On yer bike: AJS Model D 1923

FMM curator Wayne Harley is a self-confessed motorcycle enthusiast and this month we return to his biking column with a pioneering AJS…


The AJS Model D was introduced in 1912 and was a regular in the A J Stevens & Co (founded 1909) line-up for more than a decade. Other than a short period during WW1, the Model D remained in production basically unchanged until 1925 before finally being replaced by the Model E. Because the company’s Graiseley House factory in Wolverhampton, England, was allowed to produce and develop motorcycles during the war, the Model D benefitted from a long production run. The later Model Ds with their 748 cm3 engines were very reliable, giving the company a great advantage over some of its competitors. The company progressed to such a level that the Model D was almost 100% produced in-house. The AJS side-valve V-twin engine was of such a high standard that it found its way into other motorcycles including the Brough Superior, OK-Supreme, and was even used by Morgan.


FMM has a 1923 Model D in its collection, so how does it ride some 95 years later? Well, I must say it’s a lot more agricultural than the Sunbeam we featured in the June 2017 newsletter, and I can only surmise that it is because it is a lot heavier and the riding position being very upright, almost as if you were pushing a wheelbarrow. However, the 6 hp (4,5 kW) engine, which takes rather a lot of coaxing to get running, does make up for it when it starts and pulls very well in every one of the three gears. Today, the top speed of this great old bike is around 60-65 km/h and I cannot imagine it was more than this in period.


Lubrication is a total loss system, which means you are constantly fiddling with the tank-mounted hand-operated oil pump. A lack of brakes is common on these old bikes, and they are more adept at simply slowing the bike down rather than doing emergency stops. However, I found the suspension surprisingly soft and it gives a bouncy ride. I’m not sure if this was common on these Model D’s or if this bike’s springs have lost a little tension over the years.


But once again, one can only stand back in awe of the great motorcycling pioneers who rode these machines.