Dennis Poore. Norton Villiers. 1967.

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23. Dennis Poore

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Dennis Poore was the driving force behind the new Norton Villiers Co, which was created when his Manganese Bronze concern acquired the assets of AMC. He realised that, in so far as future production of Norton, AJS and Matchless machines was concerned, there had to be some serious re-thinking.

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 Gregor Grant / AJS The History of a Great Motorcycle / 1969

Complete reorganisation was essential; otherwise the manufacture of motorcycles would not be an economic proposition.

Although the decision to move to a new factory at Andover, Hants, was taken in 1966, it was not until 1968 that full planning permission was obtained.

The company’s intention was to have this new factory in full operation by the middle of 1969. The site was ideal, presenting no difficulties in communications between Norton Villiers and they’re outside suppliers.

With the appearance of the modern Norton Commando 750, it was obvious that Norton Villiers Ltd had its finger on the pulse of current requirements.

 What to do as regards AJS was another story. 

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Norton Commando 750 Fastback / 1967

Poore himself had been prominent in motor racing during the immediate post-war period and had won the RAC Hill-Climb Championship with his Alfa Romeo.

He had also driven an MG and a Viritas with success, and had been a member of David Brown’s works Aston Martin team. With Peter Walker as co-driver, he won the Goodwood ‘Nine Hours’ for Aston Martin in 1955.

Anyway, here was a chairman with an extensive background of competitions, together, with engineering knowledge of a high order.

With Norton plans already formulated, he had given a great deal of thought to the future of AJS and, in 1966, the opportunity to do something about it was presented by Peter Inchley. Riding a ‘Villiers Starmaker Special’, Inchley finished third in the Lightweight TT behind the works Honda twins.

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AJS Mark II Prototype / NV Badged / 1968 / MCI Magazine

Anyway, here was a chairman with an extensive background of competitions, together, with engineering knowledge of a high order.

With Norton plans already formulated, he had given a great deal of thought to the future of AJS and, in 1966, the opportunity to do something about it was presented by Peter Inchley.

Riding a ‘Villiers Starmaker Special’, Inchley finished third in the Lightweight TT behind the works Honda twins.

No British-built ‘250’ had been in the first three since 1950, and none had come anywhere near lapping at the speeds, which Peter Inchley accomplished. He averaged 91.43 mph for the 264-mile distance.

Inchley’s machine had a Villiers Starmaker engine fitted into basically a Bultaco frame, with six-speed transmission.

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Peter Inchley and Freddie Mayes / Villiers Metisse / 1967

The designer-rider was an acknowledged two-stroke expert. Born in Smethwick, he had joined BSA in 1960 and, in the same year, started racing on his friend Stan Cooper’s Ariel Arrow.

He later went to Ariel, where he was concerned with much of the development work on that well made two-stroke. His next move was to EMC, where he worked with Joe ‘the Professor’ Ehrlich on two-strokes.

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Starmaker AJS / 1967

He also rode for EMC in races and finished fourth in the 250cc Spanish Grand Prix; Inchley then joined the Villiers concern late in 1963.

So Norton Villiers decided that the name of AJS would be applied to a 250cc two-stroke and that the board of directors would back Peter Inchley in the 1967 Lightweight TT. Ken Sprayson, of Reynolds tubes, was commissioned by NV to construct the frame.

This was of the backbone type, built up from 2.25 inch x 18 guage steel tubing. Dual loops of ¾ inch diameter tubing ran from the steering head to act as front down tube members, then pass under the engine to terminate on mountings for the rear damper assembly.

A new AJS engine was planned and it was decided to retain the six-speed transmission for the TT.

However, the new engine could not be made ready in time and Inchley reverted to using the 1966 Starmaker unit, with which he had raced at Mallory Park and at Snetterton, as well as setting up a new 250cc Brands Hatch record.

 The AJS proved to be even faster in the Isle of Man than the Bultaco-based version.

 Inchley averaging 92.89 mph when he was forced to retire when placed fifth, owing to a serious error by the oil company concerned.

 When Inchley stopped to refuel, instead of the ‘petroil’ mixture, the tank was filled with neat fuel; a complete engine seizure was the result, another team receive the “petroil’, for their four-stroke machine, also bringing their race to an abrupt end.

 Nevertheless, there was little doubt that the AJS single-cylinder was as far advanced as any of the equivalent continental two-strokes.

 Inchley himself had been getting as much as 36 bhp at 8,500 rpm – and over 140 bhp per litre, is a real achievement with a ‘valveless’ single-cylinder engine. Racing in the TT was merely a means to an end, as the shrewd Dennis Poore, saw immense opportunities for a ‘scrambler’, designed specially, for the booming sport of Moto-cross, in late 1967, the prototype scrambler, for the AJS Y4, was complete.

 Acknowledgement: AJS The History of a Great Motorcycle – Gregor Grant – 1969

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Earls Court Show / AJS Scrambler / 1967

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