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1954 AJS Model 16
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When AJS were building new 350 singles in the 1950s, it was commonplace to take 'em off-road and get 'em muddy most weekends. That's what Tony Stacey still does with his...

AJS and Matchless single-cylinder motorcycles were extremely successful in the late 1940s and 50s in trials and scrambles. The wartime bikes which had proved so successful as DR machines were given a minor makeover in 1946 to produce the Competition range. The frame was modified to change the head angle and trail and ground clearance was increased to 6.5-inches.

The silencer was kicked up at the rear and tucked in to the side, and a folding kickstart was supplied to stop the standard item spearing an unwary rider in the leg. The gearing was lowered, stronger wheel spokes were used and the AJS 16MC would have worn alloy mudguards and trials tyres. The competition bikes cost £5 more than their road-going stablemates.

So that's what AJs dream of...

AMC's works team did brilliantly well over the next few years, using bikes like these as the basis for wins in the Scottish Six Days Trial in 1947, 48 and 49, and the ISDT in 1948. For 1950 the competition models gained an alloy cylinder barrel with iron liner and alloy cylinder head, a new clutch and a slimmer petrol tank.

Development continued (as did the wins for the works team and privateers), but Tony Stacey's AJS is one of the last rigid models built before AMC switched over to swinging arm suspension. He bought it some 20 years ago from a friend who was using it for trials. It was in 'off-road trim' which translates to being: 'a bit battered about!'

Wkae up, wake up... it's time for your bath.

Over the years Tony had tidied it up with new mudguards, a seat cover, the odd touch-up of paint 'and any bits that needed fettling as the years went by.' It has needed replacement wheel bearings, cables, piston rings, plug leads and so on - and last year the magneto failed so was given an overhaul. That was done by Moathouse Magnetos (01327 811671), and Tony also recommends Russell Motors for general spares, and Burlen Fuel systems - he also recently fitted a new Monobloc carb. Not that the Ajay has needed very much attention apart from that…

'Compared to the ex-WD Matchless I flogged the wheels off in the 1960s' says Tony, 'it has proved extremely reliable. It's given a lot of fun for little expense - my kind of motorcycling!'

Tony has trialled the Ajay in all sorts of events over the years, including grasstrack, hill climbs and VMCC road rides. He even won the Pillion Class in the Arbuthnot Trial. 'We had to alter the gearing for that, when there was a pillion seat fitted for my son. It's now back to being a single seat as said son is a six-foot tall bike cop and far too heavy for such antics!'

Although a 350 has its natural limits, Tony has found that the Ajay 'suits me fine for the usage it gets. I have other bikes for faster use on the road.' And last autumn, he took the 350 on a particularly poignant outing.

'For years we rode in the VMCC Chalfont Grass Hill Climb. The event was held at the same venue for some 40 years, but that venue has now been lost. As usual, we rode to the event and then had a demo ride at this final meeting.

'It gave me a real lump in my throat.'

AJS stuff on eBay.co.uk

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The Arbuthnot Vintage Trial takes place on September 23rd 2007 and starts at the Barford Inn at Barford St Martin near Salisbury. Info from 01725 511131

There's more real life reports about AJS and Matchless 350s (including the AJS 16MS, long-stroke G3LCS, 1937 AJS Model 26, G3LS, 16M, and WD G3L versions), plus an historical timeline of the models' development in the April 2007 issue of RealClassic magazine - available to buy here soon...


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