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Updated: June 17, 2013 16:20 IST

Back from the Front

PRINCE FREDERICK
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Parameswaran with his 1955 AJS 350cc
Special Arrangement Parameswaran with his 1955 AJS 350cc

This 1955 AJS 350cc provokes comparisons with the Matchless 3G/L, a popular war machine

People can’t help comparing a child’s physiognomic features with those of its parents and other relatives. Someone familiar with the AJS and Matchless bikes manufactured after the two marques came to have a common parent company (Associated Motor Cycles), will indulge in a similar exercise. For the knowledgeable, the 1955 AJS 16MS 350cc single, owned by brothers Parameswaran and Suri, will bring back memories of the G3/L, a military Matchless.

The 350cc single G3/L was developed from the G3 and pressed into war duty. A path-breaking front suspension technology distinguished the G3/L from the G3. The G3/L featured a front fork with lower legs that moved within two tubes attached to the T-stem; and also a hydraulic pump. This feature, which added to the G3/L’s popularity was not new. BMW and Norton had dabbled in the same telescopic fork principle, but only where its racing machines were concerned. By introducing the feature in its stock Matchless bikes and also patenting it as ‘Teledraulic’, AMC had broken fresh ground. Before other motorcycle makers introduced this feature in their own bikes, bike nuts searched for dilapidated G3/Ls so that their bikes got the advantage of a teledraulic front fork.

The post-War AJS/Matchless 350cc and 500cc singles are descendents of the G3 and G3L models. This 1955 AJS single has teledraulic front forks, as also the products born out of post-War advancements and changes surrounding the Matchless/AJS range.

In 1954, metal badges gave way to plastic ones. This 1955 AJS was among the early AMC bikes with a monobloc carburettor, a magneto with automatic timing control and a speedometer on the headlight. Earlier, the speedometer was yoked to the handle-bar head.

While they have not used the bike as regularly as they wished to, Suri and Parameswaran have managed to retain even seemingly minor parts, small in size but of great significance. These include fuel taps for reserve and main. The bike has a long dynamo instead of the characteristic short one — Suri says they would switch back to the right piece.

Bond with the bike

While trying to clinch the deal over this AJS, Suri seesawed between hope and despair. Srinivasan from Perathur, a nondescript village in Tiruvellore district, agreed to sell the bike but went back on his word — not once, but many times.

For 30 years, the bike had partly defined Srinivasan’s identity as well as his routine. He had kept a year-by-year maintenance record (from 1964 to 1994) of the AJS. “As nobody else in the family had the knowledge or inclination to maintain the bike, the septuagenarian, who was fast declining in health, knew it had to go. But the thought of losing the AJS was unbearable for him,” says Suri.

Suri would have closed the book on the elusive AJS, if his brother Parameswaran had not shown a deep interest in it. “Srinivasan gave in when I worked on his emotion. Imagine you are marrying your daughter into a good family. With tears rolling down his cheeks, he agreed to part with the bike. And this time, he kept his word.”

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