Matchless Silver Hawk
The London-based Matchless company was
among Britain's leading companies in the 1930s. Despite
the depression it was sufficiently buoyant in 1931
to buy up the ailing AJS concern and merge it into
Associated Motor Cycles Ltd (AMC).
In the autumn of the previous year, Matchless had
demonstrated its buoyancy to an astonished public
by launching an outstanding new model at the Earls
Court Show. With a technical specification that reads
more like the 1980s than the 1930s, the new machine
was a 600cc four-cylinder design with overhead-camshaft,
rear-sprung frame and coupled brakes, plus a stylish
appearance and sporting performance.
This was not the first time that Matchless had tried
such a design - the company's earlier Silver Arrom
had a similar layout. Designer Bert Collier, one of
the two brothers behind Matchless, has decided to
retain the best features of the Silver Arrow but give
the sporting public the performance it craved. As
on the Silver Arrow, the cylinder casting was in one
piece. The crankshaft ran across the frame, and the
conrods were offset in two pairs so that the front
and rear cylinders could be in line. The overhead-camshaft
and valve gear was driven by a shaft taken from one
end of the crankshaft.
The sporting 600 was fitted to a frame that was virtually
the same as the Silver Arrow's. It included a rear
fork pivoting on bonded rubber bushes, with a pair
of springs and a friction damper under the single
saddle. Handsome and stylish, the whole machine was
designed very much in the current fashion and looked
to have a bright future. The engine was so easy to
start, it was said that it could be done by hand.
Top speed was more than 80mph. The engine was flexible
enough to potter along in top gear, an important consideration
of the day when the awkwardness of hand-changing meant
that riders liked to stay in top for as long as possible.
Sadly, just as with the Silver Arrow, there were
overheating problems. The engine was hard to maintain,
although it could be decoked in the frame. Other models,
launched at the same time as the Silver Hawk, suffered
similar teething problems, overcoming them through
design development. But the Silver Hawk proved just
too expensive and servived no more than five years.
It simply did not offer enough benefits to the limited
number of customers who could afford the money to