Showing posts with label 1950s Race Bikes. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1950s Race Bikes. Show all posts

Matchless G50

Matchless G50 1950s British MotoGP bike

The Matchless G50 had a lot to live up to. To name your new company 'Matchless' needs confidence in its products - to put it mildly! That was something Charlie and Harry Collier clearly possessed, when they opened for business in 1899. They were located in Plumstead, south-east London. Both brothers were racers - of some repute. In 1907, Charlie rode a Matchless to victory at the first TT - in the single-cylinder category. Harry performed the same feat two years later. At the time, then, the Matchless moniker was pretty much justified.

Fast-forward to the Sixties - and Matchless were dominant again. Now, it was the turn of the G50 to hold all-comers at bay. First unveiled in the late '50s, the Matchless G50 was - to all intents and purposes - an AJS 7R, re-badged. Matchless had acquired AJS, in 1931.

More proof of confidence within Matchless can be found in its logo. It takes some hutzpah to rely on a single letter to get your marketing message across. Charlie and Harry, though, clearly felt that a winged 'M' was sufficient to identify a motorcycle as a Matchless. It is not as if it was an excessively long brand-name to display on the tank! There is a fine line, of course, between self-belief and hubris. The former is a prerequisite for success - the latter, an almost cast-iron guarantee of failure. However, it would seem that the two young Londoners got the balance spot-on. After all, Matchless motorcycles began winning races at the turn of the 20th century. And - at classic bike events, at least - they are still there or thereabouts in a new millennium!

Mondial 250 GP

Mondial 250 GP 1950s MotoGP bike

The Mondial 250 GP was a unique piece of performance kit. Motorcycle manufacturer FB Mondial was run on a shoestring, compared with some of its more mainstream rivals. They included MV Agusta and Ducati. But it had entrepreneurial spirit by the bucketload. Bespoke to the core, its products were masterpieces of creative engineering. Founded in '29 - by five Boselli brothers - Mondial Moto was based in Lombardy, Italy. Bike racing was in its blood!

Though small, the Mondial race team was a serious player. After all, the great Mike Hailwood successfully campaigned Mondial 250s - in '59 and '60. A decade or so before that, Mondial machines won the first three 125cc World Championships. The opener was in '49. In '57, Mondial won both 125 and 250cc GP series. So, no slouches, for a relatively underfunded équipe!

Such motorsport feats, of course, do not come cheap. Ultimately, Mondial were unable to sell enough roadsters to foot the competition bill. Sadly, therefore, they were forced to retire early from racing. Mondial, as was, ceased trading in '79. Since then, they have enjoyed something of a renaissance - and, indeed, are back in business at this point. And their classic bikes - resplendent in silver and blue livery - still circulate around racetracks. After all, the Mondial 250 GP harks back to a time when beauty was built to last!

Manx Norton

Manx Norton 1950s TT race bike

The Manx Norton has a proud heritage. Throughout the '30s, Norton were nigh on invincible at the Isle of Man TT. Their top-selling roadster at the time was the International. It was the production racer based on this bike that was first to sport the legendary 'Manx' badge. However, it was not until 1950 that the most memorable Manx Norton of all arrived on 'the island'. So flexible was its frame that one of Norton's race aces said it was like riding a feather bed! From then on, it was known as the 'Featherbed Manx'.

But a great bike still needs a great rider. And riders do not come any greater than Geoff Duke. Clearly a perfect fit for the Featherbed, in '51 Duke took both the 500 and 350cc World Championships. Supreme sportsman that he was, Duke would have been first to acknowledge the part played by Irishmen Rex and Cromie McCandless. They were the top-flight engineers who designed the Featherbed frame.

Today, it seems inconceivable that a bike as successful as the Manx could have been a single-pot 'thumper'. Air-cooled, four valves, 54 bhp. Indeed, it would be the first four-cylinder forays at the TT - by Gilera and MV Agusta - which finally signalled the end of Manx indomitability. Thankfully, though, those booming single-cylinder sounds - exiting megaphone exhausts - can still be heard at classic race meets. As the majestic Manx Norton swoops into sight - on its way to completing yet another lap. Basso profundo, basically!