military Nortons, a number of 6V
negative (-) earth
systems have been used based on the existing equipment or the
operational requirements of the time at which they were applied. It was a
relative simple system and used
by most of the contemporary British motorcycle manufacturers. Some used
Lucas supplied both the ignition and lighting system components in the form of the
Magdyno, a combination of a magneto to feed the spark plug and Dynamo to
deliver power to the (many times troublesome) lighting system.
On all military Nortons, the lighting switch and Ammeter (if applied) were mounted into a small panel which in turn
was screwed onto the top backside of the Lucas DU142 headlamp shell. On civilian
motorcycles, owners had an option to mount the electrical equipment into a
panel mounted on top of the petrol tank. These motorcycles were then
provided with a completely closed headlamp shell type Lucas D142.
invented darkness"or Lucas "Prince of darkness" are some of
the many adjectives for the products of Lucas manufacture. Many of the
problems were caused by bad maintenance or by the harsh environment into
which the bikes were operated.
There have been 4 variations of the basic system used on the military Nortons from 1936
The first machines of 1936 did not have the luxury of the later introduced
CVC (Compensated Voltage Control), but had to do with a switch to have the
dynamo disconnected, at half charge or at full charge. A wire coil resistor
mounted to the headlamp switch panel was used to "burn-off" the excess of power when
the system worked at "half charge".
The system worked using a switch with "OFF", "L"and "H"positions.
When the battery was full, the rider could set the system to "OFF", in
which case the dynamo was disconnected from the system. When the battery
became discharged, the rider had 2 choices, half charge "C" for riding
without the lights or lights on and full charge, switch position "H".
The dynamo for this system was provided with an electro-magnetic cut-out
which connected the dynamo to the charging circuit as soon as the dynamo
voltage rises above that of the battery and disconnected the dynamo from
the charging circuit when the dynamo voltage dropped below the battery
voltage, to prevent the battery dischargeing itself through the dynamo.
It is relative certain that only the 1936 WD machines used this system.
In 1937, this system was replaced by the CVC system which was used
until the last military bikes were made. The CVC took the worry of proper
charging from the rider and is basically a electro-mechanical regulator. It
regulates both Voltage and Current by two coils working as electromagnets
activating electrical contacts when either Voltage or Current exceeds a
certain maximum value. The dynamo did not have the cut-out as mounted on
the previous machines. The
regulator (CVC) was factory mounted on the right hand upper rear chain
stay above the tool box. In military use, these boxes sometimes changed
position to the opposite left hand side upper rear chain stay for ease of
Regulators working on the same principles were used throughout the
motoring industry of that time until replaced by the electronic versions
The wiring diagram used until 1941 was the basic civilian scheme having the 3
position headlamp switch
"OFF", "L" (pilot bulb and rear light) and "H" (main
bulb and rear light) and an additional Ligh/Low beam "Dip/Dipper/Dimmer"switch mounted
on the lefthand side of the handlebar. Civilian bikes had a brake light
option. All military paperwork shows systems without the brake light so it
is assumed that that they were never used on military bikes.
On May 5th 1941, DME Circular B.141 mandated the removal of the Dipper
switch from the existing motorcycles and the fitting of new headlamp masks
Before that, the switches on new motorcycles were already replaced
in favour of a 4 position switch
with "OFF", "T" (tail lamp), "L" (pilot bulb
and rear light)
and "H" (main bulb and rear light) positions. (Pictorial evidence showed that this ruling
was not always followed. Most likely it was only done during major
overhaul or rebuilding of the bikes). The newly introduced "T" position
giving the possibility to have only the rear light working, an option
apparently introduced for convoy duties.
With the introduction of the black-out mask, there was little use of the
dipper switch arrangement with High/Low beam option. The bulbs were
now double filament, giving a spare filament in the same bulb.
Nearing the end of the war, an "improved" wiring scheme was
introduced, to reduce the number of wires running from the front fork to
the rest of the machine after it was recognised that many electrical
faults developed through chafing, resulting from the continues movement of
the front fork. This system was also introduced on other brand motorcycles
like the BSA M20.
A late wartime Norton maintenance and instructional manual describes a modified
electrical system. This
system consisted of the deletion of the ammeter, and introduction of a push
button in the headlamp panel to change from Pilot to Main bulb and a
"new" switch (U39-L15) mounted at the right hand side under the
saddle. With this configuration there was only one lead left from the
frame to the headlamp.
The small panel on top of the headlamp shell was made without aperture for
the ammeter, and a smaller hole to fix the push button in.
switch had also 4 positions : "Test", "Off", "T" (tail only) and "H" (tail and
headlamp on). The test position connected the D terminal of the dynamo
directly to the tail light. The brilliance of the taillight was then
supposed to be a measure for the operation of the charging
were 24W main bulb (double filament), 3W
pilot bulb and 3W tail lamp bulb. On the Big 4 the sidelamp and axle flood
light were also 3W bulbs.
An "Altette" horn complemented the system where the early bikes
used the HF935 and the later used the HF1235, operated through a horn push
button on the right hand side of the handlebars.
diagrams for 16H and Big4 are basically identical apart from the additional
sidecar/axle flood lights and wiring thereof.
On a very original, unrestored machine from Contract C5109 (1939/1940) the following was
The wires were tin plated copper wires covered with rubber insulation.
Identification was through coloured rubber sleeves near the terminals.
The dipper switch wire was like a present day 3 lead wire with blue
coloured individual insulated leads combined in one outer cover.
These early rubber covered wires used tinned copper leads because the
sulphur in the vulcanised rubber leads to oxidation of the copper.
Rubber itself deteriorates through the exposure to oxygen and UV
radiation, becoming very hard and brittle.
For this reason not many original looms still exist.
Remains of original wires found on a switch as applied in the late
war electrical system (1944/45) appeared to be rubber like, similar as
This indicates that rubber encapsulation was used during the entire war.
Picture from article of Steve Madden, courtesy Henk Joore's
Wiring remains on a late war (re?)built machine showed to have cloth
covered leads. It was not possible to assure this was factory applied.
Whether the use of the cloth encapsulated wire was widespread is difficult
to say. Cloth encapsulated wiring was used on motorcars and
motorcycles in the 20ties and 30ties.
The main wire loom was
protected by a rubber sleeve from the headlamp shell mounted switch
panel through a loop clamp on the front fork along the upper frame tube
until the saddle frame casting. From there on the individual leads went
to the Dynamo, CVC, horn and tail light. The rubber sleeve was fixed to
the frame upper tube using metal clamps. The tail light wire was clamped
to the right hand side of the rear mudguard by means of 4 small clips.
Another finding, the
ammeter was a CZ27, but it showed to have a domed lens. Until now only
flat lenses were observed!
(but not all) Lucas parts are provided with the manufacturing date stamped into them. If
you really want to restore a bike to "factory" fresh condition,
searching for correctly dated Lucas equipment should make your life
Electrical equipment picture page gives some indication on what the
different parts basically look like.