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Homepage. This page: Don recalls two British motorcycles he owned during the 1950s.

A couple more of Don's motorcycle memories.

Don has already sent in some memories of his first motorcycle, a 1937 Red Panther, and here he moves on to a couple of machines he owned later on, namely an AJS 16M, and a delectable-sounding KTT Velocette from the 1930s.

1947 AJS 16M motorcycle.

AJS motorcycle logo
"In the quest for more speed and power I bought a dismantled 1947 AJS 16M from some dodgy character operating a car park on a bombsite. I was told the bike had been in an accident and he was selling it to recover unpaid storage fees. There was a big dent in the tank, the rear section of the AJS' frame was badly buckled, and the front wheel missing. Otherwise it looked in good order.

A frame section from an ex-WD Matchless was obtained from Abby Spares, Wimbledon for £2:10s, the wheel from Pride and Clark and, after selling the Panther, a brand new Monobloc carburettor from the same source. The bike went together quite easily and you can imagine my delight when it fired on the first depression of the kick-start. The Ajay proved to be reliable to the point of being boring. It took me to work each day through the traffic from Streatham to Brixton. Weekends I would often go down to my grandparents place on the Romney Marsh, it never broke down on me and I never fell off …

Enter the Velocette...

Velocette motorcycle logo
After about 12 months of enjoyable, but uneventful AJS motoring I bumped into an old school friend who had a MK 5 KTT Velocette. His mother was giving him stick about being able to hear every gear change as he drove to-and-from his tennis club three miles away: he wished he had something like my AJS.

Well! “Say no more squire” a deal was struck to exchange the KTT and a dismantled KSS for my Ajay (he had a dismantled HRD in his back garden and I’m sure he would have thrown that in, had I asked).

Although the KTT hailed from the mid 1930s it hadn’t been used on the road until after the war, having been used frequently at Brooklands prior to that. Apart from having been fitted with KSS front engine plates to take a dynamo, and ‘just legal’ lighting; it was still in racing trim. The performance, roadholding and braking were out of this world for a 350cc bike in the mid '50s and I had a reign of terror; making the owners of many pieces of “modern tinware” feel inadequate, and in some cases almost suicidal.

My comeuppance was well overdue. Driving down the A26 on one of my frequent visits to Kent … someone overtook me: no! I kid you not, that’s what actually happened. At 18 years old I was immortal, not realizing the reason many other bikes couldn’t stay with me was because the riders were mature enough not to ride everywhere at breakneck speed.

I felt slighted by this fellow’s temerity: winding up the throttle and lowering my head I passed him, noting that he was riding a BSA ‘Goldie’ and I may have problems: predictably he re-overtook me in the next few hundred yards. My speedo’ was indicating around ninety when the engine started to slow — then a shriek from the tyres and clutch as the engine seized and I was unceremoniously cast into a muddy ditch. ‘Oh! How are the mighty fallen?’ .

Shortly afterwards we moved to Ashford: my father suffered chest problems and the London smog was making him very ill. It was there, sadly, the KTT suffered its final indignity. While riding home from work I detected a shaking from the front of the engine; before I could stop to investigate … the dynamo fell out of the front engine plates, jamming between the drive sprocket and road: I was unceremoniously cast into the gutter this time — while the bike leaped, like a stag, to the other side of the road.

The crankshaft was bent, and repair did not seem an economical proposition: the KTT was sold for £12:10s … I still wake up sobbing in the night when I think of what it would be worth now. That, apart from a disastrous attempt at grass track racing, was the last of my motorcycling for the next forty years."

Thanks for that Don! With the KTT gone, Don turns his attentions to the motor-car - read about his first car, a Standard Big Nine, here. Other memories relating to motoring in the post-war years can be found in the motoring memories section at oldclassiccar.

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