When a lovely little late vintage (or post-vintage?) fabric saloon turns up at a National Trust property, people stop and take photos. When it then overheats and causes a traffic jam on the main drive, four or five volunteers immediately sort it out – with bottles of water and a helping hand to push it into a corner until, thank goodness, it can start again and continue to the car park for the planned summer picnic. And, of course, it was well worth the Snapshot that we show this week.
A. J. Stevens & Co. Ltd made motorcycles under the name AJS from 1909 to 1931 in Wolverhampton. By the end of that period they held 117 motorcycle world records. The firm was then sold, and the name AJS continued under the ownership of Matchless, Associated Motorcycles and Norton-Villiers until 1969. The name still exists today on small roadster and cruiser bikes.
AJS was far less well known for its motor cars. In 1923, the company made a few experimental cars with Meadows engines, but decided not to go into production.
AJS had also made car bodies for Clyno, but on the demise of that company in 1929 AJS thought again – and in that same year launched the AJS Nine, powered by a 1,018 cc four-cylinder side-valve Coventry-Climax engine with an output of 24 bhp, driving through a three-speed gearbox. The cars cost £210 for the two-seater and £320 for the fabric-bodied saloon that we see in our Snapshot. These were high prices for cars in that class, comparing unfavourably against the Morris Cowley saloon at £160, but about 3,300 were made.
AJS also started to make buses and coaches: the Pilot with a Meadows engine, followed by the Commodore with a Coventry Climax L6 engine and finally by the Admiral. Only around 200 buses were ever produced.
Car and bus manufacture did not last much longer. A. J. Stevens & Co went bankrupt in 1931, and BSA tried to gain control. After that attempt failed, Matchless took over motorcycle production and Crossley Motors bought the car manufacturing assets.
Crossley improved the car with such features as a four-speed gearbox and, using existing AJS parts stock, built a further 300 cars between 1931 and May 1932, in the Stockport factory that also produced Willys Overland Crossley vehicles.
A 1½-litre model was planned and appeared on the Willys-Overland-Crossley stand at the 1932 London Motor Show – but W-O-C themselves went into liquidation in 1933, and no further AJS cars were produced.
The AJS fabric saloon had some excellent upmarket equipment, including interior roof light, ashtray and map net. We sincerely hope that these items are still enhancing the pleasure this AJS gives to its owners today – even if it occasionally overheats and needs some light, temporary assistance from the National Trust.