STM: Matchless G50 Discharged From Hospital

February 22, 2011
Frank Melling
Frank Melling
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Our Memorable Motorcycles expert, Frank Melling also is the organizer of the British vintage motorcycle extravaganza known as Thundersprint. Melling began riding five decades ago and remains as much in love with motorcycles as when he drove his first bike into a cow shed wall aged ten. In the last 50 years, Melling has competed in every form of motorcycle sport and now declares himself to be too old to grow up and be sensible.

Fred Walmsley and Frank Melling
Melling better chum up to Fred. He’s the only one who could return the Matchless G.50 to its former pre-crash glory.

Writing this column can be a harrowing experience – not the least because of the thousands of fan letters, phone calls and e-mails I receive every month. Sometimes, these letters are very demanding – like the one I have just received from a Mr. B. Obama of Washington, DC. Clearly, Mr. Obama is given to exaggeration but this is what he wrote:

“Dear Mr. Melling,

I am under a lot of pressure currently what with the US National Debt being a tad over $14 trillion, the threat of a third world war breaking out in the Middle East and me having to find the vet’s fees after Bo ate that cheap plastic Eiffel Tower that the French ambassador left us after the Christmas Party.

“But my primary concern is the lack of news about your G.50’s winter re-build. This is really weighing heavily on my mind.

Fred Walmsley works on the G50s engine
This is a fine mess you’ve made, Mr. Melling. Fortunately, Fred Walmsley is a patient and talented man. Fred Walmsley inspects the damage of Mellings precious Matchless G50

“I have had the FBI tap MCUSA’s phone – those guys certainly know how to order pizzas for lunch – and the CIA have diverted a spy satellite to hover over your grubby little hovel in England, but we still can’t find out what is happening.

“In order that I concentrate on my other jobs PLEASE give me the news regarding the holy G.50’s hospitalization.”

Okay Mr. Obama, here is the definitive update. The G.50 has returned home and is now sitting gleaming in the back of our workshop. Regular readers – that’s Milwaukee Mike and Meg my Collie – will know that there was some degree of angst in the Melling household regarding funding and the prediction by MCUSA’s Managing Editor, Bart Madson, that at a minimum one kidney and possibly my left leg were going to have to be put on eBay to pay for the re-build.

In fact, the magisterial Mr. Madson was wrong. In the hands of the sublimely talented Fred Walmsley, the re-build costs were extremely reasonable – using the word “reasonable” in the very limited sense that reasonable can ever be applied to owning a GP bike.

Except for the crash damage – and my goodness that was painful – the bill would have been under $4000 and that was for a complete engine, clutch and gearbox re-build – plus a full service on every other part of the bike.

Portrait of a  16 000 engine
Melling got off cheap. His engine,
clutch and gearbox re-build, plus
full service on the rest of the bike
only set him back $4000 – and he
got to keep all his internal organs!

Now $4000 is a lot of money if you’ve just been fired or come home from work to find that your girlfriend is pregnant, but for over 1500 racing miles, spread out over three years, it is almost a bargain. Better still, the G.50 has taken me to half a dozen podium finishes and even three outright wins. And any bike which can get a fat, bald, wrinkly geriatric on to the top step of the ego mountain has to be something very special.

All that remains now is to break in the new piston with 20 laps of the fabulous Anglesey Race Circuit and then take it back to Fred for a final check. Then, once the weather gets warmer, we’ll be racing again.

Genuinely, I have received a number of requests to see, and hear, the G.50 in action so here is a film clip shot at Spa last year. The camera was an experimental one which we had on test, so the film is not up to the normal standards of MCUSA but I hope that you will get a feel for the bike which, understandably, excites Mr. Obama so much.