So what was this strange beast I’d found? Well, it was a Matchless for a start – the big golden “M” on each side of the petrol tank gave that one away! But what model was it and what year was it made? To find that one out would require a bit more detective work (otherwise known as Googling) for someone as uninitiated in these matters as I am. So after another visit and with a memory card full of snaps on my camera of every imaginable number and marking I could find, I set back off home to do some more research.
So first up was the frame number that I found on the nearside of the front down tube. After a bit of cleaning and squinting from different angles, the number could be read clearly as “+016117 M&B”. After a but of searching on the web I came across the ‘AJS and Matchless Owners Club‘ web site and I have to say that the forum is a real treasure trove of useful info. A search for frame numbers and much interesting reading later and I had discovered that “+016117” is not actually the frame number at all, but actually some sort of part or casting number from the factory at which it was made. But I was also pleased to hear that I wasn’t the first to have made this mistake and there are many Matchless bikes out there with “016117” recorded in the log book as their frame numbers.
So where’s the frame number I hear you ask? Well it turns out that it should be hidden on one of the frame tubes tucked under the right (offside) side of the seat. I hadn’t thought to look there whilst inspecting the bike, so that one would just have to wait until next time. And as for what the “M&B” means at the end of the casting number, well no-one really seems to know. Best guess is that its probably the makers mark or initials.
With that avenue of investigation exhausted, at least for the time being, I turned my attention to the number stamped on the left (nearside) of the engine – “51 / G3Ls 15777”. So what does this mean? Back to the owners club web site and another search on the forum. Actually as it turns out, the initially random-seeming code is quite easy to interpret. The “51” means that it was a 1951 model – woohoo, it’s old! The G3Ls bit is the model with the “s” at the end (actually stamped on the engine in a sort of super-script position) means that it has rear suspension, as opposed to the fixed rear end models. And then at the end, the “15777” that is the actual engine number of the bike and the golden number that would hopefully also appear in the various log book documents.
So there we have it, it’s a 1951 Matchless G3Ls motorbike. Simple hey!