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A legend which has come back to life

by Stefano McRegina
May 2nd, 2014

A genuine motorbike legend which is preparing to make its comeback on the international stage thanks to the intuition and creativity of Franco Malenotti, an entrepreneurial Italian businessman who recently took over the legendary Matchless brand which produced some of the most famous motorcycles ever made in England from its factories just outside London from 1899 to 1967.

Founded by the Collier family who also chose its unmistakeable winged M symbol, Matchless came to prominence at the beginning of the twentieth century as a result of three great victories by the Collier brothers in the Isle of Man’s Tourist Trophy in its first year in 1907 and then in 1909 and 1910.

The initial sales success of this British owned company was brought to a brusque halt by the First World War and then, after the death of its founder H.H. Collier in 1928, it got up to full speed again in 1930 with the launch of its famous V twin engine, 400 cmc called the Silver Arrow and the sophisticated 4 cylinder 593 cmc Silver Hawk which came out the following year. It was precisely after its excellent financial results that Matchless expanded in 1938 to create the AMC Group (Associated Motor Cycles), a company which brought together brands such as Matchless, AJS, Sunbeam and, later on, the already legendary Norton.

To give you an idea of the new-born Group’s capacity, during the war it reached a production figure of 80,000 motorcycles for the armed forces, mainly 350 cmc single cylinder bikes called G3 which were the forerunners to Matchless’s most successful model, the G80 500 cmc single cylinder which also won a number of sporting prizes for the company. Sporting success also arrived with the G50 single cylinder which followed in the illustrious footsteps of the legendary Norton Manx and won three prestigious second places (1962, 63 and 68) in the 500 world championships with drivers Shepherd and Findlay and an equally glorious third place with mythical Phil Read in 1964.

The apex of the company’s success, however, coincided with the beginning of its inexorable and rapid decline which saw Associated Motor Cycles obliged, as early as 1962, to combine production of the Matchless and Norton brands with the first concentrating on producing its famous single cylinders and the second the V-twin classics. The many technical problems which led to the failure of the G85 prompted the heads of this British company to launch a completely renewed version in 1966 called P11 750 which was also the last model produced by Matchless which, before finally closing down, continued to produce its last bikes on a reduced scale until 1969.

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