1955 AJS 18S Restoration
Mark Austin Jul 03, 2006

The Acquisition

I bought this AJS in 1983, it was a basket-case in a thousand pieces. I owned it until 2006. I bought it from an old guy named Prentergast who sold AJS parts. Every now and then he put together enough parts for a "full" bike. That's what I bought from him - and I finished it 16 years later!

This bike had been lying at my parents place for years, in all the years that I've owned it, it had never been started - until August 1999! My friend Murray West was kind enough to store it at his house for the time I was away overseas and he managed to get it started!

I received a lot of help from Jack Barnes of Manly Vale, he supplied a lot of parts for me and also did a lot of work on the AJS that I had no interest in, including rebuilding the gearbox, painting the petrol tank and lots of other great stuff. The bike also spent at least 18 months at his house while I was moving house, working overseas, losing interest etc etc.

Update 15 October 2000 It's FINISHED!

Well this is it, finally finished after about 15 years and a box of bits. The main couple of people I have to thank for finally getting it together and actually running are Jack Barnes at Manly Vale and Murray West of Beacon Hill.

Jack has about 8 AJS's and Matchless's from an 1955 AJS 500 single exactly the same as this one to the later model twins and even a beautiful Compy special. All his bikes are beautifully maintained and used often. Almost every Wednesday, he can be seen riding one of them up on the Northern Beaches on a Club Run with one of his AJ's. The Pittwater Motor Enthusiasts Club have a weekly run on a Wednesday (complete with back up trailer - which of course is never used...)

The bike was at Jack's place for almost two years, as I did other things - renovated a house, lived in Germany for almost a year and generally lost interest. Jack painted the tank, reassembled the gearbox and cylinder and generally fixed all the things I did wrong... or didn't know how to do. Thanks for all your help Jack!

Murray West also had the pleasure of the AJS's company for about a year as I had run out of room in my shed in Paddington. Murray and I are rebuilding a 1970 Moto Guzzi V7 Special together as well. And as Murray loves to tinker with engines and motorcycles - he decided to get it started. Which was quite a feat as half the carby was missing, as was the muffler and the petrol tank, it only took him a couple of weeks and away it went - the first time in probably 20 years!

All the chromework was done by Blu-Chrome at Bankstown. They took a lot of care to make sure that it was done right and I'm very happy with the result - there's nothing like the look of black and gold paint, polished alloy and chrome, it makes any true old bike nut's heart beat faster.

I've been doing a lot of testing of the bike over the past few and it's running beautifully. I've just about got the starting technique mastered - mind you if I get it wrong, it takes me about 20 minutes to get it all sorted properly, unplug the sparkplug, sand off the gap and put it back in again, as I nearly always flood the damned thing... And I reckon I must have sprained my ankle about tree times when it kicks back on me, these machines really require dedication - or just sheer bloody minded determination!
The procedure is this:

1. Turn on the petrol taps.
2. Do not use the carby tickler at all !
3. Do not use the throttle at all !
4. Kick down on the kick-starter slowly until it stops at top dead centre
5. Pull in the decompression lever and ease the kick-starter down until you can feel it go past compression
6. Bring the kick-starter back to the top of it's swing
7. Kick the shit out of the kick-starter with all your weight
8. Wait for it to idle away gently (sometimes, very sometimes...)
9. Repeat the process until the bastard starts!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Once its started its remarkably easy to live with, as long as you don't want to get anywhere too quickly or stop too quickly just puttering around is a lot of fun. There is enough power to keep up with the local traffic, but you do it with so much more style, a lot more loverly noise, and usually quite an appreciative audience as you cruise by...

The thing I find quite hard to get used to is the brakes - or what they call brakes, cause no matter how well you set them up - they're just bad... You have to do a lot of planning when you want to stop, and heaven forbid if any silly pedestrian decides to run out in front of you when they're in such a hurry to get to where they're going - you just ain't gonna be able to stop for them. Maybe a mudguard ornament like the old Indians, but with what's left of a pedestrian could be fashionable after a while!

 

The Acquisition

I bought this AJS in 1983, it was a basket-case in a thousand pieces. I owned it until 2006. I bought it from an old guy named Prentergast who sold AJS parts. Every now and then he put together enough parts for a "full" bike. That's what I bought from him - and I finished it 16 years later!

This bike had been lying at my parents place for years, in all the years that I've owned it, it had never been started - until August 1999! My friend Murray West was kind enough to store it at his house for the time I was away overseas and he managed to get it started!

I received a lot of help from Jack Barnes of Manly Vale, he supplied a lot of parts for me and also did a lot of work on the AJS that I had no interest in, including rebuilding the gearbox, painting the petrol tank and lots of other great stuff. The bike also spent at least 18 months at his house while I was moving house, working overseas, losing interest etc etc.

Update 15 October 2000 It's FINISHED!

Well this is it, finally finished after about 15 years and a box of bits. The main couple of people I have to thank for finally getting it together and actually running are Jack Barnes at Manly Vale and Murray West of Beacon Hill.

Jack has about 8 AJS's and Matchless's from an 1955 AJS 500 single exactly the same as this one to the later model twins and even a beautiful Compy special. All his bikes are beautifully maintained and used often. Almost every Wednesday, he can be seen riding one of them up on the Northern Beaches on a Club Run with one of his AJ's. The Pittwater Motor Enthusiasts Club have a weekly run on a Wednesday (complete with back up trailer - which of course is never used...)

The bike was at Jack's place for almost two years, as I did other things - renovated a house, lived in Germany for almost a year and generally lost interest. Jack painted the tank, reassembled the gearbox and cylinder and generally fixed all the things I did wrong... or didn't know how to do. Thanks for all your help Jack!

Murray West also had the pleasure of the AJS's company for about a year as I had run out of room in my shed in Paddington. Murray and I are rebuilding a 1970 Moto Guzzi V7 Special together as well. And as Murray loves to tinker with engines and motorcycles - he decided to get it started. Which was quite a feat as half the carby was missing, as was the muffler and the petrol tank, it only took him a couple of weeks and away it went - the first time in probably 20 years!

All the chromework was done by Blu-Chrome at Bankstown. They took a lot of care to make sure that it was done right and I'm very happy with the result - there's nothing like the look of black and gold paint, polished alloy and chrome, it makes any true old bike nut's heart beat faster.

I've been doing a lot of testing of the bike over the past few and it's running beautifully. I've just about got the starting technique mastered - mind you if I get it wrong, it takes me about 20 minutes to get it all sorted properly, unplug the sparkplug, sand off the gap and put it back in again, as I nearly always flood the damned thing... And I reckon I must have sprained my ankle about tree times when it kicks back on me, these machines really require dedication - or just sheer bloody minded determination!
The procedure is this:

1. Turn on the petrol taps.
2. Do not use the carby tickler at all !
3. Do not use the throttle at all !
4. Kick down on the kick-starter slowly until it stops at top dead centre
5. Pull in the decompression lever and ease the kick-starter down until you can feel it go past compression
6. Bring the kick-starter back to the top of it's swing
7. Kick the shit out of the kick-starter with all your weight
8. Wait for it to idle away gently (sometimes, very sometimes...)
9. Repeat the process until the bastard starts!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Once its started its remarkably easy to live with, as long as you don't want to get anywhere too quickly or stop too quickly just puttering around is a lot of fun. There is enough power to keep up with the local traffic, but you do it with so much more style, a lot more loverly noise, and usually quite an appreciative audience as you cruise by...

The thing I find quite hard to get used to is the brakes - or what they call brakes, cause no matter how well you set them up - they're just bad... You have to do a lot of planning when you want to stop, and heaven forbid if any silly pedestrian decides to run out in front of you when they're in such a hurry to get to where they're going - you just ain't gonna be able to stop for them. Maybe a mudguard ornament like the old Indians, but with what's left of a pedestrian could be fashionable after a while!