AJS Motorcycles

AJS 1931 Model S3 Transverse Twin


The 1931 AJS S-3 - Brilliant engineering, unfortunate timing

AJS developed the S-3 just as the Great Depression was having its full economic impact, and the launch of the innovative model was shortly followed by the A.J. Stevens company's demise. Only ten of these magnificent machines were built.

The S3 features a transverse 50-degree V-twin sidevalve engine of 498cc with alloy cylinder heads and camshafts driven by a chain at the front of the engine and tensioned by a Weller tensioner similar to those used on the company's OHC racers. A bevel gear at the rear of the three-speed gearbox transferred drive to a fully-enclosed chain. Maximum speed was advertised as 65mph and it was priced at £65.00 with full electric lighting, a toolbox, a rear carrier and leather-fronted panniers. Various options were available including speedometer and chronometer, as fitted to this machine.

This particularly fine example was purchased in 1932 from a dealer in Blenheim, New Zealand and by the late 1940s it was owned by one Peter Coleman, who used it as daily transport. Dave Roberts of NZ Classic Motorcycles recollects seeing it (along with a 741 Indian) in a chicken shed in Toi Toi Valley, Nelson, when he was eleven years old. The bikes were apparently owned by her son who later gave the AJS to Peter Snell as payment for services rendered. It then languished in the basement of the Black Cat diary in Annesbrook, Nelson, and was eventually acquired by Alan Black, who painstakingly restored it over a period of eight years to the extent that he even dressed the burred, original nuts and bolts so that they could be reused. It won the 1989 New Zealand National Vintage Motorcycle Concours d'Elegance.

In 2008 the machine was sold to a motorcycle dealer in Louisiana, USA, where it remained on display until January, 2015, when NZ Classic Motorcycles brought it home to the region where its original owner had ridden it almost 80 years ago. The following year the S3 moved to Invercargil, home of The World's Fastest Indian.

It is believed that eight of the original ten machines still exist.

Courtesy New Zealand Classic Motorcycles