Motor Cycles (AMC) History
Associated Motor Cycles (AMC) was a British
motorcycle manufacturer founded, by the Collier
brothers, as a parent company for the Matchless
and AJS motorcycle companies. It later absorbed
Francis-Barnett, James, and Norton before incorporation
Associated Motor Cycles was formed
in 1938, though AJS had been bought by Matchless's
owners, the Colliers, in 1931. Sunbeam had been
bought in 1937 from Imperial Chemical Industries.
AMC designed an all new range of Sunbeam motorcycles,
maintaining Sunbeam quality and engineering,
but sold Sunbeam to BSA in 1943.
In 1939 a 495 cc AJS V4 was built
to compete against the supercharged BMWs then
dominating racing. The bike was a water-cooled
and supercharged. In 1939 the dry-sump V4 was
the first bike to lap the Ulster Grand Prix
course at over 100 mph (161 km/h). It weighed
405 lb (184 kg). Its top speed was 135 mph (217
km/h). Then the Second World War intervened.
In 1941 Matchless motorcycles
introduced telescopic front forks called "Teledraulic"
forks, considered by some to be the first major
innovation in front suspension in 25 years.
During the Second World War, Matchless manufactured
80,000 G3 and G3L models for the armed forces.
In 1946 Freddie Clarke joined
AMC as Chief Development Engineer after a difference
of opinion with Triumph. In 1947 AMC absorbed
Francis-Barnett, and in 1953 further extended
the empire by soaking up Norton. Post-war landmarks
start with the production of Matchless/AJS 350
cc and 500 cc singles, developed from the legendary
war-time Matchless G3 produced for the Army.
From 1948 competition models of the singles
were produced which gave the company some memorable
wins. By 1956 they had eight models in their
line up, but the number had dwindled in 1965.
The G3L was the first to feature the "Teledraulic"
In 1949 the first Matchless/AJS
vertical twin (500cc) was produced, later to
be joined by 600 cc and 650 cc vertical twins
in 1956 and 1959 respectively. On the racing
front AMC were fielding the AJS Porcupine (500
cc forward facing parallel twin), the AJS 7R
(32 bhp, 350 cc OHC single), the Matchless G50
(a 500 cc variant of the 7R) and by 1951, the
Matchless G45 (500 cc vertical twin). The AJS
Porcupine had been designed for supercharging,
before the rules changed ending supercharged
racing motorcycles, but even so, Les Graham
won the 1949 World Championship on an unsupercharged
AJS 500 cc Porcupine.
In 1951 AJS development engineer
Ike Hatch developed a 75.5 mm (3.0 in) bore
x 78 mm (3.1 in) stroke, three valve head version
of the 7R making 36 bhp (27 kW). It was called
the AJS 7R3, and was Ike's response to the Italian
multi-cylinder racers. They did well enough
in their first year, not as well the second.
For 1954 Jack Williams, the works team manager,
developed the bike further, lowering the engine
in the frame, and making some tuning changes
that gave 40 bhp (30 kW) @ 7800 rpm. It immediately
won the first two rounds of the World Championship
and took first at the Isle of Man TT. These
were factory specials, but one has survived,
and a second has been reconstructed from spares.
In 1953 there was a Clubman range of Matchless/AJS
350 cc and 500 cc singles, and the production
model Matchless G45 500 twin became available.
Norton was bought by Associated
Motor Cycles, by then consisting of the AJS,
Matchless, James and Francis-Barnett marques,
in 1953 after it became obvious that the Norton
company was not doing well despite the success
of the "Featherbed frame" used in
racing bikes and the production 1952 Dominator
88. After 1957 Norton models used the AMC gearbox.
AMC withdrew from the world of
works and one-off road racing at the end of
the 1954, with the death of Ike Hatch, and in
the face of fierce competition from the other
European bikes. Instead of works specials, AJS
and Norton would make the production versions
of the Manx Norton and the standard two valve
AJS 7R, for privateers.
In 1958 the Matchless/AJS road
bikes were joined by a 250 cc and in 1960 by
a 350 cc for a lightweight series of singles.
In 1960 Bert Hopwood resigned
from AMC and went to Meriden. That same year
AMC posted a profit of a bit over 200,000 pounds,
not so good compared with BSA's 3.5 million.
Then in 1961 they posted a loss of £350,000.
With the closure of the Norton plant at Birmingham
in 1962 and the merger of Norton and Matchless
production, the future was beginning to look
rather bleak. In the sixties, with sales declining
AMC made the commercial decision to focus on
the Norton twins and the Matchless/AJS singles
but they were not to be successful and the factory
ceased production shortly afterwards.
Some models were "parts bin
specials" put together at the request of
the American dealers. The Americans were desert
racing, so Berliners sent AMC an example custom
bike using a Norton 750 motor in a G80CS frame,
and asked them to build them some. This was
the last Matchless motorcycle, the 748 cc G15
which was also sold as the AJS Model 33' and
as the Norton P11. The G15 was produced up until
1969. A Mk2 version was sold in Britain from
Matchless/AJS built predictable
handling, comfortable, well-made, reliable and
economical motorcycles, for their day. Unfortunately
such attributes were not enough to keep them
in business. Continuing poor sales led to AMC
becoming part of a new company, called Norton-Villiers
By the late 1960s, competition
from Japan had driven the British motorcycle
industry into a precipitous decline. In 1966
AMC collapsed and was reformed as Norton-Villiers
under Manganese Bronze. This only staved off
the problems for a little while and Norton-Villers
eventually went into liquidation in 1974. Norton
was reformed with financial assistance from
the British government as Norton-Villiers-Triumph
(NVT) actually incorporating the majority of
BSAs motorcycle concerns but omitting the BSA
name for Triumph. In part due to a labour dispute,
NVT later went into receivership in 1974.