CLASSIC MOTOCROSS IRON: 1971 AJS 250 STORMER

BY TOM WHITE

AJS is an acronym for Albert John Stevens, one of four sons who started producing AJS motorcycles in 1910. Throughout its existence, right up to the time it entered the motocross market, AJS produced its own engines. That was its claim to fame, and the non-AJS engine in the new Stormer motocross machine would be its downfall.

By the early 1970s, the entire British motorcycle industry, including AJS, Matchless, Norton, BSA and Triumph, had been combined into the Norton-Villiers Group. It was the Norton-Villiers Group that pushed the street bike-based AJS brand into the motocross market. Norton-Villiers decided to build a Villiers-powered dirt bike and badge it as an AJS. It was a shameless attempt to unload an oversupply of rapidly aging Villiers Starmaker engines by pairing them with a legendary motorcycle name. While the antiquated engine held the Stormer back, the chassis was a revelation (for the time), as it was the first motocross bike to feature leading-axle forks and moved-up shocks.

The Stormer 250 (designated Y4) had some racing success in the British 250cc Championships, as factory rider Malcolm Davis won the championship in 1968 and 1969, and his teammate Andy Roberton finished in second. Unfortunately, soon after the $1245 Stormer started selling in the American motocross market, the Japanese brands also entered the motocross market with bikes that were much cheaper.

By 1974, and for years afterward, consumers could purchase brand-new AJS Stormers in the crate for $600. After the financial collapse of Norton Villiers in 1974, all of the AJS rights and spare parts were purchased by Norton Villier’s off-road competition manager and AJS Stormer scrambles team manager Fluff Brown. His company still offers AJS parts at www.ajsmotorcycles.co.uk.

AJS made the 250cc Stormer (Y4), 370cc Stormer (Y5) and, in 1973, the 410cc Stormer. At this year’s Mecum Motorcycle Auction in Las Vegas, a 1973 AJS Stormer sold for $6600, and a few years ago a still-crated Stormer brought in $10,000. Unfortunately, even nicely restored AJSs seldom sell for more than the cost of a quality restoration, about $6000. A restored AJS needs the standard Girling shocks, gel-coat orange or yellow tank and, if possible, the original Dunlop Sports tires (the tires themselves are worth about a grand).

 

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