Ariel W/NG 350

The Ariel W/NG 350 is a motorcycle based on the well-proven Ariel Red Hunter singles built by Ariel Motorcycles for the British military, and designed by the firm's chief designer Val Page in 1932 around an engine he had developed six years earlier. Although the Ariel was not initially selected by the War Department, they were in great demand after the evacuation of Dunkirk when much of the British Army's materiel had been left behind.[1]

Ariel W/NG 350
ManufacturerAriel Motorcycles
PredecessorAriel Red Hunter
Engine346 cc (21.1 cu in), OHV two-valve air-cooled single
Power17 bhp at 5,800 rpm
TransmissionFour-speed gearbox to chain final drive
SuspensionGirder front forks, solid rear
Brakesdrum brakes
DimensionsL: 2.13 m (84 inches)
W: 0.76 m (30 inches)
H: 1.06 m (42 inches)
Weight169 kg (373 lb) (dry)
Fuel capacity2.625 imp gal (3.152 U.S. gal; 11.93 L)


On the outbreak of the Second World War, Ariel submitted the 1939 VA 497 cc (30.3 cu in) overhead valve single for evaluation against the War Office's Norton 16H. The 1939 W/VA 497cc side-valve single was also tested. Both performed well and Ariel developed the W/NG specifically for military use. This was a 348 cc (21.2 cu in) OHV single based on a Scottish six-day Trials winning model and went into production in 1940.[1]

Although the French military immediately placed orders for the W/NG, the British War Office rated it as "fair – for use only in emergency purposes". Following the loss of equipment resulting from the evacuation of Dunkirk in May 1940 the "emergency purposes" became necessary, and Ariel turned over as many motorcycles as possible to the war effort, including converted civilian machines – many of which still carried an Ariel badge painted over with green or sand paint. VH & VG (500 OHV singles), NH & NG (350 OHV singles), and even the VB (598 cc or 36.5 cu in SV single) models were put into military service, although most were used for training and civil defence. The British Army, Royal Air Force, Admiralty, Ministry of Agriculture and Women's Land Army all used Ariel W/NG 350s.[2]


W/NG 350 cc (21.4 cu in) motorcycles were supplied from 1940 to 1945 and featured dual triangular tool boxes, pannier frames for bags, rear carrying racks and headlamp masks. Rubber items were impossible to source from 1942 because of a shortage of rubber, therefore handgrips were made from canvas and footrests from steel. As the war progressed, aluminium also became scarce and pressed steel was used for the primary chaincase and timing covers.

Date Production Notes[3]
10 July 1940 1 First prototype delivered
8 August 1940 2,700 153 delivered to French military
27 August 1940 350 Chilwell
18 September 1940 2,000 Chilwell
7 March 1941 3,500 Tewkesbury (one fitted with a Matchless engine and one with BSA B30
5 July 1941 3,500 Chilwell
12 August 1941 750
10 November 1941 300 Delivered at 75 per week
12 December 1941 2,000 Delivered to Tewkesbury at 650 per month
26 December 1941 100 Delivered at 25 per month
2 February 1942 105 27 Delivered to the Royal Navy (estimated production)
14 March 1942 3,500
9 April 1942 1,800 Delivered to the Royal Air Force
27 August 1942 75 Delivered to the Royal Navy
20 November 1942 40
21 January 1943 50 Delivered to the Royal Navy
3 March 1943 2,250
5 May 1943 100 Delivered to the Royal Navy
9 October 1943 250 Delivered to the Royal Navy
20 September 1943 4,000 Contract price £62 each
6 January 1944 3,000 Contract price £62 each
25 March 1944 5
31 March 1944 2,000 Reduced from original contract for 3,500
16 June 1944 350 Delivered to the Royal Navy
27 January 1945 43 Delivered to the Royal Navy
31 January 1945 249 Delivered to the Royal Navy
15 February 1945 1,122 Delivered to the Royal Air Force (reduced from order for 1,572)
7 April 1945 300 Delivered to the Royal Navy
12 June 1945 300

Post war

After the war over 800 W/NG motorcycles were supplied to the Danish Army between 1946 and 1947.[1] The remaining W/NGs that survived were mostly converted back into civilian specification for resale by dealers, so good examples of the military model are now rare.

An example attached to a sidecar appears in the film, Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang. The motorcycle, ridden by the title character, also appeared in versions of the advertising poster upon release.

In the Bollywood hit film, Sholay, the motorcycle was used by the two main protagonists.

See also


  1. "Danish Army Ariel W/NG 350 cc". Retrieved 1 November 2008.
  2. "WW II Ariel (1935–1945)". Archived from the original on 20 December 2007. Retrieved 1 November 2008.
  3. Orchard, C. J.; Madden, S. J. (1997). British Forces Motorcycles 1925–45. Sutton Publishing. ISBN 0-7509-1445-9.
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