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Welbikes Today

In the modern age, there is a relatively small number of people dedicated to operating what is probably the smallest and least powerful WWII military vehicle.  The machines are commonly seen at the anniversary celebrations of Operation Market Garden that are held every year in September in Holland.  There are also several Welbikes on display in various museum in the UK, France, Normandy, Belgium, and Holland.
 
I am usually contacted by several people per year who have recently found Welbikes in garages, warehouses and such.  Most people are from the United States, which reflects the large number of surplus Welbikes that were sold by Gimble's in this country after the war.  I really don't know what this means as to the total number of  Welbikes that still exist, but it does seem to indicate there are still Welbikes to be found.

In the 7+ years this website has been active, here are the most notable Welbike finds that I've come across.

Dutch Reproduction Welbikes

Below is a partial picture of both replica and original Welbikes in attendance at a meeting of a Dutch Welbike club in 2006 at the Hartenstein Hotel, the site of a great museum about Operation Market-Garden and the British Parachute Regiment. 

 

This group was started by one person's desire to own a Welbike.  When an original proved too expensive to purchase, he built his own (a bit like the one I own, but much more accurate).  After taking his replica to the 55th anniversary of Operation Market-Garden, enough motorcycle owners became interested in it that the decision was made to form a club and proceed with a limited production line to build a batch of Welbikes. 

 

After 6(!) years of work, 21 replica Welbikes were completed.  Once production was finished the group officially disbanded.  I've talked to a member of this group, who firmly reminded me to say that there is nothing original about these Welbikes.  

 

Each replica uses a real Villiers Junior engine, and each member was required to provided their own.  These were taken from a variety of sources; the most common was from lawn mowers.  The rest of the bike was built from scratch, using WWII-vintage line drawings, a real Welbike as reference, and no small amount of machining, forging, casting and welding.

Photo used with permission.
Can you spot the one real Welbike?

If you want to meet these guys, your best bet is to attend the celebrations held around September 17th each year, commemorating Operation Market Garden.

Welbikes Rescued in India

The most far-flung story is one I read when I first set up this site in 2006.  A news service in India reported a gentleman who had found the parts of a Welbike in a local junkyard.  He purchased them, restored the bike to operating condition, and now uses it as personal transportation.  The only thing he didn't have was the hand pump to pressurize the fuel tank, so he remounted the tank higher than normal to get gravity to feed the fuel.  He says it works great as his daily transportation and the engine still gets 100 miles per gallon as specified in the original Army operator's manual.   Not bad for a throw-away scooter that's over 60 years old.

As of 2007 I've heard from this gentleman.  He does exist and he's building a second Welbike.  He's looking for a pair of wheels and I haven't had any luck finding them.  If you're reading this and can help out, Contact Me
 
In fact, there are several restored Welbikes running around India.

Welbike in Belgium

I've been told that the military history museum in Brussles, Belgium has a Welbike on display.  It started as a Shriner's clown bike that was sold through Ebay in 2006 and is now part of the museum's Arnhem display, complete with drop canister.  I have a link to the museum on my Favorite Links page.  Thanks to Paul S. for letting me know about this.

Welbike Fuel Tanks

Below is a detail shot of the Welbike's fuel tanks.  The fuel system was two separate tanks connected by a cross-feed tube at the bottom.  Because the tube feeding fuel to the carburetor leaves the tank below the level of the carb, these fuel tanks had to be pressurized by operating a plunger pump (just like an old kerosene lamp) seen on the right tank (seen on the left side of of this picture).  To fill the tanks, the screw cap on the left tank was removed and a vent opened on the right side tank to allow air to flow out of both tanks, if the vent wasn't opened the fuel would only flow into one tank.  This is also a good shot of the original British Army Green color the Mark I Welbikes were painted.
 
RESTORER'S NOTE: There is a difference between Mark 1 and Mark 2 Welbike fuel tanks.  While the tanks appear to be the same, the mounting bolt locations were changed in the Mark 2's.  Make sure you're getting the right tanks for your project!

Welbike fuel tank details

Other Welbikes

As for the rest of the Welbikes that I know about:
 
 
One is on display in the Pegasus Bridge museum located in Normandy, Northern France. 
 
Another Welbike is on display at the 1AB Museum at Hartenstein.  I've been told this one was hidden in a farmhouse after Operation Market Garden and had been used after the war by local Boy Scouts.
 
One museum quality example is in Australia.
 
There are at least two more in Holland. 
 
UPDATE DEC 2012:
 
I know of at least ten in the United States.
 
There are two operating and one under restoration in India (using parts found in India).
 
There is also a Welbike on display in the Musée de l'Armée in Paris, France.  It's well preserved and shows a neat custom paint job that the original owner added to it.

On to Page 3: Welbike Technical Information page.