This bike may be a Matchless, but the British brand that produced it actually found the perfect match in the early ’60s with an American rider who made racing history.
At the time, the AMA Grand National Championship was dominated by Harley-Davidson, whose riders had won the title every year since the series began in 1954. But then Matchless signed Dick Mann to race its 500cc, single-cylinder G50.
In 1962, Mann campaigned his G50 in two different configurations. For road races, he mounted the Matchless motor in an AJS 7R frame, a combination that took him within 10 feet of victory in the Daytona 200 in the opening race of the season. And for dirt-track races, he put the same motor into a BSA Gold Star frame with a rigid rear end.
During the season, the Matchless/BSA combination was ruled illegal, so Mann had to switch to the original Matchless frame, yet he still finished the season third in the standings.
The next year started worse, when Mann’s use of the AJS frame was ruled illegal and he was barred from the Daytona 200. So he rode a BSA for part of that season, and campaigned the Matchless—in the re-legalized BSA frame—at other events.
Amazingly, Mann overcame all that and stayed in the hunt for the title until a serious injury at a local track in Freeport, Illinois, put the rest of his season in jeopardy.
But just a few weeks later, Mann was back, and he earned a gritty victory aboard his Matchless in the Ascot TT that ultimately allowed him to claim the Grand National title by a single point.
That breakthrough season marked the first championship for any brand other than Harley, and the first for a single-cylinder machine.
This Dick Mann Matchless, shown in road-racing trim, is now owned by Fred Mork. It is on display as part of the “SuperMann” exhibit at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum in Pickerington, Ohio, that celebrates Mann’s legendary 16-year racing career.