An Unusual Frame Number.

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John.reader
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An Unusual Frame Number.

Postby John.reader » Tue Oct 27, 2020 10:00 am

Many years ago, more than I care to remember, but during the 1970’s when I first got interested in Ariels, I bought a couple of basket cases and some caches of spares for very little money. I think that the most I paid was £40 and some were take it away for free, unlike today. Out of these I restored the two basket cases to running order, a 1952 VH, and a 1950 VB, and I still have them both in my garage. At the end of this I still had a complete 350 NH engine and a CP gearbox left over, and whilst I was wondering what I could do with them I spotted a picture of “A typical sporty Ariel of the immediate post World War 2 period” on page 149 of my newly acquired book, “The Ariel Story” by Peter Hartley. Problem solved!

So I went to a firm in North London called Northchurch Motorcycles, who broke British bikes for spares, (hard to believe these days) and for the princely sum of £25 I bought the remains of a 1948 rigid 350 that had already been stripped for parts. What I actually bought was the frame, forks and wheels plus a green log book, everything else had already been stripped and sold.
I then used these parts, plus what I already had, although I had to use a few later parts, to assemble a replica of the bike in the picture in Peter Hartley’s book. I still have it, and there is a picture of it below.

Now the reason for this post is that a 1948 rigid 350 should have a frame number consisting of BP and three numbers, but as you can see in the green log book that came with the frame, (Picture below) the frame number is 27924. Similarly the engine number should be AJ and three numbers, but instead it is 40050.

Now I can’t speak about the engine as it had been removed and sold before I obtained the frame, but when I bought it, the frame number 27924 was stamped on the frame in the usual place under the saddle.

After I had finished the bike I went to tax it, and as we had now got into the era of the V5, I sent the green log book off to Swansea to buy the tax, and I also requested that they return the original log book to me, which amazingly they did, however the frame number on the V5 had now mysteriously gained an X in front of it, for no obvious reason that I could see. It now reads X27924.
So what to do? In the end I took the easy way out and went see a friend of mine who ran a small local garage, and he stamped the letter X on the frame for me, in front of the existing frame number. A hanging offence today, but fifty years ago in the 1970’s nobody cared or worried about things like that, and now the frame number and the V5 agreed with one another, so job done, and it's been like that ever since.

Sorry about the long pre-amble, but my question is, has anyone else ever come across an Ariel frame number consisting of just five numbers like this, or does anyone have an explanation for it. As you can see, the original log book has never been tampered with or altered in any way, so I’m at a loss for an explanation.

The reason for my asking is that I’m approaching eighty, and although I’m fit and well at the moment, it won’t be too long before the time comes for either me, or more likely my son, to move some of these bikes on to new homes. Obviously anyone who knows anything about Ariels will query the odd frame number, so it would be good if I knew in advance what the explanation was.

Any information or advice would be much appreciated.

Thanks, John.
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Vincent.vanGinneke
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Re: An Unusual Frame Number.

Postby Vincent.vanGinneke » Tue Oct 27, 2020 10:33 am

Hello John, nice Ariel, looks good.
Dont know if this is of any help but in the factory ledgers often the first letters (for frame and engine) are only written at the top of the page.
As being the same for that whole page.
Ofcourse the factory had nothing to do with the registration.
Or with a wild guess, the Ariel had been part of a government supply in 1948 and the registration followed factory ledgers practise ?
Who knows, but I would not worry to much, on paper everything ties up neatly.

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adrie.degraaff
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Re: An Unusual Frame Number.

Postby adrie.degraaff » Tue Oct 27, 2020 3:12 pm

KMT470 is a 1946 OH 250cc and has nothing to do with the others.

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Eero.Korhonen
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Re: An Unusual Frame Number.

Postby Eero.Korhonen » Wed Oct 28, 2020 5:09 am

Very good looking NH. They used to have a lot of mistakes with these
hand written log books here in Finland as well. Sometimes even bikes
names were not right. But I think they understand it today, so no worries.
Br, Eero
Ariel VH 1954, IZH 350 1962, H-D Sportster Hugger 1992, AOMCC Member 133

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paul.jameson
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Re: An Unusual Frame Number.

Postby paul.jameson » Wed Oct 28, 2020 8:10 pm

Co-incidentally, a member from the States contacted me recently about the numbers on his bike, which, although they have prefix letters, are far too high (by tens of thousands). I was able to identify the bike by the second stamping of the engine number. It was of a similar era to yours and a 350 which had originally gone to a London dealer.

When the factory closed, the Despatch Books went originally to the Metropolitan Police since London was the crime capital for motorcycle theft.

It may be that both these bikes were restamped, perhaps in the 1950s, by the same (talented) London bike thief.
Paul Jameson
36 4G, 37 VH, 54 KH(A), 75 Healey 1000/4, 52/53 ex ISDT KHA (project).
Former Machine Registrar & Archivist, General Secretary and Single Spares Organiser (over a 25 year period).
Now Archivist once more - but not Machine Registrar.

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Re: An Unusual Frame Number.

Postby John.reader » Mon Nov 02, 2020 11:29 am

Thank you all for your replies.

Further to the above I found a list of MOD contracts on the Draganfly web site, and it lists frame number 27924 as being part of an order for 750 W/NG’s, with frame numbers from 27501 to 28240 which were supplied by Ariel’s in August/September 1941 and which were delivered to the RAF. Now I know that W/NG’s normally have the prefix XG in front of the frame number, but given the pressures of wartime production I can’t help wondering if Ariel’s bothered with stamping the identical letters XG on all the thousands of frames that they were turning out, and simply contented them selves with the numbers only. We’ll never know.

Similarly the engine number 40050 mentioned in my log book is part of a batch made by Ariel’s in late 1943.

I can also remember that after the war the country was desperate for civilian transport, and that the MOD sold off large numbers of surplus military machines to the large motorcycle dealers at the time (Commerfords, Pride and Clarke etc.) for conversion to civilian spec and for sale to the public. I can remember seeing them advertised at the time, mostly BSAs but other makes as well.

Therefor could it be possible that the bones of the machine that I bought from Northchurch Motorcycles in 1975, with the frame number 27924, was in fact part of the batch supplied by Ariel’s in 1941 and issued to the RAF, where it would have had a much better chance of survival than if it had been issued to the army. Assuming that it survived until the end of the war, could it then have been sold off in one of the huge government sales that I know took place at that time, before being re-registered for civilian use in November in 1948, as is shown in the green log book that I have.

It was last taxed and on the road in 1960.

All this is only conjecture on my part, but it would explain the odd frame number, and it does fit what few bits of concrete information that I actually have.

Any ideas anyone?

Thanks John.

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paul.jameson
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Re: An Unusual Frame Number.

Postby paul.jameson » Mon Nov 02, 2020 9:12 pm

The lack of prefix letters is most unusual in my, fairly extensive, experience.
Paul Jameson
36 4G, 37 VH, 54 KH(A), 75 Healey 1000/4, 52/53 ex ISDT KHA (project).
Former Machine Registrar & Archivist, General Secretary and Single Spares Organiser (over a 25 year period).
Now Archivist once more - but not Machine Registrar.

John.reader
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Re: An Unusual Frame Number.

Postby John.reader » Wed Nov 04, 2020 11:24 am

Thank you for your reply Paul.

I fully agree with you in that I have also never seen an Ariel engine or frame number that did not consist of three or four letters followed by three of four numbers. Please don’t think that I am doubting your expertise in any way, because I am not.

However the fact remains that I have in my possession a totally genuine and unmolested green log book where both the engine number and frame number consist of five numbers only, with no prefix letters at all. If you look at the enlargement below you can clearly see that no dubious alterations have been made.

I also have a frame with the same five digit number stamped on it, although I concede that it’s just possible that either Northchurch Motorcycles, or a previous owner, might have altered the number to match the log book. I don’t think that it was Northchurch however, as the frame was very rusty when I bought it and any new stampings would have been obvious, and as far as the previous owner goes, I don’t think that back in the nineteen fifties the financial reward would have been worth the effort, even if they could be bothered.

So my question still remains, disregarding the frame for the moment, how did the log book come into existence, with five digit numbers and no prefix of any kind for both the engine and frame, and with no evidence of any alterations.

Someone somewhere must surely know the answer to this.

As I mentioned above I have owned this log book and machine for nearly fifty years, and I know that sometime soon they will regretfully have to be found new homes. Its just that anyone who comes to look at them and knows anything at all about Ariels will immediately query the frame number. It would be nice if we had an explanation.

Many thanks, John.
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Re: An Unusual Frame Number.

Postby GuyH » Wed Nov 04, 2020 9:12 pm

Hi John, I've sent you a PM.
1939 600 OHV 4F, 1956 MKII Square Four, a Healey, 1939 OH 250, 1939 OG 250 plus a couple of OG250 projects, 1920 Ariel V twin project and a variety of lesser makes

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Re: An Unusual Frame Number.

Postby paul.jameson » Thu Nov 05, 2020 8:38 pm

All manner of things and errors appear in log books and V5 documents. Its a function of people being human and making mistakes, although DVLA like to pretend that such errors were and are never made.

But I can't think of another machine which I have encountered, apart from those where re-stamping has been proved, which lacks prefix letters.
Paul Jameson
36 4G, 37 VH, 54 KH(A), 75 Healey 1000/4, 52/53 ex ISDT KHA (project).
Former Machine Registrar & Archivist, General Secretary and Single Spares Organiser (over a 25 year period).
Now Archivist once more - but not Machine Registrar.


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