One of the more curious purpose-built race machines to emerge in the early 1950s was the Matchless G45. Why curious? Well, Associated Motor Cycles (AMC) already had the 350cc AJS 7R Boy Racer in their line up and a success it had proved too. So if they wanted to make a Senior (500cc) class racer, the obvious, logical thing to do would appear to be to simply bore out the ohc 350 and there’s a ready made, production racing 500. But they didn’t.
Instead, they went down the route already explored by Triumph a few years earlier and to be examined by Norton in the future – that of basing the race engine on a 500cc road going production twin.
AMC’s parallel twin had been introduced for the 1949 season, housed from the beginning in a swinging-arm frame. However, for the G45 the engine – derived from the G9 Super Clubman – was nestled in a 7R rolling chassis. The engine was of course modified, with Ike Hatch charged with development.
The prototype machine appeared in the 1951 Manx GP – which was a slightly bizarre debut, considering the Manx GP was a supposedly amateur event for non-professional riders on non-works machinery…however, Robin Sherry came fourth on what was clearly a works development special. There was even more controversy the next year, when Derek Farrant appeared on the G45 and duly cleared off to win. Indeed, works development rider Ernie Ring had ridden the Farrant bike at the TT earlier in the year!
AMC seemingly had a runaway success on their hands, which quickly translated into sales right from its 1953 launch. The G45 offered a competitive, seemingly less ‘fickle’ alternative to the ubiquitous Manx Norton and the added kudos of being the only multi-cylinder machine the privateer could buy…and privateers duly lined up to buy one.
The G45, though, didn’t prove the runaway success AMC would surely have hoped for, and after around five problematic years in the range, the ‘fast-but-fragile’ G45 was quietly dropped from the line up, very few if any having been built during 1957 and 58. Its replacement? Well, AMC went back and did what surely would have been the obvious thing to do in the first place…they bored out the AJS 7R and came up with the Matchless G50.
This 1954 G45 is owned by Staffordshire garage owner Dennis Bunning, who has a host of AMC machinery as well as a number of other machines. Dennis – who has raced a various motorcycles, especially in The Classic MotorCycle-supported Lansdowne series – bought the G45 in 2004, attracted by its significance and interest as a rare racer.