Matchless Motorcycles

Matchless Motorcycles of the 1920s

A report on the 1924 Motor Cycle Show in Motor Sport Magazine reads, in part:

MATCHLESS. Stand 52.

The most interesting of the many interesting models on this stand is the new 347 all-weather machine. The whole of the mechanism is entirely enclosed in a simple and efficient manner. A couple of wings have been attached to the leg guards which are already a familiar feature of Matchless touring models, and these, with a couple of extra side shields, are all that is necessary. Lubrication of all 1925 Matchless engines is now by mechanically operated pump. A new silencer has been introduced, and is claimed to be remarkably efficient. Larger brakes and hubs have been fitted to the overhead camshaft model, while the chief alteration to the 591 c.c. single-cylinder machine is the fitting of a decompressor to the engine.

H. Collier & Sons, Ltd., 44, Plumstead Road, London, S.E. 18.

Excerpt from Reports on sports machines of 1926 in Motor Sport Magazine (penned in 1949)

We next find our tester out with a 990-c.c. V-twin M.3.S. Matchless sports combination. In spite of the engine's size it started with a couple of prods on cold mornings, thanks to the efficiency of the Lucas magdyno and a well-placed kick-starter with good return spring. The Matchless was quiet and handy with its re-designed shorter-wheelbase frame, while the sprung front forks functioned well. The new bulbous nickle-cum-black tank held two gallons of petrol and half a gallon of oil.

The chain-guards and mud-guards kept down mud and the rear brake worked very well, but the front brake was none too powerful. Comfort was of a high order, saddle and footrests providing a good riding position, to which knee grips contributed, while the sports-type bars with r.h. twist grips and levers for air and spark were very acceptable. The steering damper cut out any steering wobble and the 26 in. by 3-in. Dunlop cord tyres and sports-type Terry saddle completed the comforts offered to the Matchless rider.

The Matchless sports sidecar, too, was comfortable and smart. It was remarked that ladies might like the addition of a sidecar step, "unless the fashion of abbreviated skirts is to continue" (which it was but isn't, so to speak!). On gear-ratios of 7.1, 4.7 and 3.7 to 1 in the Sturmey-Archer box the outfit was thought a trifle too high geared in top, for sidecar work in town, although 2nd was a useful gear. With sidecar occupied, speed was estimated to be 65-68 m.p.h., and 59 could be held all day. Acceleration was good, gearchanging the acme of simplicity and "Mr. Lucas" made night as day, while fuel consumption came out at 50 m.p.g. The price, by the way, was £80 solo, or £97 10s. mit chair."

Reports on Sports Machines of 1927 in Motor Sport Magazine


A Model V Matchless, with a light sporting sidecar, came up for test next and the tester confessed to early prejudice because the only previous machine of this make he had ridden was an ancient 5-h.p. single-geared model. The Model V was different! It turned out to be a "works " hack in good condition and had already won "golds" in the "Land's End" and "Edinburgh." Before handing it over, Plumstead demonstrated how this particular example of its handiwork would go up a 1-in-6 hill, drop to 20 m.p.h. for a corner, and accelerate to 35 m.p.h. at the summit, all in top gear with no suggestion of distress. This implied a fluffy, low-compression engine pulling a low gear. Wrong again - the Matchless had a 6.6-to-1 compression-ratio and a 5.4-to-1 top gear.

Taking the saddle, our tester found considerable restraint necessary on left-hand corners, until a passenger was found for the narrow and light sidecar, after which steering was light and certain. In those days Motor Sport believed in having its fill of any machine submitted to it (we thought we must be getting old, until we remembered that in those days no fiddling scraps of paper governed the extent of one's motoring) and the Matchless was entered for the South Midlands Championship Trial on the Saturday, another machine was ridden in a grasstrack race on the Sunday afternoon, and the Matchless was then loaded-up and ridden hard to Liverpool in order to catch the 1 a.m. boat to Douglas for the T.T.

In the trial, every hill was climbed clean and the Model V survived some terrible bumps and crashes over bad going in the Chilterns, and it was one of four sidecar machines to qualify for a second-class award, having stopped, momentarily, in a long water-splash when the rear wheel spun and sprayed the carburetter - the engine did not actually stop. Out of 180 entries, only six sidecars gained awards and both the first-class award winners were the subject of protests, while over 60 finishers failed to gain any award.

On the 190-mile run to Liverpool, three persons and their luggage were put on it after one accompanying machine had broken down after 60 miles. The distance was covered in eight hours (about 24 m.p.h. average) and the boat caught with three minutes to spare. In spite of the load, 60 m.p.h. was held for hour after hour with no overheating. Unfortunately, until the taper needle in the B. & B. carburetter was lowered, fuel consumption was as heavy as 35 m.p.g., thereafter improved to approximately 60 m.p.g.

Some hectic riding over the T.T. course was a feature of the I.O.M. holiday, the Matchless holding a steady 40 m.p.h. up the Mountain, in top or second gear according to the gradient, while down the other side over 70 m.p.h. was achieved, between Craig-ny-Baa and Hilberry, using most of the road after striking the bumps! After this performance a match placed on the exhaust port refused to ignite; 65 m.p.h. was judged to be the flat-out level-road speed.

On the homeward journey, still with passenger and luggage, the 37 miles of by no means smooth, straight or level going from Atherstone to Weedon occupied exactly 50 minutes. A new heavy cord back tyre was completely worn out in a week.

The engine certainly gave plenty of power - 22 1/2 b.h.p. was claimed at 4,800 r.p.m. - and a 7.6-to-1 piston was available for those who desired it. Reliability, mechanical silence and the Sturmey-Archer gearbox all earned full marks; oil consumption was low and the brakes were excellent, save that they required far too much adjustment - the foot-brake went back one whole serration (45 deg.) after a week's riding. The back wheel suffered a few broken spokes. This combination was priced at £77 and the solo weighed only 260 lb. and cost £62 10s."


Phil Aynsley Photography
Phil Aynsley Photography
Thousands of quality photographs featuring Ducati, Moto Guzzi, MV Agusta and numerous other marques. An index to many of the amazing galleries on his site is available here:
Phil Aynsley's Motorcycle Photos