Hello! Thanks for visiting my new blog all about the restoration of my old Matchless motorbike. I thought it would probably make sense to also add a little bit of info about me, just so you know where all the incoherent rambling on this web site are coming from! So here goes…… erm, well what would you like to know?
Well no offence, but you could be a real weirdo (in fact, if you’re reading blogs about old motorbikes you almost certainly are a weirdo!) so I think I’ll keep this a little generic. I’m from Wolverhampton in the UK, but am currently on a sabbatical break for a year or two living in Hyderabad in southern India. Much warmer and sunnier all round!
I’m an engineer by trade, and hence my fascination with old bikes and the like. Modern machines that need a computer and programming degree just to change the oil really don’t have the same charm as a temperamental old bike, although of course all that no doubt changes when the thing packs up miles from home on a cold wet winters night.
Now it’s actually been quite a while since I owned a motorbike last. I was at university and in need of some cheap personal transport, so thought a learner legal 125cc bike would be just the ticket. I didn’t really need to go too far (apart from the odd commute between home and uni) and taking the A-roads rather than the motorway seemed a much more pleasant route anyway. But I really didn’t want one of those boring little learner-legal hairdriers on wheels, so I searched until I came across a Honda NSR125RK for sale.
This certainly looked much more the part – pretty much a baby Fireblade, only with slightly narrower tyres and a smaller silencer on the exhaust. It was an Italian import model, and therein lay the problem, or should I say problems. The electrics were a complete nightmare with corroded cables and bad connections everywhere. It took me the first 6 months to find out that the battery not charging was due to the inner wire in one cable having disintegrated whilst the outer plastic sleeve looked fine.
Then there was the problem that the head gasket kept blowing, sending jets of steam up my leg, usually miles from home. No amount of skimming of the cylinder and head seemed to be able to fix it. It looked great though, especially after some local youths decided to try and nick it. They dropped it and smashed the fairing, but my insurance company kindly replaced it all so the bike looked like new after that.
But it had to go as it was just too expensive to keep repairing, so when someone kindly gave me an old car to use (a great little VW Polo), I sold the motorbike. And that was the end of my biking days, at least until I came to India! And that brings me neatly to the subject of this blog – my search for an old British bike in Hyderabad (India) and it’s subsequent restoration.
By the way, you can also find me on Google.
Wolverhampton!!-the original home of A.J.S and Sunbeam and the H.R.D [I also own a Vincent for my past sins!] I went there last year to celebrate the 100 year anniversary of the first A.J.S! Minus 2 and about to snow here in Northampton! Alan J.
Please check my profile in Orkut – “kantheshkumarmg”. I have a 1953 AJS!
Dear Mr. James,
one thing i have to say: WOW! you did a very good JOB with your web and all the info you post.
if you got the time please go to: 1963 matchless G3 on youtube.com
hey james.. got some interesting stuff here!! hows hong Kong found any matchless or ajs there( jus curious))?!!! got alot of reading to do on your blog gonna keep me occupied for awhile!
and ya im working on a 1951 g3ls now!!
There’s only one other Matchless here in HK that I know too, so nowhere near as many as back in India. A few other old bikes about though and there is a small (but growing) classic bike group so some good rides out.
Hope you find some useful stuff on here for your bike…
Just found your site…..as a totally imcompetent mechanic, I will find your site most useful !. I have a 1950 AJS Model 18.
Gtreat site….please keep it up
Just stumbled across your website and I am very impressed with the content and info.
The polarity reversal was perfect for me and now, I am considering changing to 12v on my 1960 BSA Rocket, thanks to your site.
I will be visiting your site on a regular basis and it is in my ‘favourites’
Many Thanks, Malcolm.
Cheers Malcolm. Glad you are finding the site useful!
This is the best website I ever visited regarding Matchless Motorbikes. I have a question that would help me figure out a lot of things: How do I find out the exact manufacturing year of my Matchless G3L? The registration papers I have are made in 1956, however I am sure that the bike is older than that as it is imported and has spend some time sitting in a showroom until it was sold to its first owner. Can you help me with this?
Hi Andy. Thanks for your kind words about my website. For accurate dating of your bike, the best way would be to send the engine and frame number to the dating officer at the owners club (see here: http://www.ajs-matchless.com/Dating.asp. They can check the original factory records and let you know exactly when the bike was produced, who the original customer was, and many more interesting details. This is the only real way to accurately date your bike, how the engine number should also give you a clue as it starts with the year (e.g. 56/G3L12345). Also you could compare the 55, 56 and 57 spare lists for differences that would help date your bike (see here: https://matchlessclueless.com/resources/spares-lists/, noting that model years start in the middle of the year so that a late ’55 bike may actually be a ’56 model.
Hope this helps. Regards, James
The information you are giving me is absolutely helpful as I did not have a clue where to start from.
Great site, loads of information. i will be back, i have just started a wordpress blog on my two bikes an AJS Model 14 and a Matchless G12. If you want i will send you the link, not sure if I’m allowed to post it here?
Hi Dave. You can post the link to your new AJS and Matchless blog on the links page here: https://matchlessclueless.com/resources/links/ Looking forward to having a read. Regards, James
Most impressive site – clear and very informative.
Cheers Nick 🙂
Dear James, Thanks for your kind reply. Little bit sorry to know that getting parts of my Matchless here in India is quite impossible. And Importing the parts fro abroad is not possible for me. As I don’t have any experience how to import? Obtaining import license is most tedious here in India.
Thanks, Ashok sircar. India.
Hi Ashok. Yes, it is quite difficult. There are Matchless parts around in India if you know where to look (or who to ask) I guess, but many will be just as worn or broken as yours. What exactly are you looking for? Some RE Bullet parts can be modified to fit. Where abouts in India are you? Do you really need an import licence just to receive a parcel by mail? Regards, James
Dear James, happy to receive your most informative reply. I, am from India. Living at Deoghar Town, Jharkhand State.
I, think importing spares from abroad is a costly affair and regarding changing spares is not posssible from a Royal Enfield motor cycles.
Before any comment I’d like to let you know that I am a Motor Cycle Mechanic of 62+
Came acrooss various bikes like Triumph Norton BSA Matchless Ariel and worked on these machines.
At present, I have my own two bikes
1958 R. E. BULLET 350CC Single fitted with unique Hexagonal Lucas Magneto A/C Stator Rotor, Amal 376 carburettor and evarything original.
In the meantime can you quote the price of a Rear wheel chain’s Sproket and Gear Box Sproket for my Matchless 350cc G3 Ls? Also the legal procedure importing the parts from abroad. Do you have your own mail I.D. Where I can send you the pics of my bikes!
Thanking you in the meanwhile,
Excellent site. Thanks for taking all the trouble. I came across it whilst trying to find out how to test the E3L 6v dynamo on my British built Royal Enfield. Your information is really well written and easy to follow for an electrical numpty like myself.
For those interested: The Magdyno had just been rebuilt because the magneto had failed. Whilst the chap was at it, I thought he might as well rebuild the dynamo even though it was working well. I have had the bike 32 years with no dynamo problems even though it contained rather a lot of oil! About 100 miles after the rebuild it stopped charging. Subsequent examination found that the new brushes had blackened the commutator. Presumably bedding in. Cleaned it off and all appears well so far.
Cheers Paul. Glad that your reconditioned dynamo problem turned out to be a simple fix! 🙂
I am so glad I’ve found your site..In fact i almost got the exact information i really need to know. Although i wish i could have hear your final thoughts about my concern. I just recently bought a surplus MC22 CBR 250cc as i wanted to change my 2 headlight bulb ( warm light) into a led bulb (super white light almost same as HID) and add more light accessories, a friend of mind told me that my 12V battery (maintenance free battery) with small regulator can’t recharge and maintain 12V. He told me to replace a bigger battery but i did not change it since the battery is still in good shape, instead i add one more small battery 12V (Quantum brand maintenance free) made it series connection to my first battery and replace a bigger regulator as i thought it would be a great to have a bigger regulator. Also i bought a voltmeter indicator as an accessories and tap it in the main line of battery, so that i have a display, if my new regulator charge it well to my two batteries. so when i turn on the key, the volmeter already show me the reading of my charging about 12.3V, when i start the engine it will slowly increase into 13 going to 15V even night time as i turn on all the lights, when i make a strong RPM/rev up strong it goes up into 16V to 17.2V
My concern are does high charging on my two batteries reaching up to 16 or even 17.2V will affect the lifespan of two batteries or even cause an explosion? Is there any regulator than can charge two small batteries and maintain only from 12V to 14V max? Your expertise on my concern will be greatly helpful to me. Thank you for reading this message and my sincere apology for making this long. By the way this is my first time having a sports bike. Best regards, Keebien
Im in a bit of a quandry .I have been asked by a 75 year old man who still has his dads 1924 L3 matchless motorcycle to restore it and i dont know where to start!!!
I have been trying to track a manual or parts list with no luck
I dont want to take it on unless i know i can source parts
Where here do i start????
ps Great site
Dear Mr Matchless – I have just bought a 1955 500cc James (Of course it is meant to be the other way round!). It is a non-runner with some parts missing, the most serious of which is a seat. This would be the tandem seat. The engine moves when kicked over so I hope to get her running without stripping her down. Can I start the bike (with the magneto) without fitting a battery?
Hi Dave. Sorry it’s taken me a while to reply. Sounds like you have a fun project there! Guess I should really get me a ‘James’ motorcycle one day too!
Yes you can start the bike with the magneto, or at least you can try to – fingers crossed it will fire! No need to have a battery, just make sure there are no loose wires dangling which could short and damage the dynamo (assuming it is fitted).
Have fun, James 🙂
I have never owned a Matchless (although there was a possibility of one way back in the early 70s). I’ve been aware of your web site for quite a while and have used some of the information you have posted when re-wiring my 1955 James 225cc Colonel. This is a great site for any classic motorcycle owner whether they have a Matchie or not. My stable consists of a 1970 Triumph Saint, 1971 Triumph Blazer, a number of James two-strokes and an Australian Acme 125cc.
I find all of your articles are of interest to me. Keep up the good work.
Cheers, Mark in New South Wales
Cheers Mark. Glad you’ve found the site useful and a nice little stable you have there! Happy riding. James 🙂
I recently became the proud owner of a 1963 Matchless G12.
Your site is exceptionally helpful. The information you’ve posted has cleared up many questions I have.
Please keep up the great work and thanks.
Cheers Mike 🙂
Hi James. First things first great website with a lot of valuable information. I am living in Hong Kong and been here for the last 30 years, in fact and I am currently looking at buying myself a Matchless G3l. I was wondering if you know of any in HK and for sale. I’m not sure if you are still here or back in the UK now.
Hi Stuart. I’m still here in HK, but I sent my Matchless back to the UK last year as the HK humidity was ruining the patina (i.e. it was starting to rust away!). There are only a couple of other Matchless bikes here that I know to. My advice would be to speak with Simon (see mechanics services here) who is the main classic bike mechanic in HK. He might be able to assist with finding one locally, or at least help with importing one if that’s your plan.
Many thanks for the reply, I have a friend whom knows Steve so I will get in touch and see what is out there. I am thinking that the way to go would be to import one from the UK. would it be rude of me to ask how much it cost to ship yours back to UK to give me an idea on the costs. I’m sure it will cost a similar price to send one in the opposite direction.
Morning Stuart. It cost me about £850 to ship my bike to the UK from HK after much shopping around. You will also probably need to consider crating fees (for building a suitable wooden container to put it in) and insurance on top, plus then there are all the import taxes on top of that once you get it to HK. Basically, it’s not economically sensible, but then little about classic bikes is!
Speak to Simon @ Simons Workshop in HK. He has a Matchless G3L in bits that seems to be an abandoned project from another customer who might consider selling it, if you’re interested. Needs a fair bit of work, but easy and cheap enough to get all the required bits sent from the UK (I use Steve at AMC Classic Spares). Maybe that would be a more economical idea?
Simon’s moved his workshop to San Po Kong (his website is no longer updated). His phone number is still the same but just note the new address as follows in case you try to drop in on his old Sai Kung shop:
On Lung Factory Building, 11-13 Luk Hop St, San Po Kong (7th Floor I believe; his name is on the building directory too near the entrance).
Many thanks for the information, I am going to China for a photoshoot today and back tomorrow, I will contact Steve when I return as this sounds like it could be a win win solution for both parties. I’m in town all next week so hopefully I can arrange to take a look at the G3L. It would be great to buy you lunch one day and pick your brains, just let me know if your free.
Cool, let’s meet for a beer then. I’ve sent you an email 🙂
Tryed to contant you at your “Contact me-form” https://matchlessclueless.com/home/contact/
This was a week ago and I hope for respons.
Hi james, i am Deepak. I really really need your help. My dad has an Ajs 350 1946, which my great grandfather bought in 1949. Its been passed on to my grandfather and to my dad later. My dad and grandfather together converted the 6v to 12v 30 years ago, due to unavailability of 6v batteries. It was running fine. But our mechanic who was old was the last one to repair dynamo and magneto in that area. So before he passed away, he suggested us to change the system into a different system, which doesn’t require dynamo and magneto. We did it and it was good for 2 weeks. Then, the problem showed up. The bikes battery is not getting recharged. But it is possible to start the bike and run it for 3 weeks and then the battery dies out of charge. I was wondering what could help to get the bike into running condition? We could fix the dynamo back to get it running or is there any other solution to get it running without the dynamo? I really need a helping hand. Please! I am now in canada. Ajs is in India. I can get the parts from here and bring it over to india and get the bike running.
Hi Deepak, I don’t think James is active with this website anymore I have tries to contact him a few times over the last 4 years without any reply. I was wondering if you still have the original Magdyno you could convert it back again to the way the bike should be. These bikes work perfectly OK on the original system although if not used for a while you need to periodically flash the dynamo. Magnetos and the dynamo motors do have a life span and after a few decades they may need to be rewound and the Magneto re-magnetized this will then give a clean strong spark to the plugs. The bike will run perfectly OK without a dynamo as it is only used to power the head and tail lights on the bike and charge a battery if you have one. 6v batteries are readily available and the original system will work a lot happier charging that than 12v unless you have a larger dynamo. There are several companies that can service your magdyno let me know if you need the details. Regards Stuart
Hi Stuart, i still have the magneto with the bike, but there are no one around to re magnetize it. More than that, there was some alteration done to the magneto, even before i was born, to run the bike on 12v battery. I am not sure what he did. So it got more complicated, that its not just magnetizing the magneto, i should undo all the way back with the magneto, to bring it to the original condition.
The bike is currently in India. I am in canada right now. I was thinking, if i can find new magneto and dynamo from canada, i can bring it to india and get the job done. I dont really need lights in the bike. I just need the engine running smooth and sound.
The Magneto is used to send a timed spark to the sparkplug it would not have been altered if you change to 12v as it has nothing to do with the electrics on the bike. The item that would have been changed will be the regulator to control the current so the bulbs will not blow and the battery is not overcharged, this is used as your regular dynamo will normally output around 10V blowing your bulb hence the regulator. I think you will need to find out what alterations were made to the bike other than the 12v conversion or as you call it “different System” you can email me on [email protected] might be better than using this forum. I am living in Hong Kong so time differences may mean a wait in replies. Regards Stuart