Hagerty Inc.

04/15/2024 | News release | Distributed by Public on 04/15/2024 08:00

1955 Matchless G80 CS: Alone Again, Naturally

When the phone rang one fine autumn day in 2012, the caller seemed a little desperate-a local motorcycle shop owner looking for a savior. Fortunately, it was nothing personal; the salvation needed was for a crusty 1955 Matchless G80 CS that he'd found. Shoved into the back of a local garage in 1966, it had been dismissed by its owner in favor of a new Yamaha two-stroke. After that, his Brit-bike days were done.

Frankly, the ensuing 46 years proved unkind to the London-built 500cc single, as its owner hadn't noticed-or had, but ignored-a leaky roof, which turned the space into a breeder for rust and corrosion. And once he and his wife finally passed away, the dear Matchless was nearly beyond saving. But not quite. While family heaved the remnants of dad's motorcycling life into a dumpster, I adopted the old dear and, with friends' help, pledged to bring it around.

John L. Stein

Like a geode-craggy on the outside and gleaming on the inside-the Matchless surprised us all. The carburetor and fuel tank proved spotless, and the dry sump's remaining oil drained out clean. Servicing the magneto, checking the valve lash, replacing fork and engine oil, and adding new drive chains got the G80 ready to run. And run it did, after some fussing with ignition timing and throttle settings-and several mighty heaves on the kickstart lever.

John L. SteinJohn L. SteinJohn L. SteinJohn L. Stein

Stripped for scrambling and flouting an open pipe and universal tires, the G80 was-in period vernacular-a "desert sled," a term that was likely both affectionate and punitive. Having trouble with a boorish DMV? In '66, registering the big thumper was easy; its only road equipment was a brake light, powered by a 6-volt lantern battery clamped to a frame tube. Who cares if the tags expired the same year the Camaro debuted? After our shop time, the Matchless ran down the road like a colt again, frolicking and bucking and full of life.

John L. Stein

What to do with it now is perplexing. Neither a good dirt bike nor street bike by modern standards, it's also too precious a time warp to restore. "Too few left in such condition" is my excuse for not touching it cosmetically. And so, the star-crossed Matchless sits once more, nearly 60 years after first being parked. For now, it's in the back of a garage again. Thankfully, though, the roof doesn't leak.


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