My project bike for 2023 will be this 1930 Matchless Silver Arrow, which I discovered on Facebook Marketplace last week. I went to see it on Wednesday the 1st February and returned with a van to collect it the following day.

Silver Arrow Starboard Side

It really is nearly all there, after languishing in someone’s shed or garage for many years. It ended up at a dealer’s in the south of England before the chap I bought it from near Carlisle, obtained it in November 2021. He bought it with a stuck engine, it had simply gummed up with standing, and was freed carefully over a couple of weeks with release oil and prayer 😉 No bashing of pistons was required.

It really is pretty much all there. The outer primary chaincase cover, some control cables and pipes, levers, tank rubbers and other peripheral items are needed. The original speedo (pin drive) is missing and the magdyno will need refurbishing.

I’m planning to leave it unrestored, with a caveat that I might change my mind in the future. The tyres and tubes look recent and the wheels turn smoothly and freely. I think I’ll remove the engine, gearbox and magdyno to go through and sort them out. Once out of the frame I’ll check the wheels, hubs, brakes, steering head and frame, cleaning and lubricating where needed.

Hopefully the engine and gearbox will need little attention and can go back in quite quickly. I’ll make a decision on the magdyno once I take it out. Chances are it will need to go away as I don’t have the gear to refurbish it.

The official line goes like this…

Silver Arrow Port Side

The Matchless Silver Arrow was made by Matchless from late 1929 until 1933, having been designed by racer Charlie Collier. Less than 2,000 were sold and under 70 are thought to survive; most having been fully restored. It was a monobloc side valve 397cc narrow angle (18 degrees) V-twin with chain drive.

The narrow angle of the cylinder’s V-twin arrangement allowed the use of a one piece head. The rear suspension was an early cantilever design, using two springs and friction dampers located under the seat. Linked brakes were also fitted, operating from the rear brake pedal, situated on the starboard side of the bike. The carburettor was a special Amal type 4/014 with a bottom feed metal pipe.

Power output was 16 bhp at 5,000 rpm. It was fitted with a Sturmey Archer (remember your old pedal bike?) gearbox, three speed from 1929 to 1932, and four speed from 1932 to 1933. It’s wheelbase was 56 inches or 1.4 metres, whilst it was 84 inches overall length…that’s 2.1 metres. The fuel tank would hold 2.5 imperial gallons…that’s 11 litres or 3 US gallons.

Apparently the engine is ‘absolutely vibrationless’ utilising a dry sump. I’m told it’s very quiet when it’s running due to the design of the engine and the effective silencer.

It’s lovely to sit on…extremely comfortable. I’m looking forward to riding it.

Here are some links to articles I scanned myself, and gave Christian Gyde for the Jampot Archives:

Instruction Book and Parts List for the Matchless Silver Arrow, Model ‘A’. This is a high resolution scan of the original manual, in its entirety. You should be able to zoom in and identify parts more easily now.

The Matchless Dream Machines – featuring the Silver Arrow and Silver Hawk, from Classic Bike Magazine June/July 1980.

Restoring a Matchless Silver Arrow – from Classic Bike Magazine April 1982.

There are of course other Silver Arrow articles in the Jampot Archives, W C Haycraft’s 1931 book by Pitmans, called The Book of the Matchless, is an excellent reference in general for using and maintaining the bike. Note that later editions of the book do not include the Silver Arrow.

Classic Bike Magazine is still in print, but they don’t appear to offer a back issue service; certainly not back to the 1980s. I found the issues I scanned the articles from, on eBay.