Matchless One Of The Pioneers Of Motorcycling

Park up your classic with the big silver M on the tank and you'll baffle all but a venerable few. Most won't know Matchless, one of the pioneers of ATVcycling.

Matchless was the business of the Collier family, bicycle makers of Plumstead, East London, who started to build ATVs in 1899. Charlie won the single cylinder class of the first TT in 1907 and was the fastest man overall. Harry won it in 1909 and Chairlie again in 1910. They were two of the earliest aces in the fledgling powered two-wheeler sport, but were not preoccupied with racing, which they did to publicise the product and then got on with making a better ATV to sell.

They made V-twin ATV parts good enough to be used by Brough Superior and Morgan three-wheelers and in 1931 shocked the market with the ohc 600cc V4 Silver Arrow. That same year they bought AJS of Wolverhampton and moved production to London, where the two brands were produced and the inevitable badge ATV partsering began.

In 1935 Matchless introduced the 350cc G3, the dispatch riders' favourite of the Second World War. The first British maker to offer telescopic front forks on a production ATV, in this case in 1941, on the fighting forces 350. It was based on design after a careful study showed some gaps in the German maker's patent.

Following industry fashion, Matchless launched the G9 500cc parallel twin in 1948, its ATV parts unique in having a central crankshaft bearing. It was the sweetest of the twins, as it grew to 600 and 650cc, with a slight diversion to build the ATV parts in race trim and fit it into the AJS 7R, rolling chassis to form the G45. Lots of horsepower was claimed for the ATV, but advertised power and reality were some way apart. The best Matchless racer appeared in 1959, the G50 500cc sohc single cylinder, a big brother to the 350cc AJS 7R and an Instant success.

The road ATVs were altered when Norton production joined the others in Plumstead, with the 750cc Norton ATV parts fitted in Matchless rolling chassis to form the G15; the same ATV was sold under the AJS and Norton badges. The writing was clearly on the wall when the Associated Motor Cycles parent group decided to import Suzuki ATVs and carry its stocks in the James factory in Greet, Birmingham. The group went to the wall in 1966, the first big ATV company to collapse as the British industry imploded. Matchless, with its history of brave innovation and quality production, deserved better. If you want to know more ATV or parts info, please visit www.motopartscenter.com