• Restoration completed in March, 2021, at a cost of £8000
• Successfully ridden in the 2021 National Road Rally
Founded in 1909, A. J. Stevens & Co. had been at the forefront of the British motorcycle industry, but by the 1930s it had fallen on hard times and the AJS motorcycle brand was bought by its rival, Matchless. From 1938, the two brands were brought together under the Associated Motorcycles (AMC) banner, and going into the future they produced what were essentially the same motorcycles but with different badges.
While badge-engineering may be frowned upon by purists, it made good economic sense and, in the post-war years, ‘Ajays’ were as well-respected as any Triumph, BSA or Norton.
In the 1950s, a certain breed of American enthusiast – the ‘motorcyclist’ rather than the ‘biker’ – came to really appreciate British exports and accounted for a large market share of British motorcycles. In particular, they favoured large, powerful and comfortable bikes which would happily eat up the vast stretches of Uncle Sam’s highway. Back in Britain, every motorcycle maker knew that it needed to have a model aimed at the American market, and in AJS’s case, that was the big twin-cylinder Model 31.
Designed by Phil Walker and launched in 1958, the Model 31 appeared alongside its near-identical twin sister, the Matchless G12. Quite capable of hitting the ton, it was as popular in America as had been hoped, but the ultimate incarnation was the CSR – ‘Competition Spring-frame Road’ or, if you prefer, ‘Coffee Shop Racer’.
The Model was recognisable by its distinctive ‘Siamese’ exhaust system (two pipes converging into one) and also featured uprated cams. When modified for racing, Ron Langston and Don Chapman rode a 31 CSR to victory in the 1960 Thruxton 500 race. Sadly, despite the Model 31’s success and popularity, the financial collapse of AMC in 1960 brought its eight-year production run to an end.
The earliest known owner of this AJS was Peter Gray of Bramley, near Rotherham, who acquired it on 16th January, 1982. It subsequently passed to Derek Haley of Walthamstow in 1984, and by 1986 had been bought by the late Mark Russell, who was then living in Balham.
Mr. Russell was a lifelong motorcyclist and consummate enthusiast, and kept the AJS as a companion to the 1987 Matchless G80 he bought new. When he acquired it, it was painted black, which was likely its original colour. After living in Amsterdam for a few years, Mr. Russell returned to England and decided it was time the Model 31 was given a proper restoration and the work was entrusted to John Bolton of the AJS & Matchless Owners’ Club.
The process ended up taking around 20 years, and the work was finally completed in March, 2021, at a cost of £8000. Mr. Russell sadly passed away in the summer, but not before he had had a chance to enjoy the bike and put it through its paces on the National Road Rally on 3-4th July, 2021.
In addition to the current V5, the AJS’s history file contains various invoices dating back to Mr. Russell’s first months with it in 1986, although the majority of them concern its recent restoration. A handwritten list details all the jobs completed and parts that were renewed or replaced as part of its restoration. An old Vehicle Registration Document reveals some of its ownership history in the early 1980s and an old photograph shows the bike as it was when painted black.
There is also an extensive volume of literature pertaining the AJS Model 31 and Matchless G12, including The Book of the A.J.S. by W. C. Haycraft, a beautifully illustrated AJS ‘The Race Bred Motorcycle’ catalogue for 1961, and facsimiles of the Matchless Workshop Instruction Manual, All Models 1957-1964 and various Bruce Main-Smith catalogues.
Bidders should note that the bike is presently SORNed.
Following restoration, the AJS is in lovely condition all-round. It has been repainted in a fetching blue and all the polished aluminium of the fuel tank gives a pleasing shine. The restoration was undertaken with the intention of subsequently using the bike, so it is not a concours job and there are some very minor defects in the paint, but that is no bad thing as bikes which are ‘perfect’ never provide the greatest enjoyment.
The condition of this bike makes it ideal for use all year round and in all weathers, assuming the rider doesn’t shy away from a spot of drizzle! The alloy mudguards are one of our favourite features of the bike, as they do not appear to have been touched as part of the restoration and accordingly display a very nice, light patina.
The various accoutrements all present very well; we suspect the badges have been repainted and the new decals will certainly have been applied after paint. The knee pads on the tank may also be new. The seat has been reupholstered and the wheel rims and spokes are all new.
Bidders will note that the AJS has not been run for several months, however we are advised that it was in very fine fettle when it completed the National Road Rally in July. Of course, we expect it to behave well in every respect, since so much was rebuilt and renewed. In addition to the engine being rebuilt, the gearbox, clutch and electrical system were thoroughly overhauled.
The bike does not currently have an MoT, although we don’t doubt that it will sail straight through a test and run faithfully for many thousands of miles with its new owner. As it has not been run for some time, we do, of course, recommend that the buyer satisfies themselves of its condition before taking to the road.
Fast, powerful and handsome, ownership of a big British motorbike is something every enthusiast should indulge in at least once in their life. Not only is an AJS Model 31 CSR a genuine ton-up machine, it also makes for an interesting and rarer, but more affordable, alternative to Triumph Bonnevilles and BSA Gold Stars. Usually, when buying a 60-year-old machine, one expects it to have picked up a few ‘idiosyncrasies’, but with this one, all the work has just been done for you. It’s a bike that looks great and can be ridden fast and regularly – what could be better?
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Although every care is taken to ensure this listing is as factual and transparent as possible, all details within the listing are subject to the information provided to us by the seller. Car & Classic does not take responsibility for any information missing from the listing. Please ensure you are satisfied with the vehicle description and all information provided before placing a bid.
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