By Tom White
By 1966 the writing was on the wall for the heavy British four-stroke scramblers. Competition motorcycles from CZ, Husqvarna, Bultaco and Greeves were winning the majority of championship events in both motocross and scrambles in Europe. Matchless would try and change that with an all-new model designated the G85CS (Competition Scrambler).
The Matchless G85 had a duplex chassis that borrowed much of its design from the Rickman brothers. The forks were a lightweight design that had been used successfully by Norton. The front hub was machined to reduce weight. A magnesium rear hub was standard, and many lightweight fiberglass and aluminum components were utilized. The result was that the G85CS’s weight was a relatively feathery 318 pounds compared to the G80 model it replaced, which weighed 360 pounds stripped for competition.
The engine was little more than a hopped-up model of the several-decades-old design used in the G80. Flywheels had been cut down to reduce weight, compression was increased, and the G85 came standard with a 1-3/8 inch Amal GP carburetor. This combination would yield competitive horsepower for high-speed running, but the GP carburetor would load up in tight turns and require heavy clutch usage. With a $1400 retail price (almost double that of its competitors) the last-ditch Matchless G85CS would be a complete failure in both sales and racing.
In their day, Matchless had built quality motorcycles, but by the end of the year Matchless would be swallowed up by the new Norton-Villiers corporation and production of four-stroke scramblers would cease.
1966 MATCHLESS 500 G85CS FACTS
WHAT THEY COST
This museum-quality Matchless G85CS example is completely original, never ridden, and restored by British specialist Don Harrell. Though they were a sales failure in their day, production numbers of less than 150 have driven the estimated value of a G85CS to approximately $25,000.
The G85CS is one of many Matchless motorcycles, but it only came in the 500cc model.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
The thin aluminum primary cover with steel band to attach to the engine was extremely fragile and was usually replaced with a cast aluminum cover. The aluminum rock shield between the frame down tubes almost never survived the first couple of rides. Finding a G85CS with an original Amal GP carb is hard (most GP carbs were ditched for less finicky Monoblocs).
Call Walridge Motors Limited in London, Ontario, Canada at (519) 641-2770.
For more info on classic bikes go to www.earlyyearsofmx.com