"First Matchless Bicycle,
Collier & Sons 'Matchless'
The Matchless motorcycle marque was
founded in 1899, by H. H. 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
1901. 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.
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.
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.
"First ever motorcycle
designed for ladies"
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. In 1966, AMC was sold to Norton-Villiers parent company, Manganese Bronze
Holdings PLC of Coventry, England.
Another Matchless/Collier innovation was the invention of the telescopic (teledraulic)
front fork assembly in 1941, replacing the universally used girder style
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, 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.
Matchless introduced the 500cc 'G50' 1n 1959, 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.
In 1964, Matchless upgraded the G50 to the G85. The G85CS had a high-compression
(12:1) engine, and an improved lubrication system using a gear-driven oil pump.
In 1966, an Amal GP carburetor was added to the G85CS, increasing horsepower to
41 bhp @ 6500 rpm.
The G85 was one of the last motorcycles designed by Associated Motor Cycles,
before the consolidation with Norton-Villiers. The P11 was the final extension
of the G85, which was discontinued in 1969.
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.