AJS is also an abbreviation for
the American Journal of Sociology. AJS was the
name used for cars and motorcycles made by the
Wolverhampton, England company A. J. Stevens
& Co. Ltd, from 1909 to 1931, by then holding
117 motorcycle world records, and after the
firm was sold the name continued to be used
by Matchless, Associated Motorcycles and Norton-Villiers
on four-stroke motorcycles till 1969, and since
the names resale in 1974, on small capacity
1930 magazine cover featuring AJS motorcycles
racing in the Isle of Man TT
Joe Stevens, father of Harry, George, Jack,
and Joe Stevens, first built an internal combustion
engine in 1897, although his engines did not
enter production until after 1900. His first
engines, of 125 cc, were sold as proprietary
engines to other manufacturers. In 1905 the
Stevens built a JAP V-twin engined motorcycle,
with leading-link front forks and a swinging
fork at the rear. This was done at the father's
Stevens Screw Company, where the family were
A new company, A J Stevens & Co (AJS),
was founded in 1909 to manufacture motorcycles
and the first model appeared in 1911, a two-speed
292 cc side-valve. One was entered by AJS in
the 1911 Isle of Man TT races and A J Stevens
came 15th in the Junior TT.
Albert John Stevens had his name on the company,
but it was really a family company, with, in
1926 for example, Harry Stevens as Engineer,
George Stevens as Chief Salesman, Joe Stevens
junior as Production Engineer and Albert John
("Jack") Stevens in charge of the
By 1914 the AJS motorcycle had grown to 350
cc, with four-speed gears and chain final drive.
AJS won first, second, third, fourth and sixth
place in the Junior 1914 Isle of Man TT race
that year. Internal expanding brakes and chain
primary drive were introduced in 1920. AJS went
on to win the Junior again in 1920, 1921 and
1922, and won the 1921 500 cc Senior TT on 350
cc OHV machines. An 800 cc V-twin was also produced.
On 3 November 1916 the Ministry of Munitions
prohibited the production of non-military motorcycles,
but in early 1917 the Ministry received an order
from Russia for military vehicles, and AJS was
given a contract to produce part of the order.
This kept AJS busy until Ministry of Munitions
restrictions were lifted in January 1919.
In 1920 Cyril Williams won the first post war
Isle of Man Junior TT on an AJS. AJS took the
first four places in the 1921 Isle of Man TT,
and Howard R Davies won the Senior on a 350
cc AJS. This was the first time a 350 had won
the 500 cc Senior TT race. In 1922 Manxman
Tom Sheard won the Junior on an AJS, with G
Grinton, also on an AJS, taking second.
In 1928, AJS introduced two new chain driven
overhead camshaft racing models, the 349 cc
K7 and the 498 cc K10. In 1929 there were again
two machines with an overhead cam, this time
the 349 cc M7 and the 498 cc M10. Wal Handley
came second in the 1929 Junior TT for AJS. The
following year Jimmy Guthrie won the 1930 Lightweight
TT on a 250 cc AJS.
In 1931 the AJS S3 was released, a 496 cc transverse
V-twin tourer with shaft primary drive and
alloy cylinder heads. It had been expensive
to develop and was slow to sell. Even though
they held 117 world records, the AJS company
was now in financial trouble.
Automobiles, Omnibuses, and Coaches
Although best known for their motorcycles the
company made a few experimental cars with Meadows
engines in 1923 but decided not to go into full
AJS had manufactured car bodies for Clyno, but
in 1929 Clyno went under. AJS returned to
car making in 1929 with the Nine powered by
a 1018 cc side valve Coventry-Climax engine
producing 24 bhp and driving through a three
speed gearbox. The cars were quite expensive
at £210 for the two seater and £320
for the fabric bodied saloon. About 3,300 were
The company also started making buses and coaches.
The first model was the Pilot with a Meadows
engine. This was followed by the Commodore with
a Coventry Climax L6 engine and finally by the
Admiral. Just over 200 buses were built.
In 1931 A. J. Stevens & Co went bankrupt.
The motorcycle assets were bought by the Collier
brothers London company Matchless and the car
manufacturer Crossley Motors. Crossley incorporated
some improvements such as a four speed gearbox
and using parts acquired from AJS built about
300 cars between December 1931 and May 1932.
Assembly took place in the Stockport factory
used by Willys Overland Crossley. Motorcycle
production moved to Plumstead.
A 1½-litre model was planned, but failed
to materialize except to appear on the Willys-Overland-Crossley
stand at the 1932 London Motor Show.
In 1938 AJS became part of a group called Associated
Motorcycles, formed by the Colliers as a management
company for its various interests. After this
Matchless and AJS shared models using different
The Stevens brothers tried again and started
a new company as Stevens Brothers (Wolverhampton)
Ltd to make 3 wheel delivery vans. (They could
not call them AJS, as that name belonged to
the Colliers.) These used a 588 cc single cylinder
engine driving the rear wheels through a 3 speed
gearbox and chain drive. The van could carry
5 cwt. It was improved in 1935 with shaft drive
and uprated to 8 cwt. The last ones were made
in 1936. In 1934 they also produced a new range
of motor cycles under the Stevens name. These
were made until 1938 after which the company
continued until 1956 as a general engineering
AJS Racing under AMC
Under AMC the AJS badge may have been put on
the "bread and butter" Matchless motorcycles,
but the Colliers were mindful of the AJS racing
heritage, and used the name on some innovative
racing machinery. These racing bikes kept the
AJS name alive.
In 1935, at the Olympia Show, an air cooled
SOHC AJS 50° V4 was shown, a fully equipped
road going version, which did not make it into
production. In 1936 Harold Daniell rode a supercharged
race version in the Isle of Man Senior TT, but
despite its high top speed, it lacked acceleration.
In 1939 a water-cooled and supercharged version
of the 495 cc AJS V4 was built to compete against
the supercharged BMWs then dominating racing.
In 1939 the dry sump V4 was the first bike to
lap the Ulster Grand Prix course at over 100
mph (160 km/h). It weighed 405 lb (184 kg).
and its top speed was 135 mph (217 km/h). Then
World War II intervened.
At the end of the 40s and start of the 50s,
the AJS Porcupine, a 500 cc forward facing parallel
twin, and the AJS 7R (32 bhp, 350 cc OHC single)
were being raced alongside their AMC stablemates
the Matchless G50 (effectively a 500 cc 7R)
and by 1951, the Matchless G45 (a 500 cc vertical
twin). The AJS Porcupine had been designed for
supercharging, before the rules changed banning
supercharged racing motorcycles, but even so,
Les Graham won the 1949 World Championship on
an unsupercharged AJS E90 500 cc Porcupine.
In 1951 AJS development engineer Ike Hatch
developed a 75.5 mm bore x 78 mm stroke, three
valve head version of the 7R making 36 bhp (27
kW). It was called the AJS 7R3, and was Ike's
response to the Italian multi-cylinder racers.
They did well enough in their first year, not
as well the second. For 1954 Jack Williams,
the works team manager, developed the bike further,
lowering the engine in the frame, and making
some tuning changes that gave 40 bhp (30 kW)
@ 7800 rpm. It immediately won the first two
rounds of the World Championship and took first
at the Isle of Man TT. These were factory specials,
but one has survived, and a second has been
reconstructed from spares.
AMC withdrew from the world of works and one-off
road racing at the end of the 1954, with the
death of Ike Hatch, and in the face of fierce
competition from the other European bikes. After
this AJS made a production version of the standard
two valve AJS 7R, for privateers. In 1954 Norton
was also moved to the Plumstead works.
With the G15 line, AMC had built on the merits
of the G12 but there were numerous changes to
frame, forks, swinging arm, primary chaincase,
transmission, cycle parts and lubrication system.
The P11 was the last line of bikes with bonds
to AMC. It used a modified G85CS frame but there
were stronger forks, completely new cycle parts
(making some was rather costly), altered lubrication
and modified primary chaincases, to mention
The G15 series was offered as 3 brands: Matchless
G15 comprising G15Mk2, G15CS and G15CSR; AJS
Model 33 comprising M33Mk2, M33CS and M33CSR;
and last not least Norton N15CS (no Norton-branded
roadster made as it would compete against the
Atlas). The G15 series was produced from 1963
to 1969. They were initially for export only,
but by 1965 these models were available in UK
and Europe too.
Fate of the AJS Name
Associated Motorcycles and the AJS name eventually
ended up with Norton-Villiers in 1966. In late
1968 the Plumstead works at Burrage Grove, where
engines from the Wolverhampton plant and frames
from the Manchester plant were assembled into
complete machines, were presented with a Greater
London Council compulsory purchase order. The
Plumstead works closed in July 1969. It is believed
that production of the G15 series was halted
late in 1968 (model year '69) with unsold samples
on offer through 1969. The AJS Model 33 was
the last AJS badged four-stroke produced.
A Government subsidy allowed assembly to move
to a factory at North Way, Andover, with an
aircraft hangar on nearby Thruxton Airfield
housing the Test Department. Manufacturing was
concentrated at Wolverhampton.
The name was used on the off-road two-stroke
AJS Stormer, but when they hit financial problems
the rights to manufacture AJS motor cycles was
purchased by Fluff Brown who moved operations
to Goodworth Clatford near Andover, Hampshire
during September 1974. Today's AJS have a range
of 124 cc four-stroke bikes in road and off
road versions, and cruisers with engines of
50 cc, 125 cc, and a 250 cc parallel twin. They
also sell AJS Stormer & Villiers Starmaker