A fairly unusual addition to the "military" range of Norton motorcycles was
the 490cc OHV Norton Model 18.
During the Spanish civil war (1936 to 1939) the Spanish
Republican Forces fighting against Nationalist Forces of general Franco bought a number of Norton Model 18's, both solo and sidecar
machines. Because of the arms embargo to supply military goods to the
fighting factions in Spain they were not bought directly from the Norton
factory but illegally acquired through the Paris based, French Norton dealer
According to Spanish army records, the Spanish Republicans received around 268 solo machines and
40 sidecar combinations in a period between Jan 1937 thru January 1939. Norton Assembly books
however show at
least 301 identical 1937 model year machines assigned to be delivered to
Psalty (of which 45 with sidecars) all built between June
and December 1937. It appears then that not all machines built were
actually delivered. A number of these will inevitably have been received in
1938 due to the detour via Paris through some shady transport construction
as they were clandestine in nature.
The machines were the basic civilian models (including paint scheme) but additionally provided
with a centre stand and a wide (8 1/16") crankcase shield as also seen on the India Office WD16H's
of the period. Some of the machines are provided with what appear to be Dunlop saddle
covers, the use of which is however not recorded in the Norton
In September 1939, with the start of the
"Phoney war", tensions in Europe
were rising and the various British motorcycle factories were asked to supply
whatever they had to boost the complement of motorcycles required to fit out the
expanding British Army and the British Expeditionary Forces on the continent.
Norton apparently responded by supplying 89 Model 18 machines, built between
September 4th and September 12th, which based on
the frame numbers appear
to have been built, at least partly, using military WD16H frames. 55 of the
machines have a frame number designated for WD16H contract C3655. One of these
frames has surfaced in recent years and was proven to be a standard WD16H frame.
It is not clear whether these 89 machines were aquired as "impressed
machines" or made to order, especially because they were using designated
WD16H frames. It is also not known whether the original number of 1601
machines for C3655 were actually delivered on the contract as being WD16H.
Proof has been found for delivery for just over 1000 machines but the remaining
are missing from the presently available wartime administration.
One of the 89 machines had a frame number in the range used in 1938. All
others were between 100720 and 107591.
All engine numbers were from 1939 between 94816 and 98121.
Pictorial evidence shows that the
Model 18's specifically made for the military were a mix of military and
civilian parts as can be seen on picture below. The frame is military WD16H
based on side stand and vertical saddle studs. The rear chain guard shows a
tyre pump which was a typical 1939 civilian modification. The handlebar
appears to have the rubber mounting and may be the civilian 7/8th inch
version. NiFe battery fairly common for military MC's of the period.
Burnt out 3rd
18 in "de Panne" a seaside resort in Belgium after Operation Dynamo (The
The most well known pictures of model
18 machines are a sequence showing a 1st battalion Grenadier Guardsman, 7th
Guards Brigade, with a Model 18
clearly of 1938 civilian provenance, shown by the "cows udder" silencer and
side mounted saddle springs as well as the rubber mounted handlebars. The
bike also lacks any side stand bracketry typical for military MC's. The only
modification has been the use of military style front forks (without the
shock absorber hand wheel and including the bump stops).
Unfortunately there is no registration number on it.
It is completely painted over including nuts and bolts making a
civil built MC/impressed MC very likely.