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Matchless Silver Hawk

1934 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 purchase it.