Despite the fact that Associated Motor Cycles only built something like 180 of them, the Matchless G50 is one of the most famous racing machines of all time – and arguably the best looking too, as this one, owned by Staffordshire garage proprietor Dennis Bunning, proves.
Dennis – whose G45 and G12 have featured on these pages before – is obviously quite an AMC enthusiast and indeed campaigns a G50 in The Classic MotorCycle-backed Lansdowne series (as does his brother Derek) but the ones the brothers race are replicas – this one is the real thing. As Dennis explained: “I race a Fred Walmsley replica but I really wanted an original too.” He acquired this 1960 example in 2005 and it was awarded Best Racer at Stafford in 2007.
The Matchless G50 was introduced for the 1959 season, replacing the 500cc twin-cylinder G45 racer, phased out in 1957. The G50 was essentially an enlarged AJS 7R and was developed by famous engineer and ex-racer Jack Williams. A prototype was ridden by Australian Jack Ahearn in the 1958 Senior TT – he finished 29th after some gearbox trouble – and by the time of the 1959 TT, the G50s were improved significantly enough for Derek Powell to finish fourth and Alan Shepherd seventh.
Shepherd went on to secure the G50’s first GP win in Finland in 1962; he also finished runner-up in that year’s 500cc world championship, finishing second to Mike Hailwood’s MV at Spa, the Ulster GP and the Sachsenring. In the final GP of the 1962 season, Argentine Benedicto Caldarella secured the G50’s second grand prix win. In the same year, Colin Seeley and Wally Rawlings were third in the Sidecar TT. Shepherd was again second in the next GP world championship, with Phil Read, Mike Duff, Paddy Driver, Gyula Marsovszki, John Hartle and Fred Stephens among those who successfully campaigned G50s at a world level.
Though there were few changes and improvements during the G50’s short production life (AMC ceased making the model in 1963) after ‘factory’ production ended, Colin Seeley took to building his specials, starting in 1966, and the G50 gained a new lease of life, as power for the fine handling Seeley G50s. Riders who gained success included Dave Croxford and John Cooper. The G50 engine also powered the famous Tom Arter special on which Peter Williams (son of Jack) finished second in the TT four times between 1967 and 1973 as well as the power for Jack Findlay’s McIntyre Matchless, still quick enough to come second in the 1968 500cc world championship.