The original Ariel company was founded in 1870 by James Starley and William Hillman. After several merges and takeovers in the beginning of the 20th century Ariel was making motorised bicycles with bought in engines until a new designer, Val Page, joined Ariel from JAP. That year Page created a pair of new engines which used many existing motorcycle parts, and then redesigned the motorcycle for 1927. These new Ariels are known as 'Black Ariels' (1926–1930) and were the basis on which all Ariel 4-stroke singles were based until their demise in 1959.

The Ariel W/NG ("W" for War Department) is a direct decendent of the popular Ariel Red Hunter with its single cylinder overhead valve engine, but was specifically designed by Val Page to meet the military requirements.