The A.J.S. Light Car

Background

In the summer of 1927 A.J.S. secured a lucrative contract to build bodies for the new Clyno 'Nine' light car. The contract couldn't have come at a better time for A.J.S. because motorcycle sales were in decline due to the depression and the introduction of cheaper small cars. The bodies consisted of a wooden framework that supported fabric covered panels. They were built in batches of 50 and made at the Lower Walsall Street works. Clyno always tried to ensure that its products sold at a lower price than the competition, and gave value for money. This worked well until the company tried to take on Austin and Morris in a cost cutting war.


Building Clyno car bodies at Lower Walsall Street Works.

Morris had just launched the Morris 'Minor' and Austin had released the Austin 'Seven'. Clyno's answer to the competition was the 'Century', a 'Nine' chassis covered in cheap fabric that sold for £112. 

The car was unpopular with dealers and only about 300 were built. It destroyed Clyno's reputation, the car being known as the 'Cemetery'. The company had recently invested heavily in a new factory at Bushbury and the low sales quickly led to cashflow problems. 

Clyno appointed a receiver in February 1929 and the company went into liquidation.

Read about the AJS factories
The birth of the A.J.S. car

The demise of Clyno came at a very bad time for A.J.S. who were also loosing money due to lower than expected motorcycle sales and the demise of the radio business. To try and offset the loss of the Clyno contract A.J.S. decided to produce its own light car, the A.J.S. 'Nine'. The car was first announced in December 1929 and designed by Arthur G. Booth who worked for Clyno and designed the Clyno 'Nine'. The diamond shaped A.J.S. logo was designed by his daughter over breakfast one day. Arthur became known as "The General" at the A.J.S. works.

Read a paper that was given by Arthur G. Booth and view some of his Clyno photographs
The chassis was built by John Thompson Motor Pressings at Bilston, the bodies were made at Lower Walsall Street Works, and the final assembly took place at Graiseley Hill. 

The engine was a 4 cylinder, Coventry Climax, rated at 8.92h.p. The car had a 12 volt Lucas ignition system, 3 speed + reverse gearbox, Solex carburettor, 8 gallon fuel tank and wire wheels with Avon tyres. The metal instrument panel was finished with a walnut grain paint effect and included a lighting control switch. 

The lights on the instrument panel also illuminated the floor in the driver's compartment. The seats at the front were well upholstered bucket seats with tilting backs, and the wide rear seat had arm rests. The windscreen was made of safety glass and fitted with a vacuum wiper. The car, with a fuel consumption of around 36m.p.g. could achieve 60m.p.h., and was launched in August 1930 after exhaustive testing. The initial model, a four door fabric bodied saloon, selling for £230 was soon followed by two different versions, a coachbuilt saloon selling for £240, and a coachbuilt 2 seater with dickey priced at £210.

Read a contemporary review about the A.J.S. car
       

Chromium plated bumpers were available for an extra £5.5s.0d. and a sliding roof was also available for the saloon, at an extra £7.10s.0d.

The initial sales were good and increased after the Olympia show in October. 

Unfortunately the car was a little on the expensive side when compared with the competition and so in February 1931 prices on all models were reduced by £11.00. At the same time the cheaper 4 door fabric bodied 'Richmond' saloon was launched and priced at £197.


The A.J.S. 'Nine' coachbuilt 2 seater with dickey, on display in Conway Garage at the Black Country Living Museum.

The 4 door, coachbuilt, A.J.S. 'Nine'  saloon that's in the collection at the Black Country Living Museum. It has an interesting past as it once belonged to Joe Stevens (senior).
In an attempt to reduce the price of the car even further, A.J.S. decided to build its own car engines. The final engine was more or less a carbon copy of the Coventry Climax. 

Sadly A.J.S. itself became a victim of the depression in October 1931 when it went into voluntary liquidation. The cars sold extremely well in the short time they were produced.

Unfortunately it is not known how many were built. The highest surviving chassis number is 1064 so it could be that just over a thousand were made, but the late Geoff Stevens, the last member of the Stevens family who worked for the company, thought that the total number should be nearer 3,000.

Either way this was quite an achievement in such a short time. If the company had survived, the well-built and well-designed car would probably have had a good future.


The two A.J.S. cars that can be seen at the Black Country Living Museum.

The interior of the A.J.S. 'Nine'  saloon at the Black Country Living Museum before it was restored.
Derek Spencer at the wheel of the A.J.S. 2 seater at the Black Country Living Museum.
Another view of the A.J.S. 2 seater at the Black Country Living Museum with Stan Davis in the driving seat.
A final view of the A.J.S. 2 seater at the Black Country Living Museum with Stan Davis in the driving seat alongside Trevor Davies.
Another view of the 4 door, coachbuilt, A.J.S. 'Nine'  saloon that's in the collection at the Black Country Living Museum.


The front of the A.J.S. 'Nine' saloon at the Black Country Living Museum.


The back of the A.J.S. 'Nine' saloon at the Black Country Living Museum.


An interior view of the A.J.S. 'Nine' saloon that's at the Black Country Living Museum.

The A.J.S. saloon at the museum has been restored and is now in running order. This photograph taken on 11th December, 2009 shows Joan and Jim Stevens standing by the car.

All 5 Stevens brothers owned an A.J.S. saloon. This one belonged to Jack Stevens. The ladies in the photograph are his daughters, Margery (kneeling) and Ruby. When the photograph was taken the car belonged to Ruby.


The two A.J.S. cars that are at the Black Country Living Museum.


The A.J.S. 2-seater that's in the collection at the Black Country Living Museum.


An advert from August 1931.

In January 1932 the 'Nine' was sold to Willys Overland Crossley Limited of Heaton Chapel, Stockport for £9,500, and re-launched in March as the 'New A.J.S. Nine', a  re-styled, coachbuilt 4 door saloon, costing £229.

The price was soon reduced to £189 when it was realised that the car was in direct competition with the Crossley 'Ten'. 

Sales were not good and the Stockport based company went into liquidation.

Sadly only 33 A.J.S. cars are known to have survived. 4 of them are in Australia, 2 in New Zealand, 2 in Ireland, and 25 in the UK.


An advert from 'Motor Commerce', February 1932.

The front cover of the A.J.S. 'Twelve' leaflet.

The car, produced by Willys - Overland Crossley Ltd. was first shown at the 1932 Olympia Show, and  priced at £325.

It had a 1.5 litre o.h.v. engine but never went into production.

The A.J.S. 9 Car Club has an excellent Facebook page at: https://www.facebook.com/AJS9CarClub.

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