Back To:   |  Vintage Motorcycles   |  Sport & Racing Motorcycles   |  Custom Motorcycles

Vintage Motorcycles: Matchless Motorcycles

Vintage Matchless Motorcycles

Collier & Sons 'Matchless' Motorcycle History

All Web Site Content - Copyright © 2009

The Matchless motorcycle marque was founded in 1899, by Henry Herbert (HH) Collier and his three sons Bert, Charlie, and Harry Collier in the London's Greenwich Borough district of Plumstead. Collier & Sons began as a bicycle manufacturer in the late 1800s, and was one of the first British motorcycle manufacturers.

The first Matchless single-cylinder motorcycle rolled off the assembly line in late 1901. The earliest models used a variety of engines including the ubiquitous de Dion-Bouton single. In 1905 Matchless began manufacturing motorcycles using a J.A. Prestwich V-Twin engine, and by 1912 the company was producing its first complete in-house machine. For the next two decades, Matchless built motorcycles in single-cylinder and V-Twin configurations ranging from 500cc to 1000cc.

Although patriarch, and company founder, HH Collier died in 1926, the company would go to become one of the most successful motorcycle marques in England.

Matchless Silver Hawk, Silver Arrow, & Sports

After some of Charlie R Collier's notable Matchless successes on the TT circuit, the popularity of Matchless steadily increased. Some of the more popular models were the 400cc 'Silver Arrow' V-Twin, which was introduced in 1930.

1934 Matchless D80 Sports 500
1934 Matchless D80 'Sports' 500

In 1931, Bert Collier designed and built a narrow-angled 593cc V-Four called the 'Silver Hawk.' The bold engine design was quite sophisticated for the time, and the Silver Hawk would be the precursor to the AJS 'Vee 4' several years later.

Matchless D80 Sports 500cc Sloper Single
Matchless D80 Sports 500cc 'Sloper' Single

Matchless Purchases AJS

Matchless owner Collier & Sons purchased AJS Motorcycles in 1931, after the company declared bankruptcy. The 'AJS' name and motorcycle assets were purchased by Collier & Sons, owners of the 'Matchless' motorcycle company, and the AJS car division was sold to Crossley Motors in Manchester. Collier & Sons also built engines for the three-wheeled Morgans starting in the early 1930s.

Charlie and Harry Collier formed 'Associated Motor Cycles' (AMC) in 1938, and Matchless (AMC) continued to build motorcycles under the AJS name through the 1960s. AMC was not a manufacturer per se, but the parent company of a collection of motorcycle manufacturers which included AJS, Matchless, Norton, James, Francis-Barnett, Sunbeam and others.

Another Matchless/Collier innovation was the invention of the telescopic (teledraulic) front fork assembly in 1941, replacing the universally used girder style suspension.

In 1949, Matchless introduced its first vertical-twin engine, which was manufactured in 500cc, 600cc, and 650cc versions. The Matchless vertical-twin (G45) was also used in an AJS (7R) chassis, and both marques utilized these engines through the late 1950s.

Matchless 'G' Series G50, G80, G85, & P11

During the 1950s, Matchless built a line of popular single-cylinder bikes called the 'Clubman,' which used 350cc to 500cc engines. By the late 1950s, Matchless was branching out into the smaller-displacement field, with a line of 250cc and 350cc 'G' series motorcycles. The 500cc G80 was introduced in 1946, and had a 498cc single-cylinder pushrod engine. The G80 was upgraded to the G80S in 1949, and featured a swing-arm rear suspension.

Matchless G3C Trials 500
1960 Matchless G3C Trials 500

The 650cc Matchless G12 was developed in 1958, designed by Phil Walker to compete in the U.S. market. In 1959, the G12 was redesigned as the De Luxe with a new full cradle tubular duplex frame and a new cylinder head. The G12 CSR designation officially stood for Competition/Sport/Road but it was dubbed the "Coffee Shop Racer" by its rivals. [9]

Matchless introduced the 500cc G50 1n 1959, a larger-displacement version of the 350 cc AJS "Boy Racer." The G50 was designed to compete against the 500cc Manx Norton in the Grand Prix, but by this point both Norton and Matchless/AJS were facing stiff competition from Italian manufacturers like MV Agusta.

Matchless G85 500
1966 Matchless G85 500

The Matchless G80CS was a 500cc off-road model which came with lighting for road use. The higher-performance G85 was a pure desert racer with a 12:1 compression ratio and improved bottom end. The G85CS was further tuned for 1966, receiving a new piston which provided a 12.5:1 compression ratio. [10]

1966 Matchless G85CS 500cc Single

In 1966, AMC was sold to Norton-Villiers parent company, Manganese Bronze Holdings PLC of Coventry, England. By 1974, Norton-Villers also reached the end of its financial rope, and a bailout from the British government formed NVT (Norton-Villiers-Triumph) from the failed companies. NVT was also short-lived, going into receivership in late 1974.

Vintage Matchless Links

1. AJS Spares

2. AJS and Matchless Owners Club

3. Matchless G85CS & Rickman G85

4. AJS & Matchless Collection Manuals & Parts Lists

5. Classic Motorcycles Directory

6. AJS Motorcycles

7. Matchless Fiberglass Replica Parts

8. Isle of Man TT & Matchless

9. Matchless G12

10. Matchless History

Back To: Vintage Motorcycle Photos

Copyright © 2007 All rights reserved.
Books on Vintage British Classic Motorcycles
Books on Norton Motorcycles
Norton-The Racing Story
Books on Vintage Motorcycles