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Getting the Matchless on the road

Discussion in 'AJS & Matchless' started by OzT, Jul 25, 2013.

  1. OzT


    May 15, 2013
    Hi guys, how are you? I'm the bloke some of you may have seen on the Commando page that got his bike going again after 10 years in the garage, only to wipe it out 4 days after getting it road legal and taxed.
    Anyway, whilst I'm fighting the insurance company on that bike, I decided to get the other bike in my garage going. It's a 59 Matchless G3L with 500 conversion, last on the road, according to the tax disc on it, summer of 1997.
    This is as much a blog for myself, maybe of some interests to others, and to ask questions and opinions along the way.

    So far, I have taken the head off. Thought I could have left it all as is and try to start it, but decided to take the head off and have a look. Well, all looks good in there, needn't have taken it off but at least I can see it's still oiled and no rust or corrosions in head or barrel. There's no spark, I have SR1 mag, which was working before, so I am hoping it's just the points may be stuck. The carb's a Concentric, I stupidly junked the Monobloc in the 70's thinking the Concentric will make for easier starting and 'go faster'. but the bike's not original anyway, I have alloy chaincase with alternator, front wheel's a full width hub, brought for looks and again stupidly junked the old half width one, and I had Triumph export bars with Lucas all in one lever/switchgear as well. Only thing I kept on the bar was the choke lever. Never had decompression lever, easy enough to find compression and kick it over.

    So far I know I need to do the following
    a) Get it to spark
    b) Clean the carb out
    c) Replace main drive oil seal. Kicked it over earlier, had wet sumped and pressure blew oil out between the crankcase and primary chaincase

    So initial questions:
    1: do you think I can reuse the old head gasket, it’s a copper one, and the old head bolts?
    2: piston feels good in the bore; do you think I should lift the barrel to check the rings? After taking the head off and seeing I didn’t need to makes me hesitant to take the barrel off.
    3: want to put lower bars back on. Would it use to have the slightly raised Matchless bars or Norton straight bars?

    Thanks guys for Part I :)

    This is how the bike looked when last running:


    this is it tonight

  2. Rohan


    Aug 26, 2010
    Sweet looking bike !!
    What old singles were all about.
    Looks a bit headless now - decapitated !
    Good polish up, and it will be as good as new.

    Copper head gaskets can be reused, as long as you heat them red and then quench (soften) in water.
    Rings probably should be checked, or even replaced with a very light hone.
    But if they worked good before, just liberally oil the bore and put the head back on.
    It will smoke a little initially, but if the rings have lube they should be good to go.
    Headbolts will last eons, as long as they have not been seriously overtorqued anywhere.
    Ride and enjoy, Have fun !

    P.S. I have acquired a set of those Norton "western bars' for my ES2 project.
    Unless its used on the motorway, I suspect it may give a very relaxed comfortable ride.
    Try them again, they may be good ?
    And save you a lot of recabling.. ?
    If the cables are still good, that is.
  3. OzT


    May 15, 2013
    Cheers Rohan! Yes I liked the look of it with high bars, it was comfortable, and at bout 70mph it was a bit of a drag, but it was much easier to swing on the kick start being more upright, and I used the bike more for green laneing anyway, it handles very well, I am surprised with it. I was thinking now though it may look a bit silly, high bars were good in the 70s and 80s. anyway, see how it goes, I can get original bars for about £30'ish, add to them cables. The existing clutch cable was one of those lubed for life cables, and I was just going to oil the other ones if I leave the high bars on.

    I like your idea of leaving oil on top of the piston. Would you recommend I use 20/50 or thinner easing oil?

    good luck with the ES2!!!


  4. OzT


    May 15, 2013
    Quick update, not an awful lot done on the Matchless, been dealing with the insurance company about my Commando, when that completed post on the Commando thread, think some people may be interested in how the insurance works in England with write offs.

    Anyway, what I have done is reversed engineered my wiring onto the computer for safe keeping. I wired the bike up over 25 years ago to suit the bike, and need to replace some of the wiring but as I encased it all in tape no idea what went where, so have now put it all into a Powerpoint doc so I can repeat it. Due to lack of proper colour cables I do have a bit of mish mash of colours. This diagram may be of interest if someone wants to wire their bike up with the combination of units I've got.

    Bike background:
    SR1 Mag ingnition
    3 phase Lucas alternator
    Zenner diode
    Lucas 169SA switch gear (LH and RH)

    You'll notice a few bullet connectors in the diagram, this was because I didn't have enough lengths of wires in one colour! :) Hope this helps some others.


    Now the problem I have is the SR1 mag is not sparking. Can anyone help me on this? As usual with this, it was working 15 years ago I put the bike away, now no sparks. Had a new condensor in it, good points regapped to 12 thou, but no sparks. Can mags just pack up? Was a recondition mag and had beautiful spark before.



    ps Can't seem to get the image on the post, so here's the link:

    http://s107.photobucket.com/user/kicker ... sort=3&o=0
  5. johnm

    johnm VIP MEMBER

    Feb 26, 2008

    By 1959 they had the full width hub so I think you have the correct one although not certain because the photo is a little unclear. Is that an 18 inch ront wheel or is the front guard mounted a bit strangely ?

    Since you are so far down I would lift the barrel to check the big end and perhaps install new rings. A light hone of the barrel may be necessary. (Oh dear now Im agreeing with Rohan :) )

    The SR1 mag is a good thing and looking at the timing cover you probably have an automatic advance unit installed. Im 90 % certain that coils, condensors, points, bearings etc from either Hunt or Morris magneto will fit straight in. Mags do not like sitting round for years in cold and damp so it may have decided to die.

    Nice bike and in my opinion this is a good year.

  6. OzT


    May 15, 2013
    cheers John for that, so it seems 30 years ago when I junked the half width hub for the (better looking) full width hub I actually did the right thing? No both front and back are 19 inch wheels, the stays were what I could find to put the new stainless guards on.

    Going to have a bash at the SR1 mag. It was working before I put the bike away and it is really quite simple I think, just a bunch of copper wires going round a magnet and a coil in there. Heck if MacGyver can make a radio receiver/transmitter from nothing more than a match box, bits of copper wire and a Swiss army penknife sure I can take the mag apart and maybe see something wrong?
    Or not....

    Never know if you don't give it a bash I reckon!

    I'm going to leave the piston in the barrel. the cylinder has no rust, still a film of oil, and I think the rings will be ok. I haven't got a ring compressor and putting the barrel back on has always been a case of balancing it on thumbs of two hands while I push the rings closed one at a time with a small screwdriver, bugger when it comes to the cords oil rings! I know the big end's solid, went to the local engineering shop before I put it together last time to push the pin out and the bearings were good. after taking the head off and realized I didn't need to is holding me back from pulling the barrel up. Though I have a nagging wee bloke sitting on my shoulder, think he's called common sense, that I should just lift the barrel off to have a look.

    This week I'm going to make sure the wiring's ok with the battery on. one reason I rather stick with the mag, no worries about having a good battery to start!
  7. Corona850


    May 9, 2008
    Some strips cut from an old coffee can and a jubilee-clamp (or even elec zip-ties) works. That's what I used to get all four pistons simultaneously in my KZ1000.
  8. skipsoldbikes


    Jun 3, 2011
    Great project & thanks for putting up the thread on it!
    As to the SR1 mag, I will help in any way I can over the net, via Skype, or PM me. The very first thing I would recomend is reading up on the Brightspark magneto web site. The not only have a free download (see library) of the SR1 Lucas parts list, but also the Lucas workshop manual. The best part of the site is the Easycap condenser to replace the poorly made paper one that Lucas made. If you decide to send it out they will do a complete rebuild, or they will just sell you parts, eaither way, they are great guys to deal with.
    Have a read, you'll be impressed: http://www.brightsparkmagnetos.com/

    manual: http://www.brightsparkmagnetos.com/libr ... gnetos.pdf

    original parts list, see pages G20 & G21:

    http://www.brightsparkmagnetos.com/libr ... 20ATDs.pdf

    re-magnetization: http://www.brightsparkmagnetos.com/libr ... ue%202.pdf

    Skip Brolund
  9. dave M

    dave M

    Oct 19, 2005
    Good luck with this OzT, The monoblock carbs are being remanufactured and are available so you could easily get hold of one.

    I used to live in Chessington back in the mid 70s when I worked for Mitsui Machinery Sales (the Yamaha importers) and then the Brabham F1 team, many fond memories of riding company road test bikes down to the pub in Oxshot.
  10. johnm

    johnm VIP MEMBER

    Feb 26, 2008
    Re the mag comments above.

    The SR1 is a rotating magnet magneto. (the best kind )

    The Brightspark condensor is for the rotating coil type magneto.

    Im sure the Brightspark company will be able to help you anyway. You are much better of with the SR1 type and changing the condenser in this mag is extremely simple and several providers sell them. I personally use the more expensive and physically larger racing condensor sold by Morris mag in the US. The one that costs about US$28 - which is a lot for a condensor but it works !!!


    I found in racing use the smaller condensors can fail after a year or two. Continuous high rpm. But I have never had the larger condensor fail.

    But I have not worked on a genuine SR1 mag - only look alikes from Hunt and Morris so I cannot guarantee it will fit inside the cover of an SR1. (I think they all came originally from a Fairbanks Morse design anyway if you go back far enough) You can see from the different diagrams how similar the rotating magnet mags from the differnt companes are.


  11. Rohan


    Aug 26, 2010
    Ed says it has had a new condensor, and new points.
    That only leaves the coil, the plug lead (and cap) and the connections between.
    And checking the points are not accidentally grounded anyplace ?

    Aircraft owners that use rotating magnet maggies (a pair of) routinely carry spare coils
    - aircraft maggies may work their coils harder, but they certainly don't last forever.
    At least they are easy to change - if you are on the ground !

    There is a test for SR coil integrity that involves a small torch battery, and keeping your fingers out of the way ?
  12. OzT


    May 15, 2013
    Well this is a slightly worrying development on the mag. took points and condensor off to take the plate off the mag, all looks clean in there, coil's not wobbley, couldn't see anything physically wrong, put all back together and now I have a fat blue spark.

    Whilst that may be good news, what bothers me is I have done nothing. so it's sparking in the workshop, I haven't put a plug on it, just the end of the HT lead to the barrel, but a defo fat blue spark. Now do I carry on and risk no sparks when I'm on the road? But what else can I do?

    Think I'll take the barrel off and check the rings are clean and clear in their groves. I have a slight carbon lip at the top of the barrel and may just give it a slight rub down with wet and dry. hope to do it before the weekend as I'm away, and really that's what I need to do now to get it ready for the 1st kick with fuel in...

    Clean barrel/piston/rings
    Reassemble barrel and pistons etc
    Check timing half inch before TDC on full advance
    Replace head after heating up old head gasket
    Replace a few wires that have harden and frayed and sheath the wires where it goes into the headlamp shell
    Clean the concentric up, check jets clear with fine wire
    Rocker box on and tappets clearance
    Remove brakes to check for rust and replace wheels
    Remove clutch to check plates are clean
    Oh and put oil in!!!

    Anything I missed out on you think???

    Then I think I am ready to try and fire it up! Hopefully next post will be result of starting up or it may be more problems I find along the way!!


    edit: oops remember to put oil in!
  13. johnm

    johnm VIP MEMBER

    Feb 26, 2008
    Gearbox oil and front fork oil.

    I like to pour oil down push rod tubes onto the cams if a bike has sat idle for a long time.

    You could flush the oil and petrol tanks. Is there a wire strainer filter going into the oil tank ???? It is so long ago I cannot remember?????

    Lube chains and cables as well.


    Those mags were pretty good so you might get lucky.
  14. Bernhard


    Apr 20, 2011
    I suggest you replace the HT lead and the spark plug cap, as there have been standing for sooooooo…. long :!: :shock:
  15. OzT


    May 15, 2013
    Ah yes, thanks guys. Fork oil, will change that for new 20/50 I reckon, and check gear box oil has not watered, as weld as defo change leads and cap.

    Not sure I will change the tyres, still very good tread on them, due to time in garage, and I had it on centre stand to take load off one pint and rotated them every now and then. Hate the thought, and cost, of throwing good tread tyres away.

    Cables I'm not sure if I am keeping the high bars or buy new proper bars, with just the 2 inch rise, so either new or oiled cables, new should be new sheath for life ones, else oil them too.

    No there's no strainer, just straight into oil tank. Thought I'd shake the petrol tank with some clean gravel to check for rust, good idea. Adding to my To Do list.

    and thanks ye sI'll be lubing the rocker box and bits as I put the rocker and push rods in.

  16. OzT


    May 15, 2013
    hi, can someone advice me how to wire a kill switch on the SR1 mag please? I know I need to run something to earth somewhere on the LT side but if someone coudl point to an article somewhere or tell me how here please?

    Thanks in advance..... :)
  17. Rohan


    Aug 26, 2010
    You need to add/connect a wire to the wire that goes to the points.
    And run it up to the handlebars, to a kill swicth.
    When the kill switch connects your wire to earth, it takes away the power = no spark.

    So your kill switch is usually not connected, and when it does connect it earths out the maggie.

    This only works for the SR1.
    Many other magnetos have points that rotate, which complicates it somewhat.
    Twin cylinders are (mostly) a different kettle'o'fish again, although the SR2 is as above.
  18. Rohan


    Aug 26, 2010
    P.S. Don't you have a valve lifter ?
    Thats the usual way of killing a single ?

    It can't go very far when you let all the steam out....

    I distantly recall that the SR1 had an insulated connector for the condensor, that was also external to the casing.
    Thats where the kill switch wire would go to ?
  19. OzT


    May 15, 2013
    Right, long time since the last post but only last week I actually finished the bike, got it insured and on the road! Was really really great hearing it thumping down the road. After a few miles and clear of traffic, come you a lovely sweeping left hander that goes down to the dual carriageway, open the throttle and back went zig zaging down the road. Luckily I managed to stay on and get the bike to a halt on the side of the carriageway. I had ripped my rear inner tube valve out. thought I had checked/replaced everything forgot about my 35plus years old inner tubes! I have managed to get front and rear tubes and on the bike now, yes I replaced the front one as well though I am keeping it got emergencies. So next week hopefully I will go on a decent ride!

    thigs I did:

    the SR1 mag. turned out was a combination of condensor and bad HT leads. Now all good. I even wired up a cut out switch from the back of the mag just in front of the barrel. now no more having to choke the bike to a stop with hand over the air intake.

    I did in the end take the barrel off. Wished I had waited to wire the cutout AFTER I took the barrel off, been much easier! But checked the rings, took them off and clean them and checked gaps, big end, all good. Oiled the rings put all back on.

    Brought new head bolts and also, and this made a huge difference as it did blow a bit before, new head bolt washers. I torqued it down to just over 28 lb/ft, 52 nm.

    Took ages to get all old rust out of the tank, and then coating it with some stuff I got from Amazon as the first time I just put petrol in it just started rusting again within a few weeks.

    Complete clean and reset of the concentric carb.

    New cables all round.

    Then just general tidy up, cleaned the clutch, had trouble with the rotor scraping the alternator and getting the chain case very hot, but cured that now. Checked wiring, only need a new headlamp bulb.

    Now only a few things not 100% right. But going to take the bike out for a longish shakedown run next week and see what happens.

    what's not 100%

    My head light only goes on dip, not main, even though the warning light does come on. this is because the push and twict end connector does not line up with the 2 solder blobs on the bulb. Have added a thin piece of metal to the bulb solder high beam side and sometimes it connects, but run the bike for a few minutes and no high beam again.

    I have started leaking, at standstill, oil out of the drive side bearing! Never ever done that before, and I have had the bike since 1976! Either I have started wet sumping and oil now goes over the bearing, or the 20/50 oil I am using is not good for it and I need to get straight 50. I have checked and clean the breather, seems good to me. maybe 20/50 oil now not as good as it used to be in the 70s?

    My side stand needs taking off and put under a press to see if I can straighten it. It has got bent over the years, probably from riding off with it down and hitting the road on my first left hander. But it's such a bugger having to remove the whole primary case to get at the bolt thru the frame. But on the side stand it looks as if the bike's going to fall over, needs a handy curb to put the stand on! :)

    I think that's all the known problems, none making the bike a non runner but not good.

    Anybody got ideas on the oil to use, 20/50 or straight 50, the oil seeping out the drive side bearing and trouble lining the head lamp bulb up with the connector?

    anyway, here's how the bike looks now with the new proper handlebars.

  20. OzT


    May 15, 2013
    Oh one other slight problem I am having and I don't understand.

    My clutch. It only engages right at the end, just before I reach the end of the lever. I have checked the push rod, there's a bit of play on it, there's a slight gap on the cable when at rest. But when I pull the clutch in, no worries it disengages perfectly gear changes no cluncks.

    but it doesn't engage again until right at the end, where by then I have opened the throttle expecting to bite before then and it loosk and sounds silly lol!

    I have run out of ideas what other adjustment there are. It's an AMC clutch to go with the gearbox. All plates are a bit worn but not bad at all.

    As I said, I adjusted the push rod by screwing in the centre screw till it touches the rod then back off, the clutch cable itself has about 1/8 inch play on it, but the clutch doesn't engage till right at the end of the release stage. I'm out of ideas, help!

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