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Remembering the 1949 AJS Model 20 500

1949 AJS Model 20 500

There is no doubt that the 1948 AJS Model 20 500 was something special. As a matter of fact, it's often considered to be one of the most revered and well-loved motorcycles that was ever made. All things considered, it's not the least bit surprising that people fell in love with this motorcycle. There were so many things about it that were considered extremely innovative for the time during which it was manufactured. As a result, people that had a love for motorcycles could tell it was something special as soon as they laid eyes on it. There was something about its appearance that made people want to know more about it and once they figured out how much love, care and effort went into designing and manufacturing the bike, the very idea of purchasing one became a no-brainer. Today, all these years later, this bike is one that is still fondly remembered by motorcycle aficionados and casual passersby alike. It has that rare quality that makes people from virtually all walks of life want to know more about it, even those who don't normally care about such things. Upon closer examination, it's easy to understand why it's so special.

An Innovative Design

You have to remember, this motorcycle was manufactured in 1948. Sometimes, it’s hard to believe it could have been this long ago, largely because it looked very innovative for the time during which it was built and sold. Truth be told, it was indeed one of the most innovative designs ever created. It's 498cc engine was a 4-stroke, air-cooled engine that was so far beyond what anyone else had ever seen at the time that a lot of people weren't really sure what to make of it at first. That power plant was married to a 4-speed manual transmission that allowed the engine to growl to life and rumble with power, no matter what you threw at it. Perhaps the thing that made it genuinely special was the fact that its designers didn't stop there. It also had dual shock suspension in the back and a telescopic fork in the front that made it both comfortable to ride and easy to control. The seat was low enough to make you feel secure when you were riding and the handlebars were set wide enough apart so that you felt like you had an additional level of control, all while experiencing the maximum level of comfort for virtually any motorcycle. Make no mistake about it, the bike looked good, too. Designed in all black and accented with chrome, there wasn't anything on the motorcycle that didn't need to be there. Back then, it was par for the course. Nowadays, it's trendy because it's considered exceptional to have a motorcycle with a minimalist design. At the time that this bike was manufactured, it was all about not including a lot of things that weren't going to be of good use. It was much more about distributing the weight properly so that the bike was both controllable and a joy to ride. In many ways, designers were a lot more worried about function over form back then, something that worked very well in this particular case. Who knew that all these years later, bikes designed in exactly the same fashion would become the new trend in motorcycles and something that people would be willing to pay tens of thousands of dollars to get their hands on?

Setting Itself Apart

Of course, there are a couple of additional things that really set this bike apart from everything else that has been made since that time. Most people remember that the engine was a parallel twin, something that was considered to be most unique for the time. As a matter of fact, the special thing about these particular engines is that they're capable of dividing the power produced by the motorcycle's engine equally between two distinctly different chambers. The end result is that more power is actually created which is then able to get to the tires in order to apply that power to the surface. If you created all that power in a single chamber, you’d end up with enough to burn all the rubber off the tires, but not much else. On the other hand, an engine with two chambers gave the rider an opportunity to experience true power without having so much at their fingertips that it was almost impossible to harness. The end result is a smoother, safer ride and more effective horsepower production. It also saves fuel. All of these things were very important during the 1940s when this motorcycle was manufactured. As far as the other thing that sets it apart is concerned, all you have to do is take a single glance at the bike in order to notice it. The seat was designed in such a way that it's in line with the rest of the motorcycle's body. It creates a uniform appearance that you just don't see today and it makes this motorcycle stand out among everything else. It's a very small thing in the grand scheme of things, yet it couldn't be more important.

Faster Than a Speeding Bullet

All of the effort that went into designing the dual chambers on the engine definitely paid off. This bike had the capacity to go faster than virtually anything else around at the time. In fact, it's top speed was 137 miles per hour. That's definitely not anything to be ashamed of. As a matter of fact, it was one of the major selling points for the motorcycle at the time. These days, it may not seem like such a big deal but back then, it was practically unheard of to have a motorcycle that could go that fast. Find one capable of doing that which also got decent fuel mileage and was reliable in addition to being comfortable, and you had yourself a real winner. That's precisely why so many people fondly remember this motorcycle today.

Benjamin Smith

Written by Benjamin Smith

Benjamin Smith is one of the managing editors of Moneyinc. Ben's been focusing on the auto and motorcycle sector since 2005. He's written over 1000 articles in the space and continues to learn about it each day. His favorite car is "any Bugatti" and he's a die hard Harley Davidson fan.

Read more posts by Benjamin Smith

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