Lot 348 - 1947 Les Graham ‘Cadwell’ Matchless

Lot 348 - 1947 Les Graham ‘Cadwell’ Matchless

Lot 348 - 1947 Les Graham ‘Cadwell’ Matchless

Lot Number 348
Engine Number 11037 CAD
Estimate £15,000 - £20,000

Les Graham (born in Wallasey, 1911) was a works rider for OK Supreme in 1938 and 1939. The outbeak of WWII prevented his riding a Velocette for the 1940 season and he returned to motorcycle racing as a member of the factory AJS team in 1947, having served as a pilot in Bomber Command in WWII and being awarded the DFC in 1944. In 1949 Graham became the first 500cc World Motorcycle Racing Champion, riding an AJS 'Porcupine' and in 1951 signed up with Count Agusta to develop their new 500cc four-cylinder machine but soon after making the difficult handling MV into a winner he was to sadly lose his life at the Isle of Man TT in 1953.

It was in March 1947, at the first post WWII Cadwell Park meeting, that Graham swept the board riding the very special 350cc Matchless offered here. The bike was a lightweight one-off built by the AMC Competition Department, headed by Wally Wyatt. The bottom half of the 'Cadwell' engine was a prototype for the OHC 7R and the aluminium alloy cylinder barrel and head were also special items, allowing the use of alcohol fuel. The valve gear featured radiused cam followers and springs on the push rods. Further to his success at Cadwell Park, Graham rode the bike at the October combined car and motorcycle meeting at Shelsley Walsh, where he lowered the outright motorcycle hill record to 38.87 seconds.

The 'Cadwell' Matchless was later exported to New Zealand, where it was extensively raced and developed over the years into the bike you see today. Much of the original machine has been replaced over the years and essentially it is the engine that remains from 1947. It features a TT carburettor, a BTH racing magneto and it is accompanied by a factory test report showing it produced an output of 38.6bhp. The bike now features a spring frame, in place of the original rigid type, a later AMC/Norton gearbox, Ceriani front forks, full width AMC brakes laced to alloy rims and a fibreglass fuel tank and seat.

The Matchless was imported back to the UK in 2012 and has been in a private collection of motorcycles since. It comes with a history file containing a photograph of Graham on the bike, historical articles, the aforementioned factory test report and a letter from Wally Wyatt to the owner in New Zealand. Prospective buyers should note the engine has not been run for a number of years so will require recommissioning.

The bike is a fascinating and little known part of AMC racing history and would make an interesting addition to a collection of racing motorcycles or perhaps an exciting entry to classic events such as The Goodwood Revival.

Interested parties should satisfy themselves as to the description and condition of each lot prior to the sale. Accordingly, buyers are on notice that each vehicle is offered ‘as is/as seen’ subject to the Terms and Conditions for the auction. Buyers are advised to inspect the vehicle in person or use a professional to carry out this service. Historics will not entertain disputes over descriptions.

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