From the earliest days the Company had been ably managed by the Collier family, consisting of the father
and his three sons, Harry, Charlie and later also by his much younger son, Bert.
When the founder, Henry, retired, Harry took on the responsibility for design while Charlie concentrated on the assembly and development, both of them having helped to promote the company by success on the race tracks.
When he became of age, Bert also proved to be a most capable designer and racer and took on the design role
while Harry concentrated on overall management.
The three made an impressive team but it all came to an end when Bert was killed in a motorcycle accident in 1941 and Harry died of natural cases in 1944.
Their father had passed away in 1926 so that left only Bert to manage the factory when the conflict of the
Second World War finally ended.
The last member of the Collier family, Mr Charlie, was still working at the factory when taken fatally ill, in 1954, at the age of 70.
Colin Seeley, who was closely involved with AMC in his early G50 sidecar racing days, relates how "After the death of Charles Collier, the accountants took over, led by Donald Heather, preferring to pay shareholders rather than invest in new designs."
By now, badge engineering was judged to be the 'name of the game', resulting in diehard supporters of both Matchless and AJS bikes being equally bemused to see both the Flying M and Ajay (and later Norton!) emblems on the petrol tanks of otherwise identical machines, that were usually positioned adjacent to each other in the same dealers showroom.
Long serving employee John Rourke, referring to one of the directors, D. G. Golding, remembers overhearing him say that "as long as he got his Rolls Royce each year with his AMC number plate on it, he didn't care much what happened (to the company)."
John also recalls when one of the first Hondas came to Plumstead via Comerfords of Acton. "Although some £35 cheaper than our cheapest bare model, the Honda had as standard, electric starting, traffic indicators, a streamlined wind visor, front and rear carriers, all round suspension, white wall tyres, toe and heel rocking foot change, steering head locking, a slightly better top speed and better petrol consumption."
What was the AMC management's verdict? "It was too flashy, built on a bowl of rice a day, too cheap to be any good and will never sell. It will never take off and be a serious competitor."
And, as if that wasn't shrewd enough, they had the bright idea of helping one of the fledgling Japanese makers, Suzuki, to import their (considered to be pathetically small) bikes that "didn't compete with their own (big and manly) range", by doing a deal that let them sell through the AMC dealer network.
Sir Norman J Hulbert, MP and ex. WW2 squadron leader, joined the board as chairman in 1962 and proclaimed that AMC was "on the way to recovery".
Under Sir Norman's stewardship, the AMC directors plan was to amalgamate Norton engines into a series of hybrid Matchless machines, that ended up totally confusing all their previous loyal customers.
The inevitable outcome of the management's misguided decisions, coupled with the increasing penetration of the motorcycle market by the Japanese marques, led to a much deeper decline in sales which, in 1966, precipitated the firm's bankruptcy.
During receivership, a takeover proposal was put forward by Manganese Bronze Holdings PLC, under the chairmanship of Dennis Poore (British entrepreneur, financier and sometime racing driver).
You can read more about Dennis Poore in an article entitled 'Birth of the Norton Commando' on the Links page.
Several years previously, Manganese Bronze had absorbed the Villiers Engineering Company, the Wolverhampton firm that had in the past supplied two-stroke engines for James and Francis Barnett machines.
A new company was established, combining the two concerns, under the name Norton-Villiers Ltd. with the aim of only continuing the Norton marque.
A temporary respite was forthcoming with the new management's bold decision to initiate a new model that, although using an existing Norton twin engine, would deal with its inherent vibration problems.
The resulting Commando model, launched in 1967, won the "Bike of the Year" award for several years running, but the welcomed pickup in sales was short-lived. The compulsory council closure of the Woolwich factory in 1969, and subsequent relocation to new premises at Andover, Hampshire, did not help to stave off the eventual final collapse of the once great company.
|Charles R (Charlie) Collier
|Henry A (Harry) Collier
|D G Golding
|Donald Spencer Heather
|1924 - 1962
|Company Secretary/Man. Dir. (1954-60)
|W A Hildreth
|Samuel Rollason Hogg
|Sir Norman J Hulbert
|1962 - 66
|Chairman (MP) d. 1972
|Sir Alan Hutchings
|J F (Jack) Kelleher
|1937 - 1965
|Joint Managing Director
|Chairman - Manganese Bronze Holdings PLC
|UK Sales Manager/Director
|R S Mays-Smith
|A A (Arthur) Sugar
|Joint Managing Director
|C H Summerton
|Director of Production
|S H Turner
|Company Sec/Sales Mgr (Colliers)