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AJW Motor Cycles

Page updated 11th December 2013

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In the many publications concerning the history of Exeter there is no mention of the city's motorcycle industry. Arthur John Wheaton, or Jack Wheaton, began assembling motorcycles during the summer of 1926 in a maintenace workshop of the family printing works in Friernhay Street, off Fore Street, Exeter. The first two AJW's utilised a 496cc single cylinder engine from the Swiss MAG company and a 996cc Vee-twin powered by a British Anzani engine. Anzani had started manufacturing aero engines in 1912.

When production commenced in 1927 they were of the side-valve 996cc Summit (Anzani) powered units, although some machines were fitted with an overhead-valve JAP engine. Othe machines were built using Brough Superior frames and engines (usually 500cc) from AJW, Jap and Rudge.

At the 1928 Olympia Show they announced the AJW Super Four utilising an Anzani water-cooled engine, eight-inch drum brakes and four inch tyres. It was exhibited at the 1929 Olympia Show, but it never went into production. Marketing was through Pride and Clarke in the Old Kent Road, London. One of the most famous AJW creations was the 'Grey Fox', but the company also produced a range of bikes with names including the Silver Fox, Silver Vixen, the Vixen, Flying Vixen, Flying Fox (with a Rudge Ulster engine) and the Speed Fox.

AJW machines were well built and expensive for the time, with the top of the range costing £145 and even the standard priced model costing £115. The 996 cc AJW Summit was capable of 100 mph. It had a torpedo-shaped fuel tank and a full duplex tubular loop frame. The engine had twin-port heads and double exhaust pipes on each side. Owners included the Brooklands racing champions Claude Temple and Joe Wright.

The business survived the slump in the motorcycle industry during the 1930's although the big racing Anzani powered vee-twin was discontinued in 1931. There were three models in production in 1934 and in 1935, they started using JAP engines exclusively. By 1937 the business passed into other ownership.

After World War II the company was sold to Jack Ball in Bournemouth and then Wimborne, Dorset. The last model built was the 125cc Fox Cub in 1953 when the supply of JAP engines ceased. In 1958 they produced the 48cc Fox Cub, and continued to sell it until 1964. AJW started importing 500cc and 125cc Italian manufactured lightweight machines with AJW badged tanks. They ceased trading in 1981.

© 2008 Alan H Mazonowicz

Sign at Friernhay Street.This, very faded, painted sign on the wall at Friernhay Street is the only evidence that the company manufactured motorcycles down what is a very narrow lane. There were no other manufacturers in Frienhay Street. I have added red over some of the lettering for clarity. Click on the image to enlarge without the overlay. AJW Motorcycles leafletDetail of the front of a 1937 leaflet. AJW leaflet 1937Detail of the front of the leaflet. Click to enlarge. AJW Motorcycles leaflet 1937 Reverse of the leaflet. Courtesy of Tony Lethbridge.

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