1956 Matchless 498cc G45 Racing Motorcycle Frame no. R-T-C 18 3 56 Engine no. G45 301 (see text)
Lot 246
1956 Matchless 498cc G45 Racing Motorcycle
Frame no. R-T-C 18 3 56 Engine no. G45 301 (see text)
Sold for £32,200 (US$ 54,913) inc. premium
Lot Details
1956 Matchless 498cc G45 Racing Motorcycle
Frame no. R-T-C 18 3 56
Engine no. G45 301 (see text)
One of the oldest of British motorcycle manufacturers, Matchless pursued a vigorous competition policy in its early years, founder's son Charlie Collier winning the inaugural Isle of Man TT (single-cylinder) race of 1907 and repeating the feat in 1910, brother Harry having brought home the honours in 1909. However, by the 1930s Matchless had ceased to be thought of as a racing marque and after WW2 the firm, by now reconstituted as Associated Motor Cycles having acquired AJS, chose the latter's badge for its competition machines. In this context the arrival of a new Matchless racing motorcycle in 1951 caused something of a stir.

The prototype of what would become the G45 first appeared at the '51 Manx Grand Prix with Robin Sherry in the saddle, eventually finishing 4th after a promising debut. In fact the machine was not an entirely new design but essentially a hybrid comprised of AJS 7R-based cycle parts into which was installed a tuned Matchless G9 roadster engine. The engine's bottom-end remained more-or-less stock G9 and retained AMC's unique centre-bearing crankshaft, but above the crankcase there was a new aluminium-alloy cylinder barrel and 'head, the latter sporting distinctively finned exhaust rocker boxes. Fuel was supplied by a single Amal TT carburettor and exhausted via short, megaphone-ended pipes.

In 1952 the prototype G45 garnered much valuable publicity and not a little controversy when Derek Farrant - later an AJS works rider on both Porcupine and 7R3 - won the Senior Manx Grand Prix after leading from start to finish. Strictly speaking, a works prototype had no business running in an event for amateurs riding over-the-counter machines, but AMC quickly announced that a production G45 would be available for 1953. Although still based on that of the G9, the production version's engine incorporated a different camshaft, which opened the valves via roller-ended followers, and breathed via a pair of Amal GP carburettors mounted either side of a central float chamber. Claimed power output was 48bhp at 7,200rpm, increasing on later models to 54bhp at 7,400 revs.

Apart from revised valve gear and the eventual adoption of a forged crankshaft, the G45 changed little over the course of its life and what developments there were did not keep pace with the opposition. At the end of the 1954 season, AMC announced a cutback in its racing programme, which meant the end for the Porcupine and the 7R3, though the G45 and 7R continued to be developed and raced. Production of the G45 ceased in 1957 after around 80 machines had been built, of which approximately half are believed to survive worldwide today. Before then, the works team's best result at international level with the G45 had been Rod Coleman's 2nd place in the 1954 Ulster Grand Prix.

This rare Matchless G45 was commissioned in early 1956, its number showing it to be the first of a dozen or so 'Mark 3' models produced before production ceased. It was exported new to a dealer in Salisbury, Rhodesia and its known history begins in late 1959 when policeman Mike Millmay discovered it derelict in a street behind the same dealer's and bought it for £80. Mike campaigned the G45 with considerable success in South Africa and Rhodesia/Zimbabwe for a decade or more, securing race and championship wins. During this time he bought another Mark 3 G45 and any spares he came across, but had to leave most of it behind when he returned to the UK in 1978. It was then that the current owner bought '301' from Mike Millmay together with any spares he had brought with him. Since then, riders Colin Pearson, Simon Hodder and (since 1986) Roger Ashby have raced the Matchless whenever spares availability has allowed. The machine has raced all over the UK, frequently being the only G45 in use in Europe and sometimes the world. It is also the last Matchless G45 to compete in and finish the Manx Grand Prix (in 1992).

Modifications include an additional frame tube between the saddle nose and swinging arm pivot; carried out by Mike Millmay, presumably to improve handling, this modification necessitated a new oil tank. To reduce the potential for oil leaks from the cylinder head and barrels, Mike Millmay took an oil supply from the filter gallery directly into each of the rocker shafts. The original 19" rims were replaced with 18" during the late 1970s when the supply of good quality 19" racing tyres dried up, while the original carburettors were replaced with Amal GP3 type during the machine's racing career in the UK.

The original gearbox and clutch where damaged while competing in the Manx GP. A Quaife five-speed gearbox has been fitted as a replacement. (The original damaged gearbox is included in the sale). The drive side engine case was damaged c.1993 on the Isle of Man and replaced with a new/un-numbered replacement.

The Matchless was restored in 2000 but as far as is known the frame, engine components, magneto, forks and wheel hubs are original to it. Recent work to the engine includes regrinding the crankshaft, fitting new standard size pistons, and renewing the valves and valve springs. We are advised that the engine runs well and pulls strongly.

Offered with sundry restoration invoices, 1992 MGP Senior Race results sheet and CRMC Machine Registration certificate, this Matchless G45 represents a rare opportunity to acquire one of the most beautiful and desirable British racing motorcycles ever made.

Saleroom notices

  • In addition to the Frame number quoted in the catalogue there is a second identification number (301) on the nearside bottom of the headstock.
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