51. FB Red Devil / 1980
This is the final version of the FB AJS Stormer, called the AJAY Red Devil, it has a completely new frame. Fluff has dropped the eccentric swinging arm adjustment, from the original Stormer, and introduced a newly configured, frame and swinging arm design.
The MX bike, along with the Enduro, sports the long travel front forks up front, with a new high-density two-gallon red polythene gas tank.
AJAY RD (Red Devil) 360cc MX / 1981
I picked up this leaflet when visiting Flint’s Farm in the early eighties and the new bike was just fantastic.
Fluff unveiled his new AJAY Red Devil moto-cross bike, with its new colour scheme, at the Bristol Dirt Bike Show, in September 1979.
The Trail version retains the larger capacity alloy petrol tank, and along with the Enduro has the addition of lights, etc for road use.
There are two versions, on version one the front down tube starts at the headstock, as a large diameter single tube and branches into two, smaller diameter tubes, which cradle the engine and allows the exhaust pipe to pass through to the barrel.
AJAY RD frame and swinging arm (Version 1) / 1980
The large oval backbone has been altered to a triangulated reinforced twin tube section, quite a departure from Fluffs original Stormer frame.
In many ways it reverts back to the early Cobra frame, that Fluff had help develop for Cotton back in 1964, whilst working with Peter Inchley, at Hawkstone Park, to house that first prototype Starmaker engine.
AJAY RD frame and swinging arm (Version 11) / 1980
Cotton Cobra frame and swinging arm / 1964
The Starmaker engiine has a central exhaust port, so one of Fluff’s original frame design changes, to the pre-Cobra Starmaker frame, had been to replace its single down tube with the lightweight twin down tube cradle.
Andy Roberton and Reg Painter with the Stormer at Thruxton / 1970
Many riders prefer the single down tube design. One of the new Red Devil frames provides the option of that old Cossack single down tube layout. This has the handling advantages of a single down tube, whilst solving the issue of the Starmakers central exhaust port.
Fluff and Andy Roberton must have been very close to this layout back in 1967.
When Fluff purchased the AJS Competition set up from Norton Villiers in 1974, and started building the bikes he loved, he also purchased the Cotton name. Fluff and Nick Brown would go on to build Cotton Cobra and Telstar replicas, on into the nineties.
These motorcross bikes were based on his own Cotton race machines. In 1965 Cotton hadn’t been part of the Norton Villiers marque, when Fluff joined, and Cotton continued building competition bikes for several years after he had left, but not with the Starmaker engine.
FB Cotton Cobra 250cc 1964 Replica
So when Andy Roberton’s original Villiers Metisse from 1967, was found in a barn, it was a bit unexpected, when the layers of thick paint were scratched away, that revealed underneath was that very famous, Cotton badge. Obviously Fluff Brown and Andy Roberton had still liked to race as Cotton, whilst they developed the new, then unnamed, Norton Villiers scrambler.
“At Norton Villiers we initially housed the Starmaker in a Petit Metisse frame, and Freddie Mayes raced it in both the 1966 British Championship and selected GP’s, as a Villiers Metisse.”
“But Andy Roberton couldn’t get on with the Metisse frame, so we modified a Cotton Cobra, which he took to, like a duck to water. And this frame, would become the one, which later appeared in the production bike, carrying the name, AJS Stormer.”
So is Fluff telling us, with his wonderful sense of humour, when delivering his last piece of engineering brilliance, with a rye smile on his face?
That really, to his mind, the AJS Stormer, was always the continued development of the Cotton Cobra, after all, he did name the final version, ‘The Red Devil”.
Villiers Metisse 1967 petrol tank stripped back
Villiers Metisse 1967 side panel, strip off the white vinyl numbers and you get…
leaving the Black paint, number 173
Talking to Nick, in ‘The Shed’, on my last visit before AJS Motorcycles moved to their new address, we discussed the Stormer’s past, and we both agreed, simultaneously, that what the Stormer really needed, was a fifth gear.
Obviously the GP engine had six, but it had no kickstart and the four-speed box could just not take that extra cog, even though Fluff had tried.
The moto cross Stormer will easily pull, well passed 70 mph, but you feel that there’s still more, your foot searches for that next gear.
Andy Roberton / Metisse Framed Norton Villiers / 1967
During its early days NV was trying hard to sell their Stormers to the lucritive American market, but the Starmaker engine had been designed by British centric thinking.
NV stuck with the gear lever on the right and one up, unlike the Japanese.
The Stormer had also been designed, to win motor-cross races, but moto-cross was a small market and it was the Japanese who developed the spin off market from their moto-cross machines, the road useable Trail bike.
If NV had taken note of that Rickman Starmaker Metisse, shipped to the US, back in 1966, put in a gearbox with a fifth gear, one down, and a version with the gears on the left, they may well have managed to crack that American nut, with that ‘mechanical masterpiece’.
But that’s hindsight, NV was concentrating on the other bike that this wonderful frame produced, the Norton Commando, even so, the Stormer sold very well and NV tried the gearbox changes with the Stormer 500 prototype, but that was much too late, as Bernard Hooper had said, “it all took too long”.
Nick and Fluff Brown assembling their new AJAY RD Trail bikes / 1980
So when Fluff Brown moved into his Flint’s Farm workshops, in 1974, he continued to build motorcycles to the highest of standards, as he always had, even though these buildings were previously modest chicken sheds.
That didn’t stop him he had worked in conditions like these, way back at Hawkstone Park and Thruxton. He could see the Stormer still had a great future, so he put his plan into action, and not only did he continue to build competition scramblers, he immediately expanded his range to include, Trail and Enduro machines, the Street Stormers.
His doggied determination, and the bikes innovation, had twice won him the British Motocross Championship, he had been with the AJS Stormer project from the beginning to the end, he was the one who provides the backbone, the spine to this machines story.
And the Starmaker engine still holds the record for the fastest lap, ever recorded, by a single-cylinder 250cc machine on the Isle of Man TT course, thanks to him and the great, Peter Inchley, back in 1966.
When Fluff took over the Stormer project, Classic Motocross was a fledgling sport, he helped develop it into the fun it is today, and it was ideal for his AJS Stormer.
The AJS Stormer story continues, even though, it’s now nearly fifty, it’s still raced on every Sunday, a beautifully balanced, reliable and competitive Classic moto-cross machine, and with its racing pedigree, it’s also a true… British ‘Thorough Bred’ AJS.
Fluff’s screen saver.
FB Mk I Prototype, Fluff ‘David’ Brown provided the backbone to this story, and…….
“The confidence one achieved while belting along over bumpy, slippery surfaces was really something and could all be put down to the unique frame design. A really robust spine tube is the heart and strength of this unit”……. The AJS Stormer.
Fluff Brown in his workshop building his last AJS Stormer / 2009
The Story of the AJS Stormer
The Commando, the Cobra and the Metisse
My Dad “Fluff Brown” quietly passed away yesterday July 4th at Millway House care home, Weyhill, Andover, Hants. He had been suffering with vascular dementia. We are deeply missing him but feel at ease now that his suffering has ended. To me, he was inspiring, a friend and my partner.
Nick Brown / 5 July 2013.
Did Fluff save his best, till last, when he was free from corporate business interference,
was his ultimate motorcross machine, the FB AJS RD 360 MX !!
Nick Brown / Works FB AJS RD 360 MX / 1981
Fluff’s son Nick, a very competent MX rider himself, continues the business to this day and he has now expanded it, with a whole new range of his own, custom AJS Street machines, but first the home of the FB AJS Stormer, Flint’s Farm.