I started building my AJS is June of 2015 about 2 weeks after completing the Pre 65 Scottish of that year. I had ridden my 1961 Matchless in the trial and whilst it had performed admirably, I felt the bike just wasn’t competitive enough to get me up the result into the first class awards. That said, it did allow me to win the covetable Len Hutty award for best AMC rider over 350cc.
I had a choice, either rebuild my Matchless with a more competitive frame, rebore the engine to 400 or 410cc, upgrade the front forks and upgrade to a H cam. The Matchless is pretty much how it came out of the factory (give or take the cub hubs and Whitton yokes) and I felt it would be a shame to risk ruining what is a very nice original bike. In the end after a lot of deliberation, I decided on the second option, build a new bike taking the lessons I had learnt tweaking my Matchless and make it as competitive as I could.
I ride the Northern British Bike Championship and had admired the outstanding craftsmanship and looks of Chris Haighs beautiful Velocette bike and decided that was the quality I wanted to achieve. The problem was Chris Haigh is a very skilled engineer…..and i’m not! However, I have been riding trials bikes since I was 8 years old and most of my time on a trials bike has been spent following Mick Andrews around his land in Holloway, Derbyshire (about 1 mile from my parents house). I have therefore learnt a few of the intricacies of what makes a good bike.
I wanted another AMC machine, AJS and Matchless motorcycles are cracking machines and much less used than Ariels. That said there are less people making frames and trick mods for AMC machines. The first thing I needed was an engine.
Before I went to Scotland I had seen a AJS 18CS engine for sale on ebay. It was reportedly an ex Morris Hocking engine and the guy selling it wanted proper money for it. I bid on the engine but it didn’t meet the reserve and so emailed the guy to say I was going away (Scotland) but would get in touch with him when I got back to try and do a deal. Scotland came and went and as previously mentioned my old Matchless did me proud and helped me get the Len Hutty award. A couple of weeks after returning from Scotland I called the guy and went down to Birmingham to have a look at it. Well, as you can probably guess the deal was done.
Well with engine in hand the next thing I needed was a frame. I had met a guy in Scotland and mentioned to him that I wanted to build a bike and he said he was going to be building a new bike and he would sell me his frame. That was it, we were off until and chasing him for about 3 months he texted to say he had decided not to sell the frame. Back to square one, I called Andy Bamford who had said he may make some at the end of the summer but I needed one ASAP if I was going to build a bike before Scotland next year. Then my old mate Barry Burton saved the day, he had an early Bamford frame he would sell me. I collected the frame from the Welsh round of the NBBC and the build commenced.
Read Part 2 here………