Henry Collier was a designer, entrepreneur and winning rider. Together with his sons, Charlie and Harry, in 1899 he founded Matchless Motorcycles, which went on to become the largest motorcycle manufacturer in England. In 1907 Charlie Collier rode a Matchless to victory in the first ever Tourist Trophy, the legendary motorcycle race that still takes place on the Isle of Man, his brother Harry then went on to lift the trophy again in 1909 and once more in 1910.
With the rise of motorcycling, bolstered by great commercial success, Matchless acquired other major brands such as: AJS, Sunbeam, Indian and Norton, to form the 1938 brand AMC (Associated Motorcycles Company), which then went on to become the leader in the global motorcycle market.
In the late 20’s Matchless was at the forefront of post-war technology, in particular in relation to the famous “Model X”, launched in 1929 with a pioneering V-twin 990 cc engine.
Consequentially, Matchless developed a V-engine with overhead valves, which was considered the most innovative engine of that period and was the engine of choice in prestigious models by both Brough Superior and Morgan.
During the Second World War, the Matchless G3L was adopted by the Allied Forces which lead to over 80,000 units being produced.
After World War II Matchless became the undisputed leader in single-cylinder engines. The G3 and various versions of the G80 reached huge commercial success, while the ‘G50 Racing’ became the more competitive bike for private racers and brought many successes with legendary riders such as Mike Hailwood, Jack Findlay, Peter Williams, Phil Read, Sammy Miller and many others.
The parallel twin cylinders, used in both Matchless and Norton models, is another innovative piece of craftsmanship which was developed and produced in the famous factory located in Plumstead Road, London.
The Collier brothers were visionary entrepreneurs. In fact, Matchless was the first manufacturer to take care of rider’s safety, creating a department to design protective clothing for motorcyclists, which was then tested by the best riders of that era. From the ‘20s to ‘40s Matchless developed great expertise in leather, especially for top riders to wear in races. Even in the postwar period, the company developed off-road clothing brought in and tested by the great Malcolm Smith, a true icon in endurance and motocross.
There are various Matchless advertising pages from the 40s, which ahead of their time, emphasised the combination of motorcycling and elegance. Famous pilots of all specialties, as well as every day motorcycle enthusiasts in fact, chose Matchless for the innovative combination of design, performance, safety and elegance.
The Collier brothers were farsighted and were the first to create a lifestyle around the idea of motorcycle.