AJW – A short lived speedway story

Bike Profile

The ex-Young AJW restored to its former glory by Neil Burston. The AJW moniker was painted large on the rear guard to publicise Jolly's imported range of AJW road machines.

Arthur John Wheaton’s family company published school text books, but young Arthur was much more interested in motorcycles.

Within the workshops of the printing business at Exeter, Arthur and his mate Harry Marks built a pair of Anzani-powered machines, a 500 and a 1000 v-twin, in 1926. Thereafter followed a string of innovative but commercially unsuccessful bikes, notably the monstrous 4-cylinder AJW Super Four, also Anzani-powered, which appeared at the 1928 London Show but never went into production. Using various Fox appellations (Flying Fox and Silver Fox) with Rudge and JAP engines, AJW gradually became a ‘proper’ manufacturer, but suffered badly during the depression. The company struggled on with Villiers-powered two-strokes but closed during the war. The company’s ownership changed hands at this point and the new boss, Jack Ball, shifted production to Bournemouth, where he built the Grey Fox, with 500cc JAP power. Ball also endeavoured to get aboard the post-war speedway boom with the Speed Fox, the first version of which bore a strong resemblance to the pre-war Excelsior. The Type 2 was unique in having no vertical tube under the seat to the countershaft, a feature which may explain its reputation for throwing chains due to frame flex. Type 3, which was produced in 1951 had no fuel tanks as such carried methanol in the top frame rail, with twin small-section tubes running down to the front engine mount. This idea was not continued, and the final model was more conventional, with a normally-positioned fuel tank. In all, there are believed to be a total of 15 AJWs built between 1949 and 1953.

Importer, entrepreneur and enthusiast Fred Jolly with future World Champion Jack Young in Adelaide, 1950.

In South Australia, Fred Jolly was the purveyor all things speedway, and he imported several examples. Who better to demonstrate the tackle than Jack Young, the 1951 and 1952 World Speedway Champion? At Kilburn on February 17th, 1950, Young top scored with a paid maximum on the AJW in the England versus Australia Test Match. Throughout his career in his home state, Young’s equipment was always tuned and maintained by Jolly.

The Kilburn Test Match February 1950. L-R: Bob Leverenz (partially obscured), Bill Longley, Jack Young (behind Longley), Aub Lawson, Jack Williams, Merv Harding and Lindsay Mitchell.

The ex-Young AJW was sold to Bob Daws around 1954, and was ridden at Bob’s home track of Port Pirie and at Adelaide’s Rowley Park for a few seasons. Jolly also supported Englishman Gerry Hussey for the 1958-59 SA season on a Rotrax JAP, and when Hussey was killed in a TQ midget at Rowley Park in February 1959, Bob Daws also purchased the JAP from Jolly.and rode it in the 500 class on the local long tracks and at Rowley Park. The Hussey machine was painted Ariel purple by Bob Dawes. The AJW was then converted to 350cc and both bikes raced on the local long tracks, and the JAP at Rowley Park until Bob retired in 1963. Before he retired Daws considered buying an ESO and received the promotional photos shown here from Jolly. This is believed be the first ESO to be imported, ridden at Rowley Park in November 1960 by Swedish multi world champion Ove Fundin.

AJW’s aplenty at Rowley Park. L–R: Bob Leverenz, Bob Daws, with Jack Sands far right. But who is the rider on the tank-less, fuel-in-the-frame AJW?

Neil Burston has recently acquired both the the ex-Young AJW and the ex Hussey Rotrax JAP, both of which were restored by Bob Daws’ son Graham to their condition when his father owned them. The AJW is now back to its original 500cc specifications in the original pearlescent blue colours. All the machining on the engine was done by Dave Dyson.

The ex Hussey machine is at present being restored by Neil to original Hussey colours and plating.

Bob Daws’ son Graham with the restored AJW.

After Fred Jolly lost the ESO/JAWA distributorship in the late 60s he even commissioned his own speedway machine, and in the 1970s the SR60 was born. The design was a two valve engine with OHC configuration. It was named the SR60 – for Southern Racer 60 – it was supposed to be capable of producing 60HP against the JAWA’s 54HP at the time.

The frame was mostly all JAWA. All of the engine machining was done by the Dyson Brothers Len & Dave in their Wingfield and Renown Park workshops. These bikes were test ridden at Rowley Park by John Boulger in the early seventy’s but unfortunately a financial backer could not be found for the project and that was where it finished.

The two machines produced still exist today somewhere in Queensland

Story: Neil Burston and Jim Scaysbrook with assistance from Ross Garrigan

OBA Issue 6 Cover
This article first appeared in Old Bike Australasia Issue 6.