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AJS History - A Timeline
AJS - the initials of Albert John Stevens, one of the four founding
brothers. They produced motorcycles from 1910 to 1945.
1856 J. Stevens and Co was established by Joe Stevens in 1856 in
Wedensfield, Wolverhampton as a blacksmith works. He and his wife had nine
children, all of whom became involved in the business.
1897 Inspired by a Mitchel engine of poor performance, sons Harry
and Joe had built an engine which outperformed the American unit.
John Stevens built his first internal combustion engine in 1897, although
did not go into commercial production until after 1900.
1909 The company was founded by the Stevens brothers, although the family
was involved with the production of motorcycles before the turn of the
century. The first engines, 125cc, were used by other companies. In 1905,
Stevens built a bike with a JAP
V-twin, with leading-link front forks and a swinging fork at rear. They
had also been producing frames.
1910 The first model was produced as a 292cc (2.5hp) single with either
a direct belt drive or a two-speed with chain drive.
1910 Cycle and Motorcycle Exhibition
A. J. Stevens and Co., Ltd.
Retreat Street, Wolverhampton. Stand No. 71a.
This firm exhibit four different models of motor cycles, two with twin
cylinder engines of 3 1/2 H.P., the model A being belt-driven, whilst the
model B is chain-driven, and is provided with a very neat two-speed gear
and a free engine. It is a medium-weight machine, and is extremely
suitable for side-car work. In the case of the Standard 2 1/2 HP:
machines, single-cylinder engines are employed, the ignition, as in the
3 1/2 H.P. models, being magneto. The Standard A is a lightweight
machine, weighing about 110 lbs., and belt-driven. In the case of the
"Standard" B a free engine is provided, in conjunction with a two-speed
gear-box. The tanks on all the models are nicely arranged, and excellent
spring forks go to complete a very neat type of motor-cycle. An extra
petrol carrier can be fitted over the front wheel mudguard, and is so
shaped that it really forms side mud-guards. It is a very bandy thing
for the tourist, as there is no fear of the petrol supply running short.
1913 The V-twin model was a best-seller for sidecar use. The sidecars were
produced by the Hayward firm. In the Junior TT of that year, AJS
machines took 1st, 2nd, 4th and 6th places, and there was soon a boost
The Great War saw the production of munitions, but they continued to make
1914 Directory lists them as Stevens, A. J., and Co., Retreat Street,
Wolverhampton and as motor cycle manufacturers.
1915 The range consisted of three models; the sporty 2.75hp single, a medium
weight 4hp (550cc) twin and, as top of the range, the 6hp model D
with Brampton patent spring forks, three speed counter-shaft gearbox and
internal expanding rear brake. A new feature on all 1915 models was the
so called AJS 'scientific frame' with straight top tube sloping from head
to seat lug, eliminating the use of bent tubes.
1919 The V-twin engine was greatly altered although the gearbox remained
unchanged. At the Olympia show a new 6hp model was introduced. Its features
included a new type of saddle tank, interchangeable and quickly detachable
wheels, specially sprung comfortable saddle, foot-boards with rubber mats,
rear stand operated by hand lever and big size aluminium exhaust damper,
placed under the front of the engine. Engine capacity was 748cc, bore and
stroke 74mmx87mm. It had detachable cylinder-heads, high-tension magneto
ignition and a three speed gearbox and was also available in combination
1920 AJS took over the Hayward company, and returned to the TT.
The company introduced several innovations, including internal expanding
brakes and all-chain drive.
1921 Design improvements and revised engines brought many sporting successes. Most remarkable of those were at the Island TT where they
took an impressive 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th and 6th followed by a resounding win (by a two minute lead) in the Senior TT, two days later.
A.J.S. MOTORCYCLE SUCCESSES.
Mr George Stevens, managing director of the company which makes the A.J.S. motorcycle, was greeted on his arrival at Brisbane with a cable-gram from England, advising that the A.J.S. motorcycle had again won the junior tourist races, competed for in the Isle of Man on May 30.
The Brisbane Courier, June 2nd 1922
1927 AJS won a contract to produce the Clyno Nine car and they
diversified further and somewhat unsuccessfully into commercial vehicles and even radios. For the motorcycles they brought in an
overhead, chain-drive camshaft.
1928 The company had problems with trading conditions, Clyno failed and
the contract ended. AJS then went into the production of commercial vehicle
chassis and added the AJS Nine car to their product line. Motorcycle models for 1928 went from K1 to K12 with SV, OHV and OHC engines of 248cc to 799cc.
1929 The whole range was redesigned, most notably with the use of the saddle tank and separate oil tank.
1930 A 350cc machine won the Lightweight TT. The firm now held over 100
1931 They built the S3, an ambitious 496cc transverse tourer with alloy
cylinder heads and other advanced design elements and even though times
were hard the company still increased their product range. During that
year they were engulfed by financial problems; AJS was wound up, creditors
paid in full and rights sold to Matchless.
(Although the new owners moved the firm to Plumstead and restricted the
range produced, it was not the end of Stevens or the AJS name). Production
continued using the Matchless engine.
1934-1938 The Stevens brothers went on to start again under the Stevens
1940 Production turned to war work and AMC
concentrated on Matchless, with few AJS machines being built. Those models
produced were shared, but using different badging.
Following World War II, the AMC combine built AJS and Matchless motorcycles
at Plumstead following the same format.
1946 A small batch of competition models was produced, with minimal design
changes. AJS was actively involved in both on- and off-road racing.
1949 The range of road vehicles was increased, along with various competition
models and this set the trend until 1952.
1953 to 1962 saw the introduction of many new models and a variety of design
changes, with success both on and off the race-track.
1963 The range was pared down; and again in 1964.
1966 This was the last year of production in their old format as AMC was
in financial trouble. When AMC failed that year, the marque was bought
by Manganese Bronze Holdings, who formed the Norton Villiers group.
1967 The AJS 33, model CSR, was produced under new ownership until 1967.
Certain Matchless models
were built until 1969.
1969 Production ceased and the factory was demolished, but both names survived.
AJS Two-Strokes were motorcycles produced from 1967 to 1973. They
have been produced again since 1987.
1967 The name was revived by Norton Villiers, who produced a couple of
two-stroke competition machines.
1973 These bikes were no longer offered in kit form - as had been the case
in the past. The company was sold to Fluff Brown who created the FB-AJS
range, which later reverted to the original name of AJS.
1974-1981 FB-AJS models were built
in the image of the older AJS machines. The firm continued to thrive
on the back of the nostalgia boom.
1991 onwards. Replicas of the early-1960s Cotton
models were produced.
Note:AJS and Matchless have an owners' club web site.