c.1946 AJS 497cc E90 'Porcupine' Grand Prix Racing Motorcycle Frame no. none visible Engine no. 3-46

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Lot 33
c.1946 AJS 497cc E90 'Porcupine' Grand Prix Racing Motorcycle
Frame no. none visible Engine no. 3-46

Sold for £ 293,250 (US$ 390,575) inc. premium
c.1946 AJS 497cc E90 'Porcupine' Grand Prix Racing Motorcycle
Frame no. none visible
Engine no. 3-46
• Ultra-rare 1940s Grand Prix racer
• Acquired from former AJS works rider Ted Frend
• On static display since restoration in the mid/late 2000s

While statistics show that the Norton is Britain's most successful post-war Grand Prix racing motorcycle, that country's first success in the modern era's World Championships was achieved by another marque with an equally illustrious racing history: AJS. And the machine that carried Les Graham to his, and AJS's, first and only World Championship in 1949 was, of course, the legendary Porcupine. To this day the Porcupine remains the only twin-cylinder motorcycle to have won the 500cc World Championship.

Conceived towards the end of WW2, the Porcupine was originally designed with forced induction in mind. Supercharged multi-cylinder engines had begun to threaten the single's supremacy towards the end of the 1930s and indeed, AJS themselves went down this road with their fearsome water-cooled V4. Fast yet difficult to handle, the latter had demonstrated that horsepower bought at the expense of excess bulk and weight was not the answer, so the thoughts of designer Vic Webb turned to a twin. Laying the cylinders almost horizontally with their 'heads facing forwards would ensure adequate cooling and a low centre of gravity, while at the same time providing room for the blower above the gearbox. When the FIM banned supercharging at the end of 1946 the design was too far advanced to be altered substantially, though the cylinder heads were revised to raise the compression ratio.

Typed E90 but dubbed 'Porcupine' by the motorcycling press because of its distinctive spiked 'head finning, AJS's new challenger debuted at the 1947 Isle of Man TT in the hands of Les Graham and Jock West, the pair finishing 9th and 14th respectively after encountering a variety of problems. By way of consolation, West's best lap was only three seconds down on the fastest and showed that the bike had promise. The Porcupine's first race victory was achieved later that year by Ted Frend at the Hutchinson 100. Development continued throughout 1948, with a number of Grand Prix podium finishes and 18 world speed records among the season's highlights.

The inaugural 500cc World Championship of 1949 consisted of six races, with victory going to Les Graham at the Swiss and Ulster Grands Prix. Bill Doran won the Belgian GP to assure AJS of the manufacturers' title, while Graham's two wins were enough to take the riders' championship from Gilera's Nello Pagani.

Many years later, AJS works rider Ted Frend - the first rider to win on the bike - recalled that carburetion had been the Porcupine's biggest problem, perhaps not surprising given that it had been designed for a supercharger, and over the years a bewildering number of different induction arrangements were tried. The E90 was also bedevilled by magneto shaft failure - the cause of Graham's retirement from the lead of the '49 Senior TT just when two minutes from the finish - a problem that would not be solved until chain drive for the magneto was adopted on the revised E95 engine.

Introduced in 1952, the E95 engine had its cylinders tilted upwards at 45 degrees, an arrangement that called for a new frame, and featured a pressed-up crankshaft with one-piece connecting rods and roller big-ends in place of the E90's one-piece 'shaft and shell-type bearings. Its distinctive spike fins had gone, but the 'Porcupine name stuck. The E95 enjoyed a dream debut, new recruit Jack Brett and Bill Doran finishing 1st and 2nd respectively at the season-opening Swiss Grand Prix, with New Zealand star Rod Coleman in 5th place.
Another new addition to the AJS team for '52, Coleman had first been given an E90 to try at the '51 Ulster GP and followed that up with a strong showing at the Grand Prix Des Nations at Monza. 'In the race it was quite definitely faster than the Nortons and I had little problem getting past Geoff (Duke) and Ken (Kavanagh) with just three Gileras only a short distance ahead,' Rod recalls in his book, The Colemans. 'I did get with them and found again that the Porcupine was just as fast as the Gileras but was down a little on acceleration from the slower corners, but not by much. I was just beginning to think I had every chance of second place behind Milani when the motor stopped.' The cause? Yet another magneto shaft failure.

For 1954 the E95 Porcupine and works 'triple-knocker' 7R3 350 single gained new pannier-style fuel tanks which extended down on either side of the engine, thus lowering the centre of gravity and affording a measure of streamlining at the same time. The downside was the need for a pump to raise fuel to the carburettors, and a complicated delivery system that involved mechanics standing the bike on its rear wheel to prime the header tank for starting! Jack Williams took over the race team that year and the result of his development was a much smoother engine, which now produced a maximum of 54bhp at 7,800rpm. Bob McIntyre, Derek Farrant and Rod Coleman were the riders, the latter providing the Porcupine with its best international results of the season, placing 2nd in Ulster and winning the Swedish Grand Prix. Other riders to swing a leg over the Porcupine during its short career include Bill Lomas, Robin Sherry and Reg Armstrong.

Sadly, 1954 would prove to be the Porcupine's swansong year, AJS withdrawing from direct involvement in Grand Prix racing at the season's end. Between 1949 and 1954, Porcupines finished 24 races with five wins, seven 2nd places and one World Championship. In total, only four complete E90 and four E95 machines were built, plus an unknown number of spare engines. With the exception of the E95 acquired later by Tom Arter, they were raced only by the works team and never offered for public sale. Perhaps surprisingly, all four E95s survive today in private ownership.

When Ted Frend died in 2006, his close friend and neighbour Ken Senior bought all of Ted's motorcycling-related possessions from the executors of his estate, which included loose photographs, negatives, albums, books, letters, trophies, tools, motorcycle parts, etc. (Some of Ted's TT trophies and photographs are offered in this sale - see Lots 512 - 522). The purchase also included Ted's road going Triumph and the Porcupine, which came to Ken as a collection of parts. It is not known whether Ted obtained a complete machine from AJS and then dismantled it, or whether he acquired it in component form.

Born in 1916 in South London, Edward 'Ted' Frend completed an apprenticeship in sheet-metal fabrication at Hawker Aircraft (later Hawker Siddeley) and then joined General Aircraft at Feltham. He was soon taking part in motorcycle competitions and made his first impact on the sport following the purchase of a Vincent-HRD Rapide Series-A, on which he lapped the Brooklands track at 110mph, earning himself a coveted 'Gold Star' for exceeding 'the ton'.

Riding a Norton, Ted finished 4th in the 1947 Isle of Man TT, a result that earned him a place in the AJS works team, riding the E90 Porcupine in 500cc events and the new 350cc AJS 7R in the Junior class. Like many of his contemporaries, Ted was an all-rounder, competing in trials, scrambles, grass-track and hill climbs as well as road racing.

On his works debut in 1948, Ted gave the E90 Porcupine its first win: at the BMCRC 100-mile race at Dunholme Lodge, a former RAF airbase in Lincolnshire. Interviewed by Bob Shilling for the now defunct, and much missed, Classic Motorcycling Legends magazine (No. 37) Ted recalled: "Les Graham and I had a terrific scrap but Les' magneto packed up so I cruised home the winner. I rode for AJS from then until the end of 1950. My racing was a sideline to my business..." Ted's business was Paramount Sheet Metal based in Kingston, which manufactured parts for the aviation and motorcycle industries, including supplying fuel tanks to the AJS competitions department.

So how did Ted rate the Porcupine? "The handling wasn't as forgiving as even a Garden Gate Norton or as good as a 7R," he revealed.

"To me, its best year was 1949. Les and I each held the lead in the TT but neither finished. And Les won the 1949 500cc World Championship.

"On the Continent we were up against the sheer power of the Gileras and the early MVs too. At Spa, I managed third place, splitting the Gileras. Masetti, Pagani and I were the first to average over 100mph for a full Grand Prix.

"For its day, the Porcupine had lots of potential but its development did not keep pace with the opposition." Having left AJS, Ted continued to race occasionally for a few more years and competed in his last Isle of Man TT in 1954.

Ken Senior entrusted the Porcupine's resurrection to his good friend Dave Davy (since deceased) who custom-made any parts that were missing. The completed Porcupine has only been ridden (once) on Ken's estate, and has spent the rest of its time on static display in the Ted Frend 'tribute' room at Ken's home. Its only venture out was to the Southern Classic Off Road Show at Kempton Park in December 2012, where it came away with the 'Best Race Bike' and 'Best Bike in Show' awards, while the Ted Frend Collection was judged 'Best Stand'.

Ultra-rare and of immense historical significance, '3-46' represents a possibly once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to acquire one of the most legendary of all Grand Prix racing motorcycles.

Saleroom notices

  • Please click the link to view the walkaround video of Lot 33: click here
Contacts
c.1946 AJS 497cc E90 'Porcupine' Grand Prix Racing Motorcycle Frame no. none visible Engine no. 3-46
c.1946 AJS 497cc E90 'Porcupine' Grand Prix Racing Motorcycle Frame no. none visible Engine no. 3-46
c.1946 AJS 497cc E90 'Porcupine' Grand Prix Racing Motorcycle Frame no. none visible Engine no. 3-46
c.1946 AJS 497cc E90 'Porcupine' Grand Prix Racing Motorcycle Frame no. none visible Engine no. 3-46
c.1946 AJS 497cc E90 'Porcupine' Grand Prix Racing Motorcycle Frame no. none visible Engine no. 3-46
c.1946 AJS 497cc E90 'Porcupine' Grand Prix Racing Motorcycle Frame no. none visible Engine no. 3-46
c.1946 AJS 497cc E90 'Porcupine' Grand Prix Racing Motorcycle Frame no. none visible Engine no. 3-46
c.1946 AJS 497cc E90 'Porcupine' Grand Prix Racing Motorcycle Frame no. none visible Engine no. 3-46
c.1946 AJS 497cc E90 'Porcupine' Grand Prix Racing Motorcycle Frame no. none visible Engine no. 3-46
c.1946 AJS 497cc E90 'Porcupine' Grand Prix Racing Motorcycle Frame no. none visible Engine no. 3-46
c.1946 AJS 497cc E90 'Porcupine' Grand Prix Racing Motorcycle Frame no. none visible Engine no. 3-46
c.1946 AJS 497cc E90 'Porcupine' Grand Prix Racing Motorcycle Frame no. none visible Engine no. 3-46
c.1946 AJS 497cc E90 'Porcupine' Grand Prix Racing Motorcycle Frame no. none visible Engine no. 3-46
c.1946 AJS 497cc E90 'Porcupine' Grand Prix Racing Motorcycle Frame no. none visible Engine no. 3-46
c.1946 AJS 497cc E90 'Porcupine' Grand Prix Racing Motorcycle Frame no. none visible Engine no. 3-46
c.1946 AJS 497cc E90 'Porcupine' Grand Prix Racing Motorcycle Frame no. none visible Engine no. 3-46
c.1946 AJS 497cc E90 'Porcupine' Grand Prix Racing Motorcycle Frame no. none visible Engine no. 3-46
c.1946 AJS 497cc E90 'Porcupine' Grand Prix Racing Motorcycle Frame no. none visible Engine no. 3-46
c.1946 AJS 497cc E90 'Porcupine' Grand Prix Racing Motorcycle Frame no. none visible Engine no. 3-46
c.1946 AJS 497cc E90 'Porcupine' Grand Prix Racing Motorcycle Frame no. none visible Engine no. 3-46
c.1946 AJS 497cc E90 'Porcupine' Grand Prix Racing Motorcycle Frame no. none visible Engine no. 3-46
c.1946 AJS 497cc E90 'Porcupine' Grand Prix Racing Motorcycle Frame no. none visible Engine no. 3-46
c.1946 AJS 497cc E90 'Porcupine' Grand Prix Racing Motorcycle Frame no. none visible Engine no. 3-46
c.1946 AJS 497cc E90 'Porcupine' Grand Prix Racing Motorcycle Frame no. none visible Engine no. 3-46
c.1946 AJS 497cc E90 'Porcupine' Grand Prix Racing Motorcycle Frame no. none visible Engine no. 3-46
c.1946 AJS 497cc E90 'Porcupine' Grand Prix Racing Motorcycle Frame no. none visible Engine no. 3-46
c.1946 AJS 497cc E90 'Porcupine' Grand Prix Racing Motorcycle Frame no. none visible Engine no. 3-46
c.1946 AJS 497cc E90 'Porcupine' Grand Prix Racing Motorcycle Frame no. none visible Engine no. 3-46
c.1946 AJS 497cc E90 'Porcupine' Grand Prix Racing Motorcycle Frame no. none visible Engine no. 3-46
c.1946 AJS 497cc E90 'Porcupine' Grand Prix Racing Motorcycle Frame no. none visible Engine no. 3-46
c.1946 AJS 497cc E90 'Porcupine' Grand Prix Racing Motorcycle Frame no. none visible Engine no. 3-46
c.1946 AJS 497cc E90 'Porcupine' Grand Prix Racing Motorcycle Frame no. none visible Engine no. 3-46
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