By: Geert Huylebroeck
At the end of the 19 ° century a certain HH Collier built bicycles and to indicate that they were of very high quality he sold them under the name Matchless, unrivaled in English. However, there was still no question of motorcycles. Later the sons also joined the company that from then on continued as Collier Bros'.
A little further on, Albert John Stevens built his first combustion engine in 1897, and a decade later, the AJ Stevens company built its first motorcycle under the name AJS.
What do these two things have to do with each other? Have you ever looked at a Matchless G3L and an AJS Model 16 carefully?
If we look at AJS we see the Stevens Motor Company founded in 1899 and son Harry who was the first to develop his own engine. Initially, motorcycles were built in a BSA bicycle frame, but a complete motorcycle was already manufactured in 1903. In the early days there were of course a lot of problems, also because one of the partners at the gambling table was rather generous with working capital. This prompted them to take full control and in December 1909 the AJ Stevens & C ° was founded. Then the brand name AJS was created. A year later, the first two production models were released, both with the same engine but model A without and model B with gearbox. In the junior TT of 1914, AJS was very successful and the company also made money by designing engines for others such as Sunbeam. During the First World War, the motorcycle manufacturer was also given a lot of military orders, but when the government banned civil production of motorcycles, things looked dark for a moment. Fortunately, an order was issued for 1100 military vehicles intended for the Russian front. After the war, production gradually got underway, but in the 20s it became quite difficult. AJS built another frame for Clymo, but when those also went on the bottle it looked completely bad. When the Board of Directors released the loss figures and the banks reclaimed their borrowed money, the value of the shares plummeted and the company had to request a deferment of payment. At that time, Matchless will clean up her opportunity and bought up the rights. It is worth mentioning that the Stevens brothers did not lose courage and later started making motorcycles again, but from that moment on under the name 'Stevens'.