Chaos theory


The year of 1965 was not, on the whole, a good one for the British motorcycle industry. Confusion, doom and panic led to some baffling decisions from the chaps in charge. Yet, from this tumult came some worthy models, like this AJS Model 33.

Words: RACHAEL CLEGG Photographs: GARY CHAPMAN

It’s doubtful that Sir Norman Hulbert slept much in 1965. As the chairman of Associated Motor Cycles (AMC) he was at the helm of a business whose financial losses had reached £1.5 million.

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Sales figures had plummeted since the early 1960s, a brutal fact that owed to many things, among them the British motorcycle industry’s preoccupation with larger machines – the appetite for which seemed to have been massively overestimated by manufacturers.

Then, added to this, came the Purchase Tax – one the UK government, in spite of several pleas from the motorcycle industry, refused to relax.

Labour shortages were also proving a huge challenge, especially for AMC, and then, as if things weren’t quite bad enough already, in 1962 the UK government opened the floodgates for Japanese imports with the Anglo-Japanese treaty.

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So, all in all, the industry seemed pretty doomed and that doom seemed inevitable, were it not for the glimmer of hope offered by the important US market.

It was amidst all this mayhem that the Model 33 was created – a confusing machine built in baffling times.

Attention to detail extends to the protective shrouding on the rev counter cable. It’s possible to make it out in the catalogue picture too.

Among AMC’s many curious moves was its decision (steered by Sir Hulbert) to jump on the Japanese bandwagon by actively encouraging imports from the Far East.

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Rather than build smaller machines with lower capacity engines, AMC signed a deal with Suzuki to act as its distributor, a move that undermined the motorcycle industry’s attempts to impose import restrictions.

For AMC, however, the deal with Suzuki was a financial lifeboat, albeit a short-lived one.

Read more and view more images in the September 2019 issue of TCM – on sale now!

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