Monday, May 20, 2013

Matchless, a retrospective.

Since I'm away for a few days, in the meantime I thought I'd keep you busy with a look back at our beloved family Matchless, an ex AFS, 1960 G3.

Back in the days before the Internet, electricity and written word, my dad was walking around in Rome when he spotted a motorcycle wasting away at the end of a secluded driveway. Drawn by the archetypal nature of this motorcycle in particular, he asked around and tracked down the guy who had owned it, a real wise guy who tried to make it like the bike would start with a couple of kicks. Judge for yourselves, and bear in mind you can't see the holed piston in the period photos from waaay back. (couple of kicks my a**)

After a total rebuild, the Matchless gave decades of sweet running and reliable service, earning a reputation for being a truly lovely machine, a gentleman's motorcycle with the ability to evoke one of the purest forms of what motorcycles are all about.

"So say we all!"
At one point, when I was "in between bikes" I actually used it for 200 days in a row and the only thing that stopped me was a small electrical fire, the inevitable conclusion of a wiring loom that was, at that point, more patches than actual wiring.
Years later, on the way back from a rally, it lost all power and left us stranded. It was probably another electrical fault but this time we decided that it was time for another rebuild: in the three decades since the first rebuild, the bike had taken on more than just a patina and it deserved better. At first it was put at the back of the shed on a makeshift lift and gradually taken apart:

 Here are some beautiful details of the lugged construction of the frame:

One of the things that sorely needed a rebuild was the clutch, although if truth be told it was still working rather well...

That black gunk you see is what was left of the rubber shock absorbers.
Although this was a frame-up restoration, we chose to keep the paint on the frame as it was. As originally supplied to the AFS, the bike was in green livery and it was subsequently painted black in the more familiar civilian trim. Whoever did that, painted over the original paint, which we felt should be preserved. You can still see it in certain parts of the bike.

The bottom end and the gearbox were fine and didn't need to be disturbed. That's quality right there, half a century and still going strong. What's your smartphone going to be like in 50 years?

 As for the top end, the cylinder looked a little glazed and required just a hint of honing. New rings on the piston (strangely hard to come by!) and generally decoking where needed.

But before we get to the actual rebuild, it's worth mentioning that dad built an entire wooden workshop just for the occasion. Once that was finished (complete with hydraulic lift, lighting, heating, etc.) the Matchless was meticulously put back together.

  Here you can see some of the original green paint I was mentioning.

Great job, dad.

And to wrap up, here's a little throwback from July 6, 1963, with our very Matchless in service on a convoy (photos courtesy of the AFS Matchless Motorcycle Register):

XYM627, far left


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