AJW Motorcycles :: History
Chapter 14

1939

With the introduction of the new Lynx standard and de luxe two-stroke models, A.J.W. had returned to a two–stroke machine that they had last produced in 1930.  An A.J.W. brochure announced :

The new models incorporate in their specification the finest components available. These are synonymous with the industry, viz. Villiers, Albion, Dunlop, etc. who have specialised in their particular products since the inception of motor-cycling.

Lynx De Luxe

Lynx De Luxe

Ever since the first A.J.W. motor-cycle conceived more then twelve years ago, the name has been associated with steering qualities of an exceptionally high standard, whether the machine has a 250cc or a 1,000cc, 120mph twin.

The new Lynx models are no exception in this respect, the nickel steel duplex cradle frame, although expensive to manufacture, has proved itself so thoroughly satisfactory, that it has also been utilised on the cheaper machines.

The astonishingly low price was fixed only after the first two models had been thoroughly tried and tested, and was, therefore, a secondary consideration to the essential feature –   Quality.

The Motor Cycle road tested the Lynx range of machines in late December 1938.

After concentrating on 500cc ohv machines for some years the AJ.W. Motor Company for 1939 has entered the lightweight field with two 250cc two-stroke models.  Both types utilise the Villiers deflectorless piston engine and mount it in a channel-steel duplex fame with pressed-steel forks.  One model is a de luxe edition of the other and has more lavish equipment.  It is however the Lynx Standard model that has been submitted to THE MOTOR CYCLE for road testing.

Easily the most outstanding feature of the machine is its superb handling, which is particularly interesting in view of the unusual frame and forks; on greasy roads and on wet tramlines the A.J.W. proved rock-steady.  The steering is definitely of the light variety, a feature which is fully appreciated when the machine is being used in congested areas, yet at very low speeds the rider experienced no difficulty in keeping his feet on the rests.  On the open road the machine was never unsteady and it never became a handful, even when being ridden fast over poor surfaces.  No steering damper is fitted and the need for one was never felt.  Even at maximum speed the steering is of the one-hand variety, however, the hand adjustable damper on the forks was appreciated, for with a light machine accurate fork damping for varying conditions considerably improves riding comfort.  The damper on the A.J.W. has a wide range and the forks also have a useful movement before they bottom.

So marked were the good steering qualities of the machine that it was even ridden over chalky lanes and stony hills.  On greasy chalk the steering still retained most of its accuracy and while the rider was thrown about on the stony going, the machine was quite easy to control.

Good steering and handling are usually due in some measure to a good riding position and in this respect the AJ.W. scores.  Although it is a two-fifty the Lynx is a comfortable for a tall rider and the general relation of the saddle and the handlebars and footrests is good.  The controls are quite well placed, the brake pedal having a particularly large pad and therefore being easily found.

Starting the engine was at times a simple matter.  The kick-starter spins the engine well and a first-kick start could almost be guaranteed when the engine was warm.  From cold, starting was made easier if the carburettor were flooded generously and the engine kicked over a few times with compression release in operation.

On the road slow-speed pulling proved to be good, and in top gear (5.5 to 1) speeds as low as 14 mph could be used on the level.  From this speed the machine took only just over nine seconds to reach 30mph, while in second gear (8.25) the time taken to accelerate between the same speeds was less then 6 seconds.  In traffic the engine had a tendency to fade out at low revs, though this could be over come by judicious use of the mixture control.

Out of town the machine could be cruised at high speeds in comfort.  At 45 mph the engine was perfectly happy and there was power in hand to enable the machine to accelerate quickly up to 50 mph if required.   From a standing start, the A.J.W. attained a speed 50 mph at the end of a quarter-mile; a creditable figure for a machine of this type.

On hills the machine showed up very well. PebbleCombe Hill in Surrey, which is a long hill with a gradient of 1 in 5 1/2 at the top, was breasted so easily in second gear that further climbs were made.  One was from a standing start at the foot of the hill and again the machine had ample power in second gear.  As a final test, a restart was made on a gradient of 1 in 5½  in  bottom gear (13 to 1) and the machine pulled away without any undue use of the clutch.

Lynx Standard

Lynx Standard

On the descent from Pebblecombe either brake would bring the machine to rest from 15mph.  The power of the rear brake was excellent.  The front brake was a little disappointing, probably because a rather small lever is fitted.  Mention has already been made of the general performance of the machine.  The maximum speeds attained in gears were 30 mph in bottom and 45 mph in second.  In top gear the mean timed speed over a quarter-mile was 55.2 mph.  While the best speed attained was 58 mph. Incidentally the Speedo-meter was found to be accurate for all practical purposes, though a point of criticism is that the drive which is enclosed in the brake-drum was inclined to be noisy.

There was little to criticise regarding the Albion three-speed gearbox.  The clutch was delightfully smooth and freed perfectly.  The gear change was positive and changes could be made almost irrespective of engine revs.  In the intermediate gears there was a slight whine, but this was noticeable only to a critical ear.

During the test it was found advisable to make use of the mixture control if the best performance were to be obtained.  At a maintained 40 mph the consumption of petroil worked out at 86 mph.

Mechanically the A.J.W. is a quiet machine.  The Villiers engine does not clatter and the general equipment is robust enough to prevent any rattling.  Some criticism could be made of the exhaust note, which was on the noisy side, although two silencers are used.

To sum up, it may be said that the A.J.W. Lynx has a good performance in its class, it  steers and handles extremely well, and in addition to being economical to run is surprisingly low in initial cost.

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As the second World War approached, men were being called up for the services and some factories were changing over to war work, so the sales of motor cycles came to a standstill.   A.J.W. two-Stoke production came to an end on July 7th 1939.

On July 24th Thomas Dennis (who had worked for A.J.W. for four years) was laid-off and he was given a very good reference.  Henry James (final assembly foreman) was sent back to the printing works on war work.

When War was declared in September, John Wheaton and Geoff Corby decided to close down the A.J.W. works.

In 1940 the A.J.W. works were destroyed in an air raid (below) which gutted the old factory. Most of the material from inside the burnt-out shell was taken to the local dump.

The End of The A J W Building 1940

A.J.W. made 140 Lynx Two-stroke machines in 1939. None are known to have survived.

John Wheaton worked for Plessey and Bristol Aircraft during the war.  He later returned to Exeter and his family’s printing business which finally, in 1965, he sold to Robert Maxwell’s Pergamon Press.

John started building motor cycles in 1926 as a hobby, but as we have seen, it developed in to rather more: a small factory that employed many men that produced over one thousand five hundred machines over the fourteen years it was running.  A.J.W. had allowed John Wheaton to indulge his youthful passion – making motorcycles.

“With all those components’ suppliers, I was spoilt for choice,“ says John.  Some choice!      But with the components that he did choose, plus those made and machined in-house, he created fine machines.

Mr A.J.W.  - John Wheaton

Mr A.J.W.  John Wheaton (above) a picture taken in Exeter in April 1996 by Dennis Frost (staff writer) for a feature in The Classic Motor Cycle called A.J.W. on A.J.W.

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John Wheaton passed away on Saturday August 14th 1999 aged 94.

The End of an Era?   Well not quite.

 

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