Going Slow, With Style: 1953 AJS 18S

Slow, dependable motorcycles like the AJS 18S were very popular before the end of World War II.

| January/February 2012

  • AJS Model 18S Right View
    1953 AJS Model 18S
    Photo by Nick Cedar
  • AJS 18S Initials
    AJS initials cast into magneto cover are a nice touch. Engine castings are nicely done and polish up well.
    Photo by Nick Cedar
  • AJS 18S Meter
    1953 AJS Model 18S instrument panel
    Photo by Nick Cedar
  • AJS 18S Oil Leak
    Although this one seals fairly well, a mild oil leak from the pressed steel primary cover is the norm.
    Photo by Nick Cedar
  • AJS 18S Left Rear
    1953 AJS Model 18S
    Photo by Nick Cedar
  • AJS 18S Rear Fender Initials
    AJS initials on the rear fender: Remarkably, this bike still wears its original paint.
    Photo by Nick Cedar
  • AJS 18S Don Johnson
    Owner Don Johnson isn’t afraid to give his AJS regular excercise. “It’s not fast, it’s not powerful, it’s just pleasant to ride,” Don says.
    Photo by Nick Cedar
  • AJS 18S Right View
    1953 AJS Model 18S
    Photo by Nick Cedar

  • AJS Model 18S Right View
  • AJS 18S Initials
  • AJS 18S Meter
  • AJS 18S Oil Leak
  • AJS 18S Left Rear
  • AJS 18S Rear Fender Initials
  • AJS 18S Don Johnson
  • AJS 18S Right View

1953 AJS 18S

Engine: 498cc OHV air-cooled single, 82.3mm x 93mm bore and stroke, 6.26:1 compression ratio, 18-25hp @ 5,400rpm (figure varies by source)
Top speed: 80-85mph (est.)
Carburetion: Single Amal 89B
Transmission: 4-speed, chain final drive
Electrics: 6v, magneto ignition
Frame/wheelbase: Single downtube steel cradle/57.25in (1,454mm)
Suspension: Telescopic forks front, dual shocks rear
Brakes: 7in (178mm) SLS drum front and rear
Tires: 3.25 x 19in front and rear
Seat height: 31in (787mm)
Fuel capacity: 3.6gal U.S. (13.6ltr)
Weight (dry): 386lb (175kg)
MPG: 40-50mpg
Price then/now: $400(est.)/$4,000-$8,000

“Motorcycling is one of the most economical and pleasurable modes of transport. It is our sincere wish that every AJS owner should obtain, from his mount, the service, comfort and innumerable miles of low-cost travel that we have earnestly endeavored to build into it.”

— From the 1953 AJS maintenance manual 

Once upon a time, there were people who liked slow motorcycles. People whose sole transportation was a motorcycle, and who expected their motorcycles to get them to work, rain or shine. They wanted a motorcycle that was reliable, sipped gas and could be repaired in the back yard. Speed was optional.



And while this type of motorcycling went out of fashion in the United States around World War I, it persisted in England and Europe until the early 1960s. Indeed, English motorcycle manufacturers prospered by building simple, economical bikes. The annual lineup may have featured a sport bike that grabbed headlines and won races, but the factory made most of its money building small, simple, slow bikes for the economy minded everyday rider.

One of these English manufacturers was Associated Motor Cycles (AMC), a conglomerate that manufactured several different brands including Matchless and, after 1931, AJS motorcycles.



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