Retro Write Up generally features motorcycles which have been modified and customised, sometimes beyond recognition. This blog was created to show off South African customisers’ creativity and ingenuity to the world. We have however often mentioned that we also feel passionate about the preservation of classic motorcycles.It is an art to maintain an old motorcycle in original condition. Restoring a classic back to pristine condition can also be a difficult and expensive project.
Our featured motorcycle is an example of an unrestored, properly maintained and tuned classic motorcycle. This 1962 model Matchless G12 650cc parallel twin belongs to my uncle Bryan who has ridden this motorcycle for 43 years. This Matchless was bought as a daily commuter and was used as such for many years. The proud Matchless name was around from 1899 until 1966, producing legendary racing motorcycles and a wide range of fine road and off road motorcycles. Matchless bought AJS in 1931, manufactured Brough Superior’s engines and supplied the engines for Morgan’s three wheeler car. In 1941 Matchless introduced the “Teledraulic” telescopic front forks; a revolution for motorcycle suspension. British motorcycle’s tank badges of the 50s and 60s are especially beautiful. This Matchless winged M is epic.
There was some subtle customising done to this Matchless. The rear mudguard has been shortened, a Suzuki 50cc oil level sight glass has been installed in the oil tank and my cousin Alan recently gave the whole motorcycle a very good quality respray. By the 1960s Associated Motor Cycles included AJS, Matchless and Norton. AMC were in financial crisis and decided to focus more on the Norton brand. This G12 came from the factory with Norton Roadholder front forks and Norton wheels fitted.
This is what an unrestored but well looked after engine and gearbox looks like after 51 years of service. You will notice that there are no oil leaks. The G12 was produced from 1958 until 1966 and was aimed at the American market. Its 650cc engine produces 35 hp and a top speed of 160 km/h. We have witnessed how easily this bike starts and runs.
The headlight has been improved by installing a Lucas reflector and lens from a Triumph. British motorcycles never had indicators as standard for most of the 1960s. Bryan fitted these subtle indicators for safety. The steering damper with the Matchless logo can be turned to add resistance to turning the handlebars which provides stability to the handling at higher speeds.
Bryan, now in his seventies, has been ridìng motorcycles since his teens. He is a legendary master mechanic who, on a tight budget, has restored everything from bolt on bicycle engines to flathead Harleys with sidecars. I think he is bemused by the growing movement to recreate the biker lifestyle of the 50s and 60s. He is just too humble and too much of a gentleman to say to us all “Been there, lived that!”