The first Matchless motorcycle was made in 1899, and production began in 1901. Matchless was the trading name of Collier & Sons, the father Henry Herbert Collier and his sons Charlie and Harry.
The Matchless tank badge was a winged "M". Like many motorcycle manufacturers of the time, they had started as bicycle manufacturers.
They produced a JAP V-twin powered bike in 1905, with one of the earliest swing-arm rear suspensions, coupled with leading-link front forks.
Charlie won the inaugural TT singles race in 1907 at an average speed of 38.21 mph in a time of 4 hours 8 minutes 8 seconds. Harry did not finish in 1907, but won in 1909
and Charlie won again in 1910, bringing Matchless motorcycles to the attention of the public. Matchless made mostly singles, but they also made V-twins from 496 cc to 998 cc. They made their own engines from 1912 on.
At the 1912 Olympia Motor Cycle and Cycle Car show Matchless showed a V-twin powered cycle car, with two wheels at the front and a single drive wheel at the rear.
Unusually the drive was by shaft and bevel gear. The frame was of pressed steel channel. It was priced at 100 guineas.
Matchless was not given a contract to make motorcycles for the army during the First World War.
Peacetime production resumed in 1919, concentrating at first on V-twins for sidecar use, leaving singles until 1923. In 1926 Henry Collier died, and by 1928 Matchless was a limited company.
In 1930 they launched a narrow-angle 400 cc V-twin called the Silver Arrow, designed by Charlie. The Silver Arrow, launched in 1929, was a side-valve v-twin with 54 x 86mm dimensions and 394 cc.
The two cylinders were set at 18 degrees within a single casting under a single head. The result looked odd, rather like a single that was too long, and with the exhaust emerging from the manifold at its right corner
and the carburettor in the middle of the block on the left, the odd appearance was accentuated,and in 1930 they launched an (advanced for the time) 593 cc OHC V-four, the Silver Hawk.
About 60 out of the 500 made survive, The Hawk was designed by youngest brother Bert, who was now active in the company, and he was responsible for design right up to the war.
1934 Morgan Super Sports with Matchless engine
In 1931 Matchless bought AJS from the Stevens brothers. Matchless bought Sunbeam in the late thirties, but Sunbeam was sold to BSA in 1943.
After that the only "true" AJS models, as far as AJS enthusiasts were concerned, were the racing 7Rs, Porcupines and the pre-war AJS Four. The shared models were considered by some AJS fans to be only badge-engineered Matchless models. In 1935 the Matchless/AJS hairpin valve springs made their first appearance. Matchless supplied engines for the V-twin versions of the Morgan three-wheeler from 1933 until Morgan production was halted by the outbreak of World War II in 1939. From 1935 on they were Morgan's exclusive supplier of V-twin engines. A dozen surviving unused engines were still in storage at the Morgan works in 1946 and were used to build a final batch of V-Twin trikes for a Morgan dealer in Australia. Matchless also supplied engines after 1935 to 1940 to the Brough Superior works. These engines were made to the specifications of Brough Superior and are not identical to similar engines used in Matchless motorcycles. The Brough Superior engines used a fork and blade rod configuration, cams ground to different specification, and larger ports in the cylinders or heads
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