Military 16H detail variations

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This page intends to categorize all variations found on military 16H's, divided for Army and RAF M/C's. Its based on pictorial evidence and contemporary spare parts lists. It has to be kept in mind however that the spare parts lists show replacements, which do not necessarily mean that the M/C's were originally made with the same parts. Another uncertainty is the fact that M/C's were modified during the production run. One very obvious example being the pannier toolboxes. They were apparently applied to C6653 and the early part of C7353 only. Late C7353 M/C's did not have them! There are indications that the information in the spare parts lists lagged in relation to the real motorcycle production because the spare parts list of C6653 does not mention the pannier toolboxes.
I do not pretend to have it complete, but it will cover most variations. If anybody can add more ("proven" with preferably original photographs or other original spares parts lists) I will be glad to hear. 

Arbitrary subdivision of variations of military 16H Nortons for the British and Canadian Army

For ease of reference I have subdivided the (WD)16H's in a number of variations in which the motorcycles were initially produced. If there were others, or the differences can be made more specific, I would be glad to hear the details! I do not have all "Spare parts lists" for the different contracts. Looking at what I do have, there seem to be inconsistencies in parts used and the expected time of application.  It is also clear that bikes were not always delivered as shown in the spare parts lists.
Below list is not exact. And it is very likely that changes were made while production for a certain contract was still running, for instance when using up old stock.  The differences can be seen in the WD16H detail variations page. Sequence of variations is from "early" to "late", where early is 1936 to 1939 (variation one and two), 1940-41 (variation three) and "late" 1942 upwards (variation 4) and "last" (variation 5). Again this is not exact, and will be updated when information becomes available. Finally some remarks are made on the rebuilding of motorcycles.

Variation one:
Basic civilian looking motorcycle with rubber handlebar grips and foot rests, civilian type rear number plate with rear light mounted in the right hand corner and front number plates, no pillion arrangements, initially a standard narrow civilian toolbox with school bag type lock, from around 38 onwards a wider, deepened box , oil tank with weldings at the rear, Speedometer mounted in the middle of the fork, 1 inch handlebar, headlamp 7"aperture, painted black out/black Manilla paper black out (blackouts introduced after September 1939), forward facing horn, round ribbed head tappet cover screw. The prop stand was mounted onto the left pillion footrest lug, on bikes which required pillion footrests, they were fixed to a clamp fitted around the chainstay tube in front of the original lug.
A number of these were equipped with dust filters mounted at right hand side near the rear axle (for use in Palestine).

Variation two:
Basically similar to variation one, built for use in the Middle East (Palestine, Egypt). It was provided with a special air filter, mounted at the right hand above the rear axle. This variation sometimes were provided with a crankcase bash plate, approximately 1,5 times wider than those later used.  Pictures do not show Speedometers.
There are however also versions like this without speedometer and crankcase shields.
A variation of this one is the use of the tank top mounted Vokes filter around 1939. This version is rather peculiar as pictures show these bikes to have the right hand rear corner of the petrol tank cut-off. This was apparently only done on these early contracts. Later in the war, when the tank top Vokes was "re-introduced" the "standard, non-cut-off tanks" remained where other brands like BSA and Triumph did change to right hand rear cut-off tanks. As far as found, Norton was the first to use the tank top Vokes filters and the spare parts lists of even the BSA and the VAOS lists all refer to Norton part numbers.

Variation three:
As variation one, but with two "pannier" toolboxes mounted high up on the rear mudguard stays. These boxes were mounted at least on Contracts C6653 and V7353. Spare parts list for Contract C9062 also notes these boxes but it is unlikely that they were ever fitted. Pictorial evidence suggests that the boxes were only mounted on an "early" part of contract V7353 (august 1940). The deletion of pannier tool boxes under V7353 came between C4391955 (W31929) and C4392670 (W32644). (C4388560 did not have them but picture date uncertain and as bike also misses speedo the boxes may have been removed).
Speedometer mounted at left hand side of the fork instead of the centre of the front fork.
Pillion footrest lug added to lower left chain stay.  
Note: spare parts list for C9062 also refers to the petrol tank with the right hand rear corner cut-off.
Photographic evidence suggests that later parts of the contract (late 1941), the bikes were delivered with pillion seat equipment and pannier bags (ref C4402582).

Variation four:
As three but with pannier carriers and bags, pillion seat and footrests, canvas handlebar grips, round bar steel footrests, winged bolts on toolbox and tappet cover, 6 inch aperture headlamp, headlamp blackout mask, horn mounted facing left, no civilian type number plates, blackout type tail light, oil tank welded at the side.  Based on the spare parts lists, I come to the conclusion that the panniers were added starting with contract C10217. DME circular states a retrofit date for panniers as from 31-3-1942. This was also the last contract on which the front fork rubber buffers were mounted.

Variation five:
As four but on
contract S2602 with bikes delivered in 1944 appear the first to which the steering damper was deleted and the hole in the steering column cap was closed by means of a rivet. Further configuration as given for variation four.

Final variation:
Contract  S5161, as five, but with the standardised 7/8 inch handlebars and using BSA part numbers for all handlebar controls (air, ignition, clutch, front brake and exhaust valve lever). Later parts of the contract were provided with the petrol tank mounted Vokes filters and tropicalised, (there was no right hand rear cut-out on the petrol tank contrary to petrol tanks made in 1939/1940!). Tank rubbers not applied.
The front mudguard to front fork attachment bracket was modified to allow the front end of the mudguard to rise upwards, likely to reduce the collection of mud under the front end of the mudguard blocking the front wheel..
There are also indications these machines were delivered with the simplified electrical system as described in the electrical system page.  No contemporary picture of this has however been found to date.

In case of severe wear or damage of a motorcycle, they were completely stripped to the smallest parts.
Good parts were kept, damaged parts restored (if usefull), worn parts scrapped. Out of the kept, restored and new parts, complete "new" motorcycles were built. These motorcycles were built to the latest standard as valid during the reassembly.  There were special workshops turning out machines at a rate of one each hour!

The rebuilt practice also means that engine and frames were mixed without scrupules. The motorcycle was provided with a new Army census number, and off it went, to be worn out again, scrapped or to be sold to the civil market after the war. It also explains why there are few machines left with matching engine and frame numbers. (Of these, some are known to be "fabricated").

Common upgrades:
During the operation of motorcycles, modifications were introduced as cure for common faults (fracturing of front petrol tank lugs) or improvements (adding of panniers). For the Army, these modifications were documented in  "circulars", prepared by the Director of Mechanical Engineering (DME). From these lists, modifications for the Nortons can be found. It is however quite certain from pictorial evidence that these modifications were not by definition introduced on all bikes. 


Arbitrary subdivision of variations of military 16H Nortons for the RAF

The RAF purchased over 3500 Nortons, a large part of those provided with a Norton Model G (Swallow body?) sidecar.
Two categories can be described:

Early solo and sidecar machines:
Basically, these machines were identical to the Army machines upto late 1944, with the same frame and engine parts.

Late sidecar machines:
Machines specifically used for sidecar work changed after late 1944.  18" x 4.00" wheels became standard on these M/Cs, replacing the until then normally used 19" x 3.25 " wheels.
These late machines did have the pannier carriers as also found on the Army bikes after 1941. RAF machines retained the 1" handlebar where the Army changed to 7/8th "handlebars around 1944/45. Universal saddles did find their way to these machines, but only on the very late ones. The normal saddles were phased out during the manufacture and use of these bikes.

Common upgrades:
As for the Army, the RAF M/C's were also  upgraded when necessary. The RAF used AP1726 coded documents to introduce the modifications.


India Office (India Stores)  

Variation one:

In Jan 1937 73 India Office MC's were produced which were basically similar to the ones as built for the British Army apart from the addition of the pillion  footrest lug on left lower chainstay, pillion equipment, rearward extending rear carrier, silencer with raised outlet, "modified" Vokes (pictorial evidence indicates to the tank top Vokes) , lifting handle to front mudguard. The bikes were also provided with a non-trip 80 MPH speedo and a wide (8 1/16") crankcase shield.

Variation two:

Further 1937 models were manufactured in Feb 1938, 136 in March, 30 in April, but these were delivered with 1938 style rear mudguards (Khaki coloured).
August 1938 saw the first of the 1938 model (enclosed valves, side mounted saddle springs, 1938 civilian style oil tank but not the 1938 "cows udder" silencer) with 130 produced.  Further production was 250 in September, 140 in October, 104 in November and 28 in December.
In July 1939 another 9 1938 models were produced (Matt brown finish).
These machines were also supplied with the raised silencer, pillion equipment and rearward extending rear carrier, wide crankcase shield and 80 MPH non-trip speedo.
In 1946 another 80 MC's of 1938 model, fitted with the Talflow air cleaner were made for India Office.


Australia purchased a small number of MC's independently prior to WW2.  The MC's were basically the standard British military but with the Vokes tank top filter and cut-out at right hand rear of the petrol tank. Around 1940 a fair number of machines were purchased with numbers in the W12xxx range.

New Zealand
Purchased 6 standard  British Army MC's but with the smaller crankcase shield. They were built late december 1937 but delivered March 1938.
Based on numbers found, there appears to have been a number of additional 1940 machines built inbetween the Australian machines with frame numbers in the W12xxx range.

Crown offices (Malaysia)


Pictorial views of the differences:
First variation mentioned in each row is the oldest, variations in one column not necessarily same time frame between rows.
The contract numbers given in the list below are based on the spare parts lists available.
Where an original picture was not at hand, a present time picture is used. If somebody wants a bigger picture of some part, please drop me a line through the E-mail.
Parts which to my knowledge have not changed are not mentioned.



Variation  one  Variation two Variation three Variation four Variation five Variation six
Front number plates

Civilian type given for bikes upto and including C9062

No numberplate from C10217 onwards
Rear number plate

Civilian type single top bolt, actually used upto and including C9681. According to spare parts list it was still used upto and including C5109.

Civilian type double top bolts from C1666 upto C9062

None as from C10217
front mudguard handgrip
Part of front stay, India office contracts only?

None, standard on all others
Rear mudguard
central rib

Plain, unribbed
Rear mudguard  flap
Long curvature

Short curve (C5612 and upwards)
Leg shields First 500 bikes from Contract C14498 only!        

Rubber D shaped, all contracts upto and including C9062

Round steel C10217 and upwards

pillion footrests None added, lugs present

Rubber, covered

Steel, uncovered
Pillion seats


Spring frame


Centrally mounted

Centrally mounted top view

Left hand mounted (C5612 and upwards)

Left hand mounted top view
Speedometer Fork Attachment brackets upto and including first part of contract C5612 (changed inbetween C4153287 and C4154277), part no 3884 Later part of C5612 and higher,  part no 4114 from contract C14498 to end, part no 4114a      
Single box, 3 inch deep

single box, 4 1/2 inch deep, early box widend with 1 inch strip between front and back pressing

Double "pannier" boxes

Both, believed to be a personal "modification" as is the addition of a fire extinguisher.
Later versions of the wide box with gravity wing toolboxes had a chain and paper clip on the inside of the lid. 5 inch deep.
Tool box locks

schoolbag type

Round knob also used on "pannier" toolboxes

 Winged "gravity" knob,

Rear carriers
Rear carrier without pillion, basic as from 1936

Pre war rear carrier with pillion option seen in 1937/38 on India Office MC's

Panniers std as from 1942

Rear carrier without pannier frames
Air filters
Rear mouted (1936 and later)

Norton Air cleaner with non adjustable straps to knee grip bolts and non adjustable elbow fitted to carburetter 1938/39

Vokes model D.7226 with adjustable fixing on knee grip bolts and adjustable aluminium elbow to fit to carburetter
1943 upwards if fitted.
Handle bar clips Aluminium 1" only Cast/Forged steel both 1" and 7/8th "        
Handle bars 1 inch all contracts except S5161 7/8th inch, S5161 only        
Handlebar levers
prewar combination levers upto 1939?

prewar combination levers upto 1939?

1939 upto 1942?

1942 upwards?
Steering damper present on all contracts except S5161 no steering damper on S5161        
Fork buffer
All bikes upto and including contract C10217 have buffers

All bikes from C11082 (W60001) no buffers
Head lamp
8" outer diameter, 
7 1/2" aperture

7" outer diameter, 
6 1/2" aperture

Head lamp switch
OLH (Off, Low, High)

OTLH (Off, Tail, Low, High introduced late 1939

Dimmer switch Civilian dip switch on left hand side of handlebar Dipper switches removed as from end of 1940        
Black-out mask

Black Manilla paper circular mask with half circular cut out.
Bottom portion of reflector painted black

Quadruple slotted without overhead cover, probably locally made

Tubular, interim version mostly used on UK home defense bikes and civilian bikes.  

Single slot overhead covered

With parking light
Rear light
Civilian type MT110 with blackout Manilla paper tube blocking most of numberplate lighting.

Military type 

Mounted forward facing on clamp around front down tube

Mounted sideways facing on extending stud on engine bolt

Magdyno platform Aluminium casting Cast iron          
Tappet cover

Cast aluminium upto and including C12426

Pressed steel as from C14498
Engine tappet cover screw
Round knob

Winged "gravity" knob
Crankcase shield

Wide version India office and Spanish M18's

Narrow version, first used on New Zealand machines 1937, re-introduced for all machines from C14498
Oil tank
Rear welded

Side welded
Petrol tank

With knee rubbers

With righ hand rear cut off to cater for Aircleaner hose. Specified for 1939 India contract and contract C9062

Without knee rubber bolt fixing holes, only on very late production machines of S5161

Petrol lead(s) to carburetter Copper (upto W18000) Rubber hose from each petrol tap onto two sided banjo on float chamber (after W18001) After 1942 rubber hose  from left tap and copper crossfeed line between petrol taps      
Rear brake rod
Rear end adjustable, all bikes pre 1942/panniers

front end adjustable, rear end rotates in segment.  Used in combination with the pannier racks (from C10217 onwards and rebuilts)

Wheel bolts

Reduced thickness shank early machines

Cylindrical shank after 1940

Front brake cam lubrication through centre of cam by additional lubricator on side of bush (C10217 and upwards)        
Gear position indicator moulded/cast part and indication of  neutral by I on gearchange mechanism cover At least from C6127 sheet metal pointer and gear positions on brass strip on top of gear change mechanism cover        
Gearbox drain plug