AJS Motorcycles

Today in Motorcycle History


AJS 18S Specifications
Restoration Basics


I have been playing with old bikes for a few years now and so do most of my friends. As with any hobby you need a decent place to do it in. Being married has taught me one valuable lesson 'you don't restore motorcycles in the house'.So you have to do it elsewhere. This for most of us people means a shed or garage or basement.

Rule 1

Your workplace must be dry, well lit and have good ventilation and preferably not much in the way of people traffic. This space of yours will be used for much contemplation as well as work. We could be talking about a project years in the making.

Rule 2

You need tools. Don't go out and buy a large tool chest full, unless your rich. For the rest of us start with some basic hand tools. The first part of your project will be cleaning it, during this phase you are going to get an idea of what you may need. Buy the best quality you can afford, it will pay off in the long term. It is better to accumulate slowly over a period of time than rush out and buy a swag of cheap crap.

You need a bench of some description. My first one was an old kitchen table, my second was a large wooden shipping crate turned upside down. My current one, is a proper bench I have made with the wood from the shipping crate and the plans from a woodworking book out of my local library.

You need a vice. Don't buy smaller than 6in or 150mm and try to buy a steel fabricated one rather than cast iron.

You also need a container as a parts cleaner, filled with Paraffin or Kerosine depending where you come from. My first container was a 20 litre plastic drum with the lid on and the side cut out of it. And a wire brush and paint brush.

Rule 3

You need a plan. Once you get your future master piece home take a good look at it. Have the dream your roaring down the highway on it, and get that out of your system.

Ask yourself seriously

  • What exactly have I got here.
  • Is it what I wanted.
  • Is it in the condition I thought it was in.
  • Was I ripped off.
  • What do I know about it.
  • Do I possess the necessary skills to restore it, Do I need to acquire the skills or farm out some jobs to others.

Rule 4

Research. Look at your bike, what will it look like on completion. Will it be an authentic restoration, modified or hybrid. What were the colour schemes available, what options were available. This is particularly important with classic race bikes.

Are spare parts available, from who. Should I join a club specialising in the marque.

READ as much as you can, period literature, magazines, reviews and other peoples home pages.

Rule 5

Budget. allocate funds and time. My project is open ended there is no time limit and the budget was set at $5000 for every thing.

A good rule of thumb. Estimate the cost and the time, now multiply cost by 2.5 and time by 3 and this will be a realistic figure. So many people rush into a restoration and loose interest because it is not going all their own way and then sell the bike in pieces for less than they paid for it.


Right !! you are the owner of a tatty classic, you have researched it, you have a goal, you have a time frame and a budget. You have a work space, some tools and the plan.

Take some before photos.

Divide the bike into its major assemblies: Motor/gearbox, Frame, Wheels/suspension, Electrics. Now decide what to tackle first, most restorers start with the frame; this will involve removing all other major assemblies.

As you dismantle the bike keep all parts together in their catagories, physically separated from the others and within boxes etc. Do not dismantle the motor into its lowest common number of pieces if you are intending to do the frame.

Having now a bare frame clean it thoroughly. Check it for rust and other nasties, ie; its bent from an ancient accident. Lets assume its ok, it probably needs painting

Problem 1- in the good old days bike frames were not painted, but stove enameled in black, this stuff is hard to remove; you can almost forget sandpaper and paint stripper; here we are talking abraisive grit blasting or the caustic soda bath followed by the steam clean. The second method I chose because if you have rust in your frame the sandblast will destroy it.

After the frame is bare examine the welded joints, they may need rewelding or Brazing if required. Check for rust especially English bikes because they use to salt the roads in winter. Some frames rust from the inside out. The tubes can be replaced but the joints are usually cast metal and can't be welded. Check for straightness, a twisted frame impacts on the handling characteristics of the bike.

Once satisfied the frame is ok undercoat it with a generous coat of automotive undercoat and sand back to a smooth finish. Most frames are Black the best modern equivelent to stove enamel would be Powder Coating. But to the rest of us acyrilic automotive paint is fine. This can be sprayed or brushed on, use thin coats to build up the layers sanding between coats. Do not rush the painting take several weeks if required.

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