1950 AJS MotorcycleDVL 992 - 1950 AJS 18S 500cc Motorcycle


The AJS company's roots were in the blacskmith works of J Stevens & Co, established by Joseph Stevens in Wolverhampton in 1856. In 1899, the company set up the Stevens Motor Manufacturing Company, and in 1909 four of Joseph's sons, set up Albert John Stevens & Company (AJS) specialising in motorcycles. Later diversification saw the company manufacture 'wireless' equipment and a brief foray in to cars and commercial vehicle chassis.

In 1931, the Company was wound up and the motorcycle business was sold to Matchless of Woolwich, South East London who formed the parent Associated Motor Cycle company (AMC). The AJS name was continued albeit largely as 'badge engineering' on Woolwich made motorcycles.

During World War 2, the Company's G3 and G3L motorcycles were built in quantity for the armed services.

This is a model 18S with a single cylinder, overhead valve engine. The number 18 on the engine block represents the engine size of which this bike is a 500cc. The smaller 350cc engine available for this model is numbered 16. The letter S does not, as you would expect, stand for 'Sport', but for 'Sprung' from when AJS made ridged and sprung frames. The Matchless G80 is broadly similar.

AMC merged with Norton in 1966, and production of the 18 ended, the Woolwich factory closing in 1969.

Our 18S was supplied new by Wests (Lincoln) Ltd to Mr John Holmes of Reepham.

Restoration : 2013 to 2015

In 2013, it was decided to get the AJS back in to running order, and this led to a 'nut and bolt' restoration, which was completed in mid 2015 and carried out by Society members Roy, Mick and more recently Jonathan.

The whole bike was initially stripped and all parts cleaned and checked for servicability. Where possible and safe to do so, all original parts were re-used. The frame and tin-ware were sandblasted to clean off all the old paint and rust to reveal any damage. Any damage to the tin-ware was repaired by welding and the use of an old process called 'lead loading' (similar to filling but using lead) to provide a suitable finish for the next stage.

The next stage being to prepare and undercoat all the metalwork that required painting. This was then rubbed smooth prior to applying numerous black top coats (painting was carried out by Alex and some of the tank graphics were provided by Paul.)

The wheels were badly corroded and sent to Five-One Wheels in Gouldby near Louth to be rebuilt with new rims, spokes, and the old hubs to be protected with a robust black powder coating. The front and rear suspensions were totally stripped and rebuilt with new seals. The rear shock absorbers are the early slim teledraulic version (sometimes called 'candlesticks') and not the more commonly seen stockier 'Jampots'. All the brightwork (except for a few pieces which maintain a slight patina helping to show its age) were sent to Quality Chrome in Hull.

The engine on the whole was in good condition, requiring a bit of work on the oil scavenge pump, some thread work on the end of the crank shaft and a rebuild with new gaskets. The gearbox however was locked and required a careful strip and rebuild. The kick-start had to be replaced later in the rebuild, as it broke while carrying out a functional test of the bike. The clutch required a lot of cleaning as old oil had dried on to the plates and looked very much like a coat of shellac had been applied. The carburettor was also stripped down, cleaned out and rebuilt with new gaskets.

AJS 18S AJS 18S
Work in progress - November 2013

With the bike were a number of extras, such as a single seat (as opposed to the double seat), a separate sprung rear seat, an Avon handlebar fairing, leg shields and Craven panniers. After much discussion and looking at old photos, it was decided just to use the single seat. The option of renovating the remaining accessories and displaying them in future alongside the AJS was put to one side for a future project.

Finally, the AJS was complete once again and it did not take much coaxing to fire up once more. With a few expected usual tweaks and leaks to take care of, she is once again running sweetly.

Testing, April 2015

AJS 18S

This has not been and was never supposed to be a 'concours' restoration, but to provide a vehicle that was correct, in a usable condition so that visitors can not only see but hear the beauty of these old bikes.

AJS 18S AJS 18S
Under re-construction, June 2015 The completed article - alongside the Museum's Velocette Viper

LINKS

AJS and Matchless Ownwers Club
Graces Guide - article on AJS

page updated 6.9.15