1916/17 Matchless-Vickers 8B2/M Russian Military Motorcycle Combination Frame no. 557M Engine no. M63674

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Lot 317
1916/17 Matchless-Vickers 8B2/M Russian Military Motorcycle Combination
Registration no. FX 4289 Frame no. 557M Engine no. M63674

Sold for £ 46,000 (US$ 60,039) inc. premium
1916/17 Matchless-Vickers 8B2/M Russian Military Motorcycle Combination
Registration no. FX 4289
Frame no. 557M
Engine no. M63674
'Powerful, Reliable, Silent and Distinctive - The Combination you will Select After the War.' – Matchless.

Following the outbreak of The Great War in August 1914, the British Army's demand for motorcycles for despatch and other purposes increased exponentially. The rationale of standardisation saw the majority of solo machines sourced from Douglas and Triumph, while Clyno supplied most of the Motor Machine Gun Corps' outfits, with contributions from Scott and P&M. Matchless, Royal Enfield, Rudge-Whitworth and Sunbeam and numerous other manufacturers also supplied machines to the British Armed Forces and those of its allies, principally Russia, which had no domestic motorcycle manufacturing industry worth mentioning. After the Russian Revolution of October 1917 and the country's withdrawal from the war, shipments of motorcycles remained piled up at ports, and after the cessation of hostilities many were bought back by their manufacturers to supply an eager civilian market.

The machine offered here was part of an order for 250 placed in 1916/1917. In its edition of 14th June 1917, The Motor Cycle published an illustrated article about the new 8hp JAP-engined Matchless combination ordered by the Russian government. Another TMC article, this one dated 29th May 1919, reports on a government auction of unused machines, remarking that 'a Matchless and sidecar fetched sixty-one guineas, and really was a bargain according to that day's prices.' Copies of both these articles may be found in the history file together with other photocopied press cuttings and contemporary advertisements.

After the war's end this Matchless outfit was sold, and on 3rd January 1919 was registered for the road for the first time (as 'FX 4289') to one Edward Foster in Dorchester (copy registration record on file). Nothing is known of its subsequent history until the current owner purchased 'FX 4289' in 1998. Being a member of The Great War Society Living History Group, as well as a time-served mechanical craftsman and professional engineer, he decided to return the Matchless to its original military specification, a task aided by the fact that the previous owner had already purchased a suitable Vickers machine gun and begun the restoration. The vendor reports that the machine's remarkably original condition suggested that it must have been dry stored for at least 60 years. The rear mudguard, exhaust pipe, stands, rear mudguard, rack and number plates are original, as are the frame, JAP engine, gearbox, wheel and forks. The spokes and tyres have been replaced, as has the front mudguard, while the saddle has been recovered in leather. The Jones magneto has been overhauled by Dave Lindsley, who reckoned it was one of the best magnetos he had ever seen.

The Vickers machine gun was made at Maxim's original factory at Crayford in 1917. It is deactivated but is cockable, and has moving parts as per the early deactivation specification (certificate on file). The gun is mountable for forward and rearward firing, plus it can be located in an anti-aircraft mount at two different heights. The gun mounts, ammunition boxes, A-A mounts and shield plus the ammunition box carrier have all been accurately reproduced by the current owner, based on originals. The spare wheel is fully interchangeable. Rebuilt with new valves, valve guides and springs, the 85.5x85mm 976cc 8hp JAP engine is stamped 'war prophet' on top of the crankcases. There is no corrosion or pitting of the aluminium, and the cast iron barrel fins are good. An original Sphinx spark plug is fitted.

The Matchless outfit has been shown at Bovingdon Tank Museum 'tank-fests' plus several other prestigious military and commemorative events, and has often carried three men plus the gun and ammunition with ease. It has also featured in various publications. 'FX 4289' is the only known Russian-order Matchless-JAP surviving from the Great War period, and one of only three such machine-gun outfits in the UK, the others being Clyno combinations owned by museums. Offered with the aforementioned history file and V5C registration document, this unique WWI Matchless would be welcome at any gathering of Vintage-era motorcycles or military vehicles.

Saleroom notices

  • The crankcase is stamped 'War Product' not 'War Prophet' as catalogued. Original 'WD Sphinx' spark plugs are fitted.
Contacts
1916/17 Matchless-Vickers 8B2/M Russian Military Motorcycle Combination Frame no. 557M Engine no. M63674
1916/17 Matchless-Vickers 8B2/M Russian Military Motorcycle Combination Frame no. 557M Engine no. M63674
1916/17 Matchless-Vickers 8B2/M Russian Military Motorcycle Combination Frame no. 557M Engine no. M63674
1916/17 Matchless-Vickers 8B2/M Russian Military Motorcycle Combination Frame no. 557M Engine no. M63674
1916/17 Matchless-Vickers 8B2/M Russian Military Motorcycle Combination Frame no. 557M Engine no. M63674
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