Formerly the property of VMCC founder, 'Titch Allen' Iconic overhead-valve Vintage-era sports model Production version of a TT-winning design
Wars have always spurred on technological development, the rush to produce ever more powerful aero engines in WWI being a case in point, establishing as it did the superiority of overhead valves over the alternatives when high performance was paramount. There had been overhead-valve car and motorcycle engines before 'The Great War', but with the layout's superiority emphatically demonstrated, it did not take long before new OHV designs began appearing on the world's roads in substantial numbers.
Wolverhampton-based A J Stephens first experimented with an overhead-valve engine in 1918 and by 1920 felt sufficiently confident to try their new 350cc racer in the toughest test of the day: the Isle of Man TT. After victory in the 1920 Junior race, when works rider Cyril Williams was able to push over the finishing line, so great was his lead, AJS's new overhead-valve 350 scored a memorable double the following year, Tom Sheard winning the Junior race and Howard Davies the Senior, the first time such a feat had been achieved on a 350. The production version duly made its debut in November 1922, delighting clubmen everywhere with its 'racer on the road' performance. A right-first-time design destined to achieve countless successes in the hands of privateers, the overhead-valve AJS - initially built only as a '350' and known as the 'Big Port' - became available as a '500' for the first time in 1926. Coded 'Model 8', the new 3½hp model followed the general lines of its successful smaller sibling and distinguished itself in the 1926 Isle of Man Senior TT when AJS works rider Jimmy Simpson became the first man to lap at over 70mph.
The current vendor purchased this 'Big Port' in December 1993 from VMCC founder C E A 'Titch' Allen. Titch said that it was the second AJS he had owned and that he had bought the bike to do a little Vintage grass-tracking and hill climbing; indeed, the vendor remembers seeing him at the local Chiltern hill climb some time in the 1980s. Used sparingly since its acquisition by the vendor, the machine is offered with a V5C registration document and an old-style continuation logbook (issued 1968), which lists two owners prior to Titch Allen. It should be noted that although the frame and engine did not start life together, their numbers are correct for a 1926 Big Port and the machine has been in this form since at least 1968.