A brief history of AJS motorcycles

AJ Stevenson & Co. Ltd., manufactured automobiles and motorcycles, under the name AJS, between 1909 and 1931. With 117 world motorcycle records in the span of a few years, AJS was undoubtedly one of the leading sports brands. Later in life, the company was bought by Matchless, then Associated Motorcycles, and then the Norton-Villiers group. And AJS is now one of the few surviving names from this era.

In 1897, Joe Stevens built his own internal combustion engine, although his engines entered production only after 1900. He built a motorcycle based on JAP V-twin engines in 1905, at Stevens Screw Company founded by his father, where all members of the family were employed.

In 1909, AJ Stevens & Co was founded to manufacture motorcycles. In 1911, the first model, a dual speed 292cc side valve, was released and AJS entered the Isle of Man TT races, in which AJ Stevens was ranked 15th in the Junior TT.

The company, Albert John Stevens, was actually a family business in 1926, with Harry Stevens as engineer, Joe Stevens junior as production engineer, Albert John Stevens in charge of design, and George Stevens as head of sales.

AJS has always been very closely associated with the Isle of Man TT. By 1914, the company had developed a 350 cc motorcycle with a chain final drive and four-speed gearbox. He raced in the 1914 Isle of Man TT race and won first, second, third and fourth places in the Junior TT. In 1920, the primary chain drive and internal expansion brakes were introduced. Once again AJS won the Junior in the 1920s (ridden by Cyril Williams), 1921 (AJS took the top four places in the Isle of Man TT, with Howard R Davies winning the Senior in 350cc AJS) and 1922 ( Junior was won by Manxman Tom Sheard and G Grinton came second). In 1929, Wal Handley took second place in the Junior TT, while Jimmy Guthrie won the Lightweight TT in 1930, in an AJS.

In 1916, the Ministry of Munitions banned the production of non-military motorcycles. Russia gave an order for military vehicles to the Ministry in 1917, and a portion of it was given as a contract to AJS, keeping it occupied until the Ministry’s restrictions were lifted in early 1919.

AJS released two overhead camshaft chain-driven racing models, namely the 498cc K10 and the 349cc K7, in 1928. Again in 1929 the 498cc M10 and M7 were released. 349 cc. In 1931, a 496cc transverse V-twin with a primary shaft drive was launched.

However, by the end of 1931, the company was in financial trouble as it had applied for loans to develop its car, bus and coach manufacturing business. Its motorcycle assets were acquired by Matchless, run by the Collier brothers, London. In 1938, Associated Motorcycles took over AJS, sharing models with different insignia. Colliers used AJS racing heritage in innovative racing machinery, keeping the AJS name alive.

Finally, in 1966, Norton-Villiers took over Associated Motorcycles, along with the AJS name. The AJS name was used on an off-road machine, the AJS Stormer, based on a two-stroke engine. AJS currently has a range of 125cc four-stroke motorcycles in both off-road and road versions, as well as 250cc, 125cc and 50cc parallel twin-cylinder cruisers.

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