are shorter than those of the civilian machines, thus lifting the engine higher from the ground. Other frame dimensions are basically the same.

The claim as made in many books on the WD16H having "stronger front fork springs" has been found to be incorrect. According to the Norton Assembly books, only stronger rebound springs were applied, not stronger main springs.
All spare parts lists that I have give the same part numbers, from 1937 to 1945. The military Big 4 did indeed have stronger springs, which is clear from the different part number of it.
This may then be the cause for some confusion.

Below a list giving a number of details differences between civil and military bikes between 1936 and 1946. This is not definitive and probably not complete but based on the best information available to me at the moment. (With great help from Richard Payne, Belgium, Timothy Walker and Roger Deadman in England). Norton Model years went from September to September so that e.g. enclosed valves engines were built and sold starting in the last months of 1937!
At the bottom some details of military origine.
 

PART

1936

1937

1938

1939

1940 -1945

1946

Solid "adjustable" handlebar clamps

M

M

M

M

M

-

Rubber cushioned handlebar clamp introduced in 1935

C

C

C

C

-

C

1 inch handlebars M C M M M M*12 ?
7/8th inch handlebar - C C C M*12 ?

Open valve cover

M C

M C

M

M

M

-

Enclosed valves

-

-

M*1 C

M*1 C

-

C

Oil tell tale

M C

M C

M

M

M

-

No oil tell tale

-

-

M*1 C

M*1 C

-

C

Front brake plate/drum left hand side *2

M C

M C

M C

M

M

-

Front brake plate/drum right hand side *2

-

-

-

C

-

C *3

Saddle spring studs vertical

M C

M

M

M

M

-

Saddle spring studs horizontal

-

C

M*11 C

M*11 C

-

C

Gear position indicator small

M C

M C

M C

M C

-

 

Gear position indicator large

-

-

-

-

M

 

Gear change lever straight M C MC - - -  
Gear change lever hooked down - - MC MC MC C

Nut front fork shock absorber

M

M

M

M

M

 

Handwheel front fork shock absorber

C

C

C

C

-

C

Footrest tubes welded to engine plates

M C

C

C

C

-

 

Footrest tubes interchangeable

M*10

M

M

M

M

 

Serrated foot hanger long

C

C

C

C

-

 

Serrated foot hanger short

M C*4

M C*4

M C*4

M C*4

M

 

Rubber cushioned footrests

M C

M C

M C

M C

-

C

Tubular, steel footrests

-

-

-

-

M*5

 

Rear brake pedal short

C

C

C

C

-

 

Rear brake pedal long

M C*6

M C*6

M C*6

M C*6

M

 

Side stand

M

M

M

M

M

 

Centre stand

C

C

C

C

-

 

Semi-loop (diamond) frame

M C

M C

M C

M C

M

 

Cradle frame

-

-

-

-

-

C

Petrol tank overhead valve engine cut-out

C

C

C

C

-

C

Petrol tank with only Spark plug dome

M

M

M

M

M

-

Silencer 1935 model

M C

M C

M

M C

M

C

Silencer 1938 (Cows udder)

-

-

C

-

-

 

Toolbox wide

M

M

M

M

M

-

Toolbox narrow

C

C

C

C

-

C*7

Tyre inflator under petrol tank

M C

M C

M C?

M

M

-

Tyre inflator on rear chain guard

-

-

C?

C

-

C

Additional mudguard stay between halfway rear upper mudguard stay to rear lower mudguard stay/bottom portion of mudguard

M

M

M

M

M

 

No additional mudguard stay

C

C

C

C

-

C

Single rear numberplate top fixing bolt C M - - - -
Two rear numberplate top fixing bolts - C M C M C - *13 C

Pillion foot rest lugs on left and right lower chain stay short version

M C

M C

M C

C

-

-

Pillion foot rest lugs on left and right lower chain stay high/long version *8

-

-

 C

-

-

-

Sidestand lug on left rear chain stay and pillion footrest lug on right rear chain stay and “bolt-on” pillion foot rest lug on left rear chain stay

M

M

M

M

-

-

Sidestand and pillion foot rest lug on left rear chain stay and pillion foot rest lug on right rear chain stay

-

-

-

-

M*9

-

Notes:

*1  Only on non-British Military bikes (NIZAM India contract for instance),                                                       
*2   Different front fork to accommodate righthand brake plate reaction arm,
*3   BSA type headlamp supports (two strips in V shape on its side), so no lugs for the headlamp “prongs”,
*4   Also used on civil Trials versions,
*5   Steel tubular footrests introduced around 1942 to preserve rubber,
*6   To go with short serrated footrest hangers on civil Trials versions,
*7   In 1946 a completely new design toolbox was introduced,
*8   Longer pillion footrest lugs required to cater for the "Cows Udder" silencer,
*9   Introduction of dedicated left hand pillion footrest lug approximately second half of 1940.
*10 Separate footrest tubes and engine plates introduced from 20th August 1936
*11 1938 model WD16H destined for India Stores Dept were provided with the civilian horizontal studs  
*12  Only military contract with 7/8th inch handlebar was S5161 (1944/45)
*13  Rear numberplates not applied after 1940.

 

 

           

Frame and engine number positions
 (bore and stroke at right)
 

Field stand and pillion footrest brackets
 

Pannier racks and bags
 

Field stand clip in detail
 

Shock absorber friction adjustment nut
 

Crankcase shield
 

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