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AMC / Norton Hybrids, Part 2
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The first of the Atlas-engined 750 Matchless machines were sent to America. The home market had to wait until 1964 for the launch of the UK-spec G15 Mk2. Frank Westworth spots the differences...

The launch of the 750 hybrid onto the home market waited until the appearance of the Matchless G15 Mk2 in 1964. Before you ask, the reason for the 'Mk2' designation is that there had been a short-lived G15 Matchless in 1962-63, which had been propelled by an overstretched AMC twin engine, developed from the 650cc G12. Although this earlier machine allowed AMC to list a 750 in their Matchless range, it needed to be so softly tuned to avoid disaster that it was little, if at all, faster than the G12. Hence the G15 Mk2.

This was a different device altogether, and for some strange reason, AMC appeared to aim it at the fast-disappearing sidecar pilot!

The AJS / Matchless range of twins for the 1964 season differed considerably from the '63 models, and incorporated an increasing number of Norton components. The famous Teledraulic front forks disappeared and were replaced by a lengthened Roadholder, as seen a year earlier on the Atlas Scrambler. The wheels, which had shrunk from 19-inch to 18-inch a year earlier, lost their AMC pattern hubs and acquired the eight-inch Norton hubs and brakes (which was no bad thing, as the Norton brake, properly set up, is a decent stopper).

Then and now

The G15 Mk2 also featured the Atlas engine, with its twin Monobloc carbs, magneto ignition and the ugliest tachometer driver ever seen on a motorcycle. If ever a bike didn't require a rev counter, this was it! So AMC fitted one, mounted on a functional steel bracket next to the speedo, and driven by a cable from the outside of the timing chest. This was so prominent that it was necessary to use an armoured drive cable to prevent it burning through the right hand exhaust pipe, against which it wearily rested on its twisted path to the instrument. On a sports machine, this may have been acceptable, macho even, but on a tourer?

The pedestrian intent of the 750 was confirmed by a pair of chromed mudguards of generous dimensions, forward-mounted footrests and the fitting of the amazingly gripless Dunlop K70 tyres to both wheels (Dunlop did, in fact, use a rear view of the G15 in their publicity material for the K70, a tyre for which this rider has not one fond memory). The Press and public were suitably unimpressed and the road test in Motorcycle Mechanics was couched in such dull terms that I can't really understand why they bothered to ride it! Describing any machine as 'a good honest performer' and waffling on about how much better it would be if it were hitched to a chair is hardly likely to fire the acquisitive urge in your average solo motorcyclist, is it?

This odd approach to road testing possibly explains why any G15 appearing on the market today is likely to be a CSR variant, as it happily ignores the fact that the G15 Mk2 provides everything likely to be needed by most road riders.

Judging by the small number which survive, sales were less than brilliant, although the G15 Mk2 was listed, with only detail changes (Concentric carbs appeared late in '66), until 1967, by which time the Woolwich works was producing the rather more modern Norton Commando.

And this is the advert for the Period advert for the Matchless G15CS...
Nortons on

Predictably, the CSR version of the biggest Matchless appeared a year later, in 1965, and appealed to the sporting chaps rather more than its unloved elder sibling. Well, it was bound to, wasn't it? Skimpy alloy mudguards, swept back exhausts, rearset footrests and drop bars reduced the practical nature of the beast as much as they increased its eye appeal! The big engine was unchanged, but the gearing was lowered slightly to improve the already impressive acceleration. Finished in a vivid metallic red, with acres of polished chrome and alloy, the G15CSR is unquestionably one beautiful motorcycle, and provided a real alternative to the BSA Spitfires and Triumph Bonnevilles of the day, both in terms of its style and its performance, which was excellent.

For once, the road testers of the time were appropriately euphoric, with The Motorcycle waxing particularly enthusiastic. It was a remarkable feature of the G15CSR that its performance appeared to be considerably improved over its less glamorous Mk2 stablemate by the simple addition of the above goodies! AMC and their successors, Norton Villiers, admitted in their sales literature that both power units (compression ratio of 7.6:1) and weight (426lb) were the same for both models; some additional brightwork and a heroic riding position work subtle magic indeed!

The Matchless G15CSR was listed for sale until 1968. By this time manufacture of the Norton Commando was established and the Plumstead plant was devoted almost entirely to the production of this one model, albeit in many guises.

Whose idea were those handlebars? 1964 G15 Mk2 and a 1965 G15 CSR, recent arrivals at the National Motorcycle Museum

A pair of the 750 Matchless twins has recently been added to the National Motorcycle Museum's ever-growing display. They are freshly-restored examples of a late-1964 G15 Mk2 and a 1965 G15 CSR sports, both with the 745cc ohv Norton Atlas-type engine and AMC gearbox in an AJS/Matchless duplex frame with Norton forks and brakes.

The touring model, supplied to White's of Darlington in October 1964, has the large tank emblems, nicknamed 'knee-knockers' seen on AJS and Matchless machines from 1962 to 1964. Shipped to AMC's US agent JB Berliner in April 1965, the brightly-finished CSR has twin Amal Monobloc carburettors, sweptback exhaust pipes and dropped handlebars. This model was reputed to be capable of 115mph.


Next episode: the 750 hybrid takes the States by storm

More RC Reading: There's more information (road test plus owner feedback) on the Matchless G15 and Norton P11 in the Dec08 issue of RealClassic magazine (RC56)

I do like a high-level pipe... Matchless G15 and Norton P11 today...

Thanks to Tim Roberts for supplying many of the original brochure images seen here

See the G15s in the metal at the National Motorcycle Museum, at the intersection of the A45 Birmingham-Coventry road and the M42 motorway. It is open every day from 9.30am to 5pm (except 24-26 December). Admission charges: Adults 6.95, Senior Citizens 4.95, Children (under 15) 4.95, Family Tickets (2 adults and 2 children) 20.


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