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Matchless Jackets - British Motorcycling Heritage

Updated on May 31, 2013

Matchless Motorcycles - A little history

In 1899 a small British motor cycling company was born to Henry Herbert Collier and his two sons, Charlie and Harry, they named this company Matchless and this is the story of the a company that grew and fell and that has now been reborn like a phoenix from the flames.

Production first started after only two years of the company being born and in 1901 Matchless bikes started to roll off the small production line with an M on the side of the tank which was to become their defining trademark in the years to come.

At first they did not produce their own engines with most of them being made by JAP but this did not stop them from winning the TT in 1907 with Charlie Collier on the back of the bike. This bike saw early use of the newly invented swing arm suspensions at the rear, which is something that is now used on most bikes.

Two years later in 1909 Harry took the title and then Charlie again the year after, this really set the stage for Matchless and by 1912 they were producing their own engines making them a Motorcycling company in their own rights.

Before and after the First World War

Matchless's early success quickly came to a halt at the start of World War One as being a new company they were not given a the contract to make the bikes for the British Army.

When the war ended in in 1919 the company was quick to start back up and they started to produce their first V-twin side cars, which were a triumph from the start, these engine were produced in a few different sizes from 496 cc to 998 cc, so there was one available no matter what you power needs were.

By 1926 the farther and the founding member of the company, Henry Collier had past away leaving his three sons, Charlie and Harry had now been joined by there younger brother Bert, to run the company. They decided to make the business limited in 1928 to try and secure it for the future.

Bert made a instant impact by designing the very futuristic Silver Hawk V-four engine, which became instantly popular, and continued to take charge of the designing until the beginning of the Second World War.

Matchless - The Second World War

Just before the Second World War and full of confidence, Matchless bought AJS which was another British biking company and in the late thirties they briefly acquired Sunbeam before selling it on to BSA.

By this time Matchless were supplying engines for the famous Morgan three wheeler and their expansion plans were going full steam ahead and in 1938 a AMC was born as parent company to Matchless and AJS given them the power to continue their growing empire.

In 1939 the Second World War started and this time production did not stop at the at the factory, Matchless got the contract to supply the British Armed Forces with their G3 and G3L models, this was a huge boost for the company ans they soon acquired Norton Motorcycles as well as a couple of other smaller companies.

Matchless - continues

Matchless continued to produce and innovate in the world of motorcycling through out the 50's and 60's, one of their most well know inventions was the telescopic front forks which revolutionised motor bike suspensions and became a integral part of most motorcycles.

But by the time the end of the 60's came AMC and subsequently Matchless started to see a decline in sales, this was party due to the rise in cheaper imports and economic factors. The companies were slowly sold off and most of the time and effort went in to the Norton brand.

This was a sad day for British Motorcycling and the end of an era.

Key Matchless Motorcycles

Matchless/AJS vertical twin
650 cc
Matchless G15
500 cc
Matchless Type H
1000 cc

The return in 2013

Bringing the story up to date: In 2013 the Malenotti brother of Belstaff fame decided that they would buy the old company and restart it to provide motorcycling jacket and casual wear using the Matchless branding.

This is a move that has been much heralded by the motorcycling community as the brother have confirmed that they will producing bikes in the next few years. The brother are well know in the motorcycling world having owned Belstaff for many years and they were always seen to do a great job in trying to keep British heritage alive.

By starting Matchless they have a clean slate on which to build a brand and a great heritage to fall back on. It is great to see British industry being invested in and it will give the whole country a boost.

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The new Matchless company

The new company aims to provide jackets that as well as looking great on they can also be used on the motorbike with confidence that it will protect you if you fall. They are going to to be using British leathers and fabric but they have choose to produce them in Italy.

This should turn out to be a great balance and as they have enlisted the talents of Kate Moss they seem to have started with their best foot forward, using only the best.

The Brothers also have plenty of friends state side to and they hope to use some of those connections to help build the brands profile, the brothers are the people that put a Belstaff jacket on the back of Will Smith in I am legend.

The pre season selling has gone really well for them and the have managed to land accounts at some of the best doors in the land, it won't be to long before they are taking up a lot of rail space in the finest of retailers.

The bikes will return

Even though the bikes have been missing off of the production line for over fifty years the new owners of the company have promised that they will be producing new bikes as soon as the clothing line is up and running.

This is great news for all those enthusiasts out there.


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    • liamhubpages profile image

      liamhubpages 4 years ago

      Great job on this hub, loved reading it. I just love motorcycles, harley, leather and of course leathermen!