Diamond in the Rough: 1931 AJS S8 DeLuxe

One man restores a derelict AJS S8 DeLuxe, in a year to the day, in his two-car garage.

| September/October 2016

  • 1931 AJS S8 DeLuxe
    Photo by Kurtis Kristianson
  • 1931 AJS S8 DeLuxe
    Photo by Kurtis Kristianson
  • 1931 AJS S8 DeLuxe
    Photo by Kurtis Kristianson
  • The engine as found. While it turned over, it didn’t have compression.
    Photo by Kurtis Kristianson
  • Perfectly restored, the engine received new valves, springs and piston.
    Photo by Kurtis Kristianson
  • 1931 AJS S8 DeLuxe
    Photo by Kurtis Kristianson
  • The brass knob allows the rider to adjust the amount of oil pumped into the engine.
    Photo by Kurtis Kristianson
  • 1931 AJS S8 DeLuxe
    Photo by Kurtis Kristianson
  • 1931 AJS S8 DeLuxe
    Photo by Kurtis Kristianson
  • John prepares for a spin aboard his restored AJS S8 DeLuxe.
    Photo by Kurtis Kristianson

Finding a gem in the rough is a fantasy for everyone in the classic motorcycle hobby. You know the dream, the one where you open a heavy door on creaking hinges, revealing the inside of a dim and dusty shed. Peering into the gloom, soft light glints off the faded chrome of a handlebar. Slowly, the hulking form of an abandoned machine begins to take shape.

It can happen, and the world of the internet has made it easier — don’t believe that all of the “barn finds” have been snapped up, because this story is proof that old motorcycles are out there just waiting to be found.

Less than two years ago, restorer and rider John Whitby of Calgary, Alberta, Canada, was going through his morning routine of combing Kijiji.com, an online ad site. He was in the Classic Cars section of the Saskatchewan listings and paused when he saw a post for a Mercury. Curious about the car, he clicked on the ad.

“I was looking at the photos of the car, and in one picture I could make out the remnants of a motorcycle,” John says, adding, “I could see a girder fork, a bit of chrome on a gas tank and handlebars that were tipped up like cow horns.”



John might not have pulled open a door to a dusty shed, but he’d discovered the proverbial barn find in a poorly lit photo in an internet ad. So, he dashed off an email to the Mercury seller: “Sorry, I’m not interested in the car, but what’s that bike I can see?” John asked.

Instead of a brush-off, John got a reply that the bike was a 1931 AJS S8 DeLuxe. Not surprisingly, John’s next question was “Is it for sale?” Yes, indeed it was. The seller had owned it for 45 years, but was downsizing and the toys had to go. A price was agreed upon and John simply asked when could he come get it.



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