What’s in a name? I was thinking that when reading about the Norton P11 in this issue (p20), which sports a Matchless badged petrol tank, but as it was a parts bin special when made in its day – Matchless frame, Norton engine and forks – then really either name could be employed. Bryan, owner of this one, happens to prefer Matchless and thus it has the winged M on the petrol tank (we know he’s not prejudiced though as his Norton featured in our December 2017 issue).
The Motobi as featured in this issue too (p40) was another marque which later was subjected to badge engineering, with some examples sporting Motobi badges, and others Benelli, in the later days of the flat-singles. Then we’ve a Vincent here too; Vincent (the man, Phillip Conrad Vincent, aka PCV) of course decided to buy a name rather than use his own when he set up his motorcycle making business in the late-1920s, choosing the ‘HRD’ moniker made famous by founder of that company Howard Davies, who took the acronym from his own initials. Then just over 20 years later, PCV abandoned the HRD branding, supposedly as it was causing confusion in America (HRD, H-D, Harley-Davidson) and went to Vincent.
What other ones come to mind? Matchless and AJS was the most famous, though AMC was also responsible for the James/Francis-Barnett tie-up too. Exporting to another market and rebranding was another option. Again, Vincent was there, with a prospective tie-up with Indian, a name that was also variously applied to Royal Enfields, ostensibly Italjets (with Royal Enfield or Velocette engines) while there was an even more bizarre badge-engineering tie-up, where Matchless badges were put on the 150cc James, with AMC two-stroke engine, while a 700cc Royal Enfield, badged as an Indian, appears in the same literature too alongside Matchless Apache and Trailblazer.
So, it seems Bryan’s choice to sport a Matchless badge on his machine is following a long line! There were other people up to naming oddities, with things rebranded for different markets, for example, and it all adds to the interest and contributes to making the history we’re interested in so rich and varied.Enjoy more The Classic MotorCycle reading in the monthly magazine. Click here to subscribe.