Five Hundred Miles...

A Rogue Wanderer Traveling The River of Life.. Travel, Motorcycles, and Growing Old Against My Will

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Man of La Matchless


When Ron Gluck bought what he thought was a fairly common 1961 Matchless thumper for twenty five dollars, he tossed it in his barn. When Adrian "Ad" Coppens visited him, he took one look at what he realized was a 1961 G80 TCS 600 single, and said “You know that that’s a Typhoon, right?”
Ron didn’t know until that moment that he owned one of only two hundred motorcycles that were made especially for the American market by the one of England’s oldest motorcycle manufacturers. Ad Coppens knows his Matchless motorcycles.
“I collect pieces that are so bad that other people do not want to touch them, and I make completely new motorcycles out of them”, he says.
Ad has come a long way from the post WWII years, when motorcycles were nothing more than a dream. When he was 19, his mother bought him his first motorcycle a 1957 G80 S 500. He rode that day in and day out, good weather and bad.
He came to America in 1964, and in 1982, he got back in the game buying his first Matchless on this side of the pond, a '67 G80 CS 500 single. That led to another, another and another. Needles to say his passion is—what else? Matchless'.

So much so that he now owns six of them, in addition to another half dozen AJS’, sister brand to the Matchless’. His collection includes a rare 1949 G9 twin 500, for which there are no records of how many were actually made. Rebuilding these singles is a way of life for him, to the point of constantly having to build or buy the machines and tools that he needs to duplicate or fabricate pieces that have not been made for over forty years. His garage was built especially to house his ever-growing pride of little known but exquisitely beautiful machines. The attic would make a legitimate parts shop green with envy where frames awaiting the master’s touch hang, surrounded by hundreds of carefully labeled bins containing thousands of of nuts, bolts, levers, pedals and any possible part that he could ever imagine needing, gathered from his never-ending search through parts bazaars and sales sites. “I can relate to every bolt, and nut on the bike by the time I’m done, and it becomes part of the family”, he says. His always evolving collection includes a mate to Gluck's Typhoon.

The Matchless is a venerable example of English motorcycling, that like the Brough, is known to very few, and appreciated by fewer still. With the exception of BSA and Triumph, however, they outlasted all the rest. The first Matchless rolled the overcast roads of the English countryside in 1899, and inaugurated the first British V twin in 1905. They grew through the embryonic years of British motorcycling when the art of the motorcycle was changing with every innovation that we now accept as the norm, in a mix of colors and shapes that would meld and break away, only to merge and evolve in the then largest national motorcycle scene in the world.
Their roots and greatest success was as racing machines, winning TT races in 1907, 09, and 1910. They made V twins in the 496 and 998cc class, produced engines so coveted and respected that they were used in Brough Superiors, the Cadillac of English two-wheelers.
But their most notable strength was their single cylinder, which are still considered by those who know them to be the epitome of functional, reliable simplicity. “They are quite simply, beauty on two wheels, and their glory was in their singles”, Ad said recently.

They were popular in England, and exported to African, Middle and Far Eastern colonies, their numbers never grew on this side of the Atlantic, due mostly to distribution problems. But the US does have a certified Matchless club chapter, an adjunct to the UK home club, with six hundred members from all over the contiguous lower forty-eight, Alaska and Hawaii. “They were very good in off-road use”, says John Diederich, the current AJSMOC Secretary. “They were really popular in scrambles, and enduros throughout the country, especially in the northeast”

The 600 G80 TCS Typhoon began life as a 500 single that was bored out to a 600 at the insistence of the California distributor, Frank Cooper. Designed especially for California desert racing, there were only two hundred imported to the US before they were discontinued. Ron Gluck still rides his for general on-road riding. When he races in Trials events at Laconia and the AMA Vintage Days in Ohio each year, he rides a 1957 G3LC 350 single.
Now retired, Ad's plans are very simple: “I’m gong to tend to my garden and work on my motorcycles; do some cooking and work on my motorcycles; paint the house and work on my motorcycles, and” …Well, you get the idea.

STAY TUNED FOR FUTURE ISSUES..Next week we'll visit the Erie Canal, New York's 534-mile water park, possibly visit the Hudson Valley's $7,8000.00 hand-built castle, travel along the highways and byways of the Hudson Valley and the New Jersey Shore. We'll take a little jaunt to North Carolina, dig for emeralds and break rock for diamonds, visit strange places and meet interesting people, most of whom are old enough to know better. I'll have some comments on aging, boomers, the elderly, and whatever strikes my fancy on any given day. Check with your local cable provider.


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