Matchless Motorcycles

Today in Motorcycle History

Matchless Horizontally-Opposed Twin, 1916

Years ahead of its time, Harry Collier's machine had swinging-arm rear suspension and a beautifully designed 732cc HO engine. The ravages of the Great War prevented production for some years and when released it had a more powerful powerplant. Known as the Model H Matchless they remained on sale up until the late 1920's - in the last few years only to special order. They were fitted with a variety of proprietary vee-twin engines including JAP.

HO Twin

Horizontally Opposed Twin

Examples include BMW, Zundapp and Douglas HO Twins have conrods running on a common crank, with one on the exhaust stroke and the other on inlet.

1916 Matchless Model H Flat Twin (prototype)

by Sergio Scalerandi

1916 Matchless Model H Flat Twin (prototipo)

Durante la Primera Guerra Mundial Matchless no recibió contratos del ejército para fabricar motocicletas y como la producción para uso civil era casi nula parece que los hermanos Collier tenían bastante tiempo libre. Es así que diseñan un nuevo modelo, siendo uno de los primeros en tener motor propio (antes siempre usaron los suizos MAG o los ingleses de JAP).

A fines de 1916 Matchless presenta el Modelo H especialmente adecuado para el uso con sidecar. Siguiendo la tendencia de los competidores de la época, el motor era un bicilíndrico “boxer” de válvulas laterales y 732 cc. (70 x 95 mm) colocado longitudinalmente en el cuadro. Tenía un gran volante externo de 12”, los cilindros podían ser removidos sin tener que sacar el motor del cuadro y los pistones eran de aluminio, algo avanzado para esos años.

La transmisión era por cadena con una caja de tres velocidades integrada en una unidad con el motor. Ambos cubrecadenas eran totalmente cerrados. Otra particularidad era el sistema de suspensión trasera con resortes, similar en concepto a lo que se vería unos 40 años más tarde. El sidecar también tenía suspensión y estaba vinculado al cuadro de la moto por unos seis puntos de fijación de tal modo que todo el conjunto se movía al unísono.

El tanque de combustible, con una capacidad de dos galones, era tubular y conformaba la parte superior del cuadro, dándole un aspecto curioso al prototipo. El resto de la moto era más convencional, utilizando magneto CAV, carburador AMAC (colocado en un tubo de admisión extremadamente largo) y dinamo y sistema de iluminación Lucas.

En una prueba realizada por “The Motorcycle” resaltaron que el motor desarrollaba mucha potencia, poseía una amplia aceleración y no tenía vibraciones pero era excesivamente ruidoso.

La fábrica Matchless lo promocionó durante unos meses ofreciéndolo como disponible luego que finalizara la Primer Guerra Mundial, pero a mediados de 1917 y luego de “varios meses de pruebas, los hermanos Collier decidieron que para el uso con sidecar, donde es deseable una buena velocidad promedio y para subida de colinas, es necesario un motor más grande”. Así fue que cuando se reanudó la producción de motocicletas civiles después del conflicto bélico, Matchless desarrolló el Modelo H con motor JAP V twin tal como fue ampliamente conocido en la post guerra y que lanzó en 1920.

During the First World War Matchless did not receive army contracts to manufacture motorcycles and as the production for civilian use was almost null it seems that the Collier brothers had plenty of free time which allowed them to design a new model. The HO twin was one of the first to have its own engine, previous models always using the Swiss MAG or English JAP.

At the end of 1916 Matchless presented the Model H especially suitable for use with sidecar. Following the trend of the competitors of the time, the engine was a two-cylinder "boxer" side valve of 732cc. (70 x 95 mm) placed longitudinally in the frame. It had a large external 12in. wheel, the cylinders could be removed without having to remove the engine from the frame and the pistons were made of aluminium, a rare and advanced feature at the time.

The transmission was by chain with three speed gearbox integral with the motor. Both chain covers were totally closed.

Another peculiarity was the rear suspension system with springs, similar in concept to the plunger system widely used some four decades later. The sidecar also had suspension and was affixed to the frame of the motorcycle at some six points allowing the whole set to move in unison.

The fuel tank, with a capacity of two gallons, was tubular and formed the upper part of the frame, echoing the appearance of their high-profile their racing machines.

The rest of the bike was more conventional, using magneto CAV, carburetor AMAC (placed in an extremely long intake tube) and Dynamo and Lucas lighting system. In a test done by "The Motorcycle" they highlighted that the engine developed a lot of power, had a wide acceleration and had no vibrations but was excessively noisy. The Matchless factory promoted it for a few months offering it as available after the end of the First World War, but in mid-1917 and after "several months of testing, the Collier brothers decided that for use with sidecar, where a good speed is desirable average and for hill climb, you need a bigger engine".

So it was that when the production of civil motorcycles resumed after the war, Matchless developed the Model H with JAP V twin engine as it was widely known in the post war period and launched in 1920.


Matchless 1916 Flat Twin

Method of fixing the carburetter and the valve spring covers.


Matchless 1916 HO Twin Crankshaft

The crankshaft, showing the manner in which the oil ways are drilled.


Matchless 1916 Flat Twin Engine

Details of the power unit of the 5-6 h.p. flat twin Matchless.


Matchless 1916 Gear Case

General arrangement of valve gear and lubricating pump.


The new Matchless sidecar combination

Rear view of the new Matchless sidecar combination, showing the duplex tube joining the sidecar and motor cycle, and causing the two sprung wheels to work in harmony.


Matchless 1916 Flat Twin Clutch Pedal

The rocking form of clutch pedal is retained. Note the oil lead for lubricating the clutch.


Matchless 1916 Flat Twin Sidecar Suspension

Details of the sidecar suspension, the sidecar wheel springing, and the duplex tubes forming the rear member of the frame.


70 mm. X 93 mm., 732 c.c., Three Speeds, all wheels sprung.

FEW members of the motor cycle business deserve greater success than H. Collier and Sons, Ltd. Since 1903 the two sons have devoted their lives to the movement, and, by engaging in many competitions and races, have sought to evolve the perfect motor cycle. Having known both Charlie and Harry Collier for the past thirteen years, we have watched the progress they have made in the design of their machine, and have always admired their devotion to their business, which was also their pleasure. In the early days they engaged almost entirely in speed work on the track, and it was while occupied in this that they obtained their wonderful practical knowledge of the motor cycle engine. This knowledge has stood them in good stead, and has been of undoubted value to them in designing their own engine.

Although for many years they assembled their machines and bought their engines from outside firms, they were by no means ignorant of engine design, and considerably altered for the better many of the engines built up into their machines. Now, for the first time, they have designed their own motor, and a very successful production it is. Being absolutely up-to-date in their ideas, they have evolved a 5-6 h.p. flat twin embodying the very latest practice in motor cycle engine design. Furthermore, being cognisant of the magnificent future for British motor cycles in the Overseas Dominions, they have placed upon the market a well-tried and thoroughly efficient spring frame, while not only has the absence of vibration of the flat twin led them to adopt this form of design (??), but also the fact that the ground clearance is much greater than is possible in the case of the V type engine, the actual clearance being 5 1/2 in. This is a point which will be much appreciated by Overseas customers.

The frame is a total departure from the firm's standard practice. In the first place, the tubular tank of steel, containing two gallons of petrol, forms the top member of the frame, and has a slight upward slope towards the head. The down tube forms a sort of, loop, and acts as a support for the engine. The spring forks have been somewhat improved in design, the lower pair of links being now inside the main members of the forks, which are wide enough to allow the mud-guard to form a perfect sweep from the front of the extension right down to the back.

The system employed in the springing of the rear portion of the frame was clearly indicated in the issue of October 21st, 1915, page 401, and this has only undergone slight improvements in detail. The method adopted is to interpose coil springs between the movable rear forks and the rigid portion supporting the rear carrier. All moving parts, both on the front forks and the rear springing system, are provided with grease cups. These, however, will not be retained. Instead, a grease gun will be supplied, having a screw-on end, and on the dust caps taking the place of the grease cups, being removed, the nozzle of the grease gun may be screwed on to the hollow spindle, and the grease injected. This is much less trouble than the filling of numerous grease cups, one grease gun full being probably sufficient for all the points requiring attention.

The Power Unit.

The question of accessibility has been carefully studied in the design of the new Matchless engine arrangement, which is so carried out that the cylinders may be removed without taking the engine out of the frame. The radiating fins run longitudinally down the cylinders and taper towards' their base. The cylinders are off-set to the amount of one inch. Both valves are horizontal and are arranged at the side in an accessible position, telescopic valve spring cams being employed which exclude all grit from the interior working parts of the valve system. Of the two portions of the valve spring cover the larger screws on to a ring surrounding the base of the tappet guide, and when it is found necessary to replace a valve it is unscrewed and slipped back, thus exposing the end of the valve stem and cotter. The valve gear is exceedingly simple and interesting, only three pinions being employed, while one set of cams actuates both inlet and exhaust valves.

The Lubrication System.

A plunger pump actuated by one of the valve cams delivers the oil to two passages cast in the crank case, which lead direct to the main bearings ; that is to say, the oil enters the bearings at both sides, the crankshaft is hollow and the lubricant is driven under pressure through it and exudes at the big end bearings, all excess returning to the sump. At the base of the sump whence the oil is delivered there is a large gauze which adequately filters it from all impurities. The system has been found to be most successful, and since the oil is delivered under pressure it is bound to reach those parts which need copious lubrication. A window has been let into the crank case just below the filling orifice which indicates the level of the oil in the sump.

Induction and Exhaust.

The arrangement of the carburetter is somewhat unconventional, the inlet pipe forming a complete bow, passing from one cylinder over the top of the timing gear case to the other, but near the top of the arc of the bow there is a branch pipe to which the Amac carburetter is attached. Long experience with motor cycle engines has made the brothers Collier realise the fact that it is always beneficial to take the air in warm if possible, no matter whether pure petrol or a petrol substitute be used; consequently a warm air pipe is fitted to the main air intake

The design of the exhaust pipes is also worthy of note, the pipe from the rear cylinder entering the bottom of the expansion chamber, while the exhaust gases from the front cylinder issue through a short pipe into the top of the expansion chamber, the final exit being through a long pipe on the near side of the machine.

At first the designers were troubled with a fault which is common to flat twins, namely, a "ring" in the flywheel, and this they have corrected in quite an ingenious manner by interposing between the periphery and the flywheel boss a disc of three-ply wood securely bolted up to the face of the flywheel, and this effectually deadens the noise.


The magneto fitted is the C.A.V., the advance spark lever being actually on the contact breaker and within easy reach of the driver. In actual practice it is found that the position of the spark lever requires practically no alteration. At the bottom of the timing case will be noticed the exhaust valve lifter, the crank for which consists of a small pin eccentrically mounted on a disc, which has a piece cut out of the lower portion, so that on the valve being dropped the indentation rests against one of the studs holding on the timing case cover. The exhaust lifter is of the double cam variety, the two cams actuating the exhaust rockers.

An interesting experiment is the fitting of aluminium alloy pistons, which, so far have given every satisfaction.


In the new Matchless the circular type of gear box is retained, but owing to a slight modification of the design of the teeth, which enables the gear wheels to be made lighter, the new gear box is of rather smaller dimensions than previously. It is carried in two plates, extending from the crank case to the bottom bracket lug, and is held in position by two steel straps. To adjust the front chain the two nuts at the ends of these straps are loosened, and by applying a special spanner to two of the lower nuts in the gear box the whole may be rotated, thus enabling any slack to be taken up

It will be noticed that the Lucas dynamo is driven by a chain off the camshaft, and is carried in a bracket suspended from the tank, the chain being neatly enclosed in an aluminium case.

The clutch consists of two steel plates, hardened and ground, engaging with a central plate of cast iron forming part of the sprocket. An arrangement has been made so that, in the event of the machine being used as a solo mount, the clutch may be controlled by means of a Bowden wire from the handle-bar. The lubrication of the clutch is provided for by a branch pipe from the oiling system.

From engine to gear box the transmission is by silent chain, which is, of course, enclosed.

Considerable ingenuity has been displayed in arranging so that the rear chain cover is free to move with the lower and movable portion of the spring frame.

The mudguarding has been particularly well carried out, while an additional mudshield is fitted to the down tube, and is arranged so as not to impede the cooling. This is continued below the power unit, and acts as an efficient undershield.

The Sidecar.

The same system of springing as is employed in the rear of the machine has been adapted to the sidecar, inasmuch as both the wheel and also the sidecar body are sprung on coil springs. The form of staying at the rear of the sidecar frame is interesting. This consists of double tubes attached to the uprights forming a portion of the motor bicycle frame. This arrangement enables both the sidecar wheel and the rear wheel of the motor bicycle to move more or less in unison, therefore the fault present in many combinations in which the sidecar wheel is sprung, namely, that of instability and a tendency to lean when turning corners to the left, is entirely absent. The side-car wheel is also provided with a stand, similar in design to that employed in the front wheel. The sidecar is well sprung and luxuriously upholstered, while at the back thereof is carried the spare wheel and also an efficient luggage carrier. It will be noticed that both the luggage platforms on the new Matchless are on sprung portions of the machine, which is distinctly an advantage.

The Machine on the Road.

We were next taken for a short run in the district round Woolwich, which is decidedly hilly. The first turning to the right past the works brought us on to quite an appreciable gradient, which the engine took comfortably on top speed, mounting up gradually until we reached Woolwich Common. We noticed that the sidecar was exceedingly well sprung, though Mr. Harry Collier assured us that he was not satisfied as to this point, affirming that the rider was more comfortable on the machine than in the side-car. The roads were certainly rough in this locality, and personally we could find no fault whatsoever. The engine developed plenty of power, but seemed a trifle noisy, a fault which Mr. Collier readily acknowledged. Hitherto his efforts had been to obtain the maximum power for the engine, and he admitted that it required still further taming down both as regards the noise of the engine and of the exhaust, though with the latter little fault could be found.

On Woolwich Common we took control of the machine and drove for some considerable distance. Having driven a 1915 Matchless not long previously we soon became accustomed to the driving of the new mount. The engine possessed an ample degree of acceleration and was quite free from vibration, the clutch took up. the load sweetly, and the gears went into engagement without a sound. The comfort of the spring frame was most noticeable on the rough road across the Common, which eventually brought us into Shooters Hill. A considerable amount of traffic was met, but the engine proved itself flexible, and we felt quite at home in negotiating it. On reaching Shooters Hill Road we found the surface distinctly good, though a little wavy in places, but the machine rode over the waves with an exhilarating and swinging motion which was delightfully comfortable. Having slowed up for the cross-roads at the foot of the hill we were practically brought to a complete standstill through a boy who saw fit to dismount from his bicycle and hold a conversation with a carter in the middle of the road. This necessitated a change down to second and reduced the speed of the machine to about four miles an hour. On opening the throttle it immediately picked up and the top was engaged, but not before we were well on to the gradient. However, the engine rapidly accelerated on top until just near the crest of the hill, passing over the summit still in top speed and with the engine not labouring in the slightest degree. We noticed that considerable improvement has been made in the design of the handle-bars, these being much wider than on the previous model. Altogether, the run on the new Matchless was a delightful experience, and we greatly look forward to a closer acquaintance with this machine on the road at no very distant date.

It must be distinctly understood that Messrs. Collier and Sons are not in a position to deliver any machines. This is merely the prototype of their post-war model, which they hope to deliver to the public very shortly after the cessation of hostilities.

The Motor Cycle, November 16th, 1916. pp 429-432

Sources: The Motor Cycle, Bob McGrath (Australia), Sergio Scaliandri (Argentina).