Finding parts for prewar motorcycles is usually problematic. Unlike postwar spares, which are for the most part quite plentiful, prewar parts often have to be made. Thankfully there is a reasonable enthusiast base who collect what parts there are available, and for those that aren’t, often they have drawings so you can have them made.
I’ll be putting a list together soon of what I need, but so far have managed to acquire a prewar Smiths Chronometric Speedometer and Lucas Altette 6v horn. Both are prewar items and hard to find…and they are therefore quite expensive.
The speedometer is a pin drive model, with a flanged bezel to fit the console on my Silver Arrow. The 80 or so miles per hour top speed, is very much wishful thinking for the Silver Arrow.
Back in 1930 when my Matchless Silver Arrow was new, you could buy it without lights and electrics; the ‘base model’ so to speak. The horn would have been a trumpet style with a rubber bulb to squeeze…you’ll have seen and heard them on television. If however, you click here, there’s an image from Hobday’s catalogue of two such horns.
For a little more money, you’d get a battery, dynamo, headlight, tail and brake light plus an early Lucas horn that looked a bit like a warning klaxon. They were mounted directly in front of the driver, above the headlamp. According to the owners instruction book, the horn was Lucas type B410…I can’t find a picture of an actual horn, but if you click here, you’ll see a picture from Hobday’s catalogue. The horns were of course, 6v.
This is my Lucas Altette horn, from the same period. They are quite large and very loud when working properly, as this one is. The full part number is HF 317/6/AO Lucas HF Electric Horn.
If you happen to have a 6v Lucas B410 horn you don’t need, please drop me a line.
Early bikes, such as mine, had a three brush dynamo and you had to manually manage the charging of your battery; no electromechanical regulators back then.
It’s relatively easy to get original manuals for postwar motorcycles, but not so much for those made before Hitler’s conflict. You can of course, get downloads of many and reprints of some. I do like to get originals if I can; I suppose it’s just for completeness.
A friend lent me his original copy of the 1930 Silver Arrow Model ‘A’ Instruction Book and Parts List to scan, which I’ve done. I was however delighted when the chap I bought the bike from, said someone he knew had an original manual.
I now have that…it’s dated the 13th November 1930 as being included in the Shell (Netherlands) Motor Oil Technical Service Library.
I also found on eBay, a copy of the 1933 Spare Parts List for all Matchless motorcycles that year, complete with the 1934 supplement.
There were changes to the Silver Arrow by then, and it was known as the Model A2. Most of the parts are identical however.
If you have a Silver Arrow and would like a scan of the Model ‘A’ Instruction Book and Parts List, you can now get a copy of my scan from the Jampot Archives, here.
Today, the 20th of March 2023, the selection of rubbers available from Jeff Hunter Engineering, aka The Rubber Man, arrived in the post. Normally Jeff has quite a long turnaround of eight to ten weeks; he gets very busy and works through order by order. In this case, he had them in stock so the order only took three weeks. Bearing in mind the condition of the bike, these may well stand out like a sore thumb…but I’m not about to scuff them up to match the bike.
These are the John Bull No 3 Knee Grip Rubbers, which are available unbranded from the likes of Feked, but Jeff makes them with the original Matchless ‘M’ on them, and the foot rest rubbers with ‘MATCHLESS’ on them. The kickstart and handlebar rubbers are stock, unbranded items.
I always remember my Dad telling me to use good quality rubbers. Cheap ones have a habit of splitting at a critical moment, and causing all sorts of problems 😉
The Lucas Magdyno is Model MDBV-0, a 26 degree unit for the Silver Arrow narrow angle V-Twin engine. It also has ‘230’ on it, on the same line, then below is written ‘Type A0.0 1430A’. My plan is to do much of the work myself, but reply on an expert to rewind the magneto armature (and possibly that of the dynamo), remagnetise the magnets and other tasks for which I don’t have the equipment or expertise.
The coupling rubber is quite crusty, but nonetheless looks serviceable. It’s precious as there are no spares available that I’m aware of. I will measure it and get a batch made, depending on cost of course.
The old MDB magnetos are around, but the MDBV-0 is, as far as I know, unique to the Silver Arrow…so quite rare then!
April 2023: I decided to let an expert do the whole job on my magdyno, and it’s gone to Jeff at TJ Magnetos…as I write this, it’s almost finished.
Recently a number of parts for the Silver Arrow have been listed and sold on eBay. Some of the prices were eye watering, but I picked up a spare magdyno, carburettor with air filter, the rear mudguard back support stay and a couple of damper knobs. Each of the items will be useful.
Two more ‘unobtainium’ original parts are the two toolboxes mounted on the rear mudguard back support stay. I managed to come across someone with a pair of reproduction ones, and a friend is also looking for a set.
There will be some parts on my bike that won’t be in ‘oily rag’ condition by the look of it.
The ‘control panel’, ‘dashboard’ or ‘nacelle’ as it is sometimes referred to, needs some work on the accessories fitted. The main switch will hopefully be serviceable and I will refurbish it. The speedometer was missing, but I’ve managed to find a correct pin feed Smiths / Jaeger chronometric speedometer with a flanged bezel to fit; see above. Both on/off switches need replacing, one because it is in a dire state and the other…because it’s missing.
Original switches are unavailable; if they are, they’re very fragile now and usually fall apart. Most people replace them with Lucas PS6 rotary on/off switches, part number 31356. These were fitted to Rover cars and also to some BSA and Triumph motorcycles.
The ammeter that’s fitted should be a Lucas BM4 style meter reading 8-0-8 amps. The one on my bike is a more modern unit, but it reads 20-0-20; I’ll probably replace it with a period reproduction item of the correct rating.