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Lot 542: 1931 AJS 498cc Model S3

Related Memorabilia and Spares

by Bonhams

April 27, 2008

, United Kingdom

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Description: ‘As a motorcycle it has a fascination about it which can only be realised by actual experience on the road. It possesses just that something different which places it in a class by itself.’ – AJS Motorcycles Ltd. At the time of its introduction in April 1931, the AJS S3 was indeed in a class of its own, being the only transverse v-twin engined model on the UK market. Sadly, its arrival came too late to influence the fortunes of its maker, which was taken over by London-based rivals Matchless before the year’s end. Indeed, the introduction of this technologically adventurous design at a time of economic slump may well have hastened the firm’s demise. The S3’s air-cooled v-twin motor carried its cylinders at an included angle of 50 degrees; side valves were operated by two chain-driven camshafts and the three-speed gearbox incorporated a spiral-bevel, right angle drive to the enclosed rear chain. This ensemble was mounted in a duplex-loop frame with single top tube, while the forks were AJS’s own Webb-type girders. Generously equipped and superbly finished like all AJS products, the S3 came with electric lighting, horn, tank-mounted instrument panel, rear luggage carrier and leather-fronted panniers as standard. Priced at £65, the S3 was rather expensive for a touring ‘500’, but then quality never did come cheap. An overhead-valve sports version was planned but came to nothing. With a production run of little more than six months, the S3 is one of the rarest of pre-war AJS models.

This example was purchased by the late Terence Eden in the mid-1960s. The machine had been discovered lying in a friend’s neighbour’s garden, but was complete and in reasonable condition. The owner, an elderly gentleman, agreed to sell it for the sum of £1, ‘providing you promise to look after it’. Many years later the S3 was restored and ridden by Mr Eden in the ‘Bike ’82 Vintage Motorcycle Run’ held on August 15th 1982. The following year the AJS was entered in the London Run and was featured in Classic Bike magazine’s October 1983 issue (page 17). Around 15 years ago, ‘TL 1807’ was borrowed by the AJS and Matchless Owners Club and photographed for the book AJS of Wolverhampton by S J Mills, in which it appears on page 101. The machine carries a tax disc dated 31.1.83 and comes with an old MoT certificate (expired 12th August 1984) indicating that it has not been licensed for the road for 25 years.

A few months ago, the AJS was taken out of storage and lightly cleaned. After a change of oil and petrol, and a little tinkering, it started and ran quietly and smoothly, while a gentle run proved everything to be in order. Nevertheless, careful re-commissioning and the customary safety checks are advised before returning the machine to the road. Offered with old-style continuation logbook (issued 1955) and Swansea V5 registration document, ‘TL 1807’ represents an opportunity for collectors to acquire an AJS of exceptional rarity.

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