Wagon Wheels: The Arter Matchless G50

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Photo by Kyoichi Nakamura
The Arter Matchless G50 ridden by legendary rider and engineer Peter Williams.

Top speed:148mph
Matchless 496cc air-cooled SOHC single, 90mm x 78mm bore and stroke, 10.75:1 compression ratio, 53hp @ 7,250rpm
Weight (dry):
292lb (132kg)

The ultimate racing British single: There can only be one, and this special-framed Arter Matchless G50, ridden by legendary rider and engineer Peter Williams and sporting the world’s first cast wheels — designed by Williams himself — must surely be a contender.

Built for the 1970 season, it was the first bike ever to wear cast magnesium alloy wheels, and coupled with its equally ground-breaking use of disc brakes and unique wind-cheating bodywork, Williams’ Arter G50 was a truly avant garde machine whose creation prolonged the competitive life of the 4-stroke single well beyond the advent of the 2-stroke era.

Williams rode the bike to three second-place wins in the Isle of Man Senior TT in 1970, 1971 and 1973, and his 102.74mph singe-cylinder lap record in the 1973 Senior TT stood until 1997.

Arter and Williams

Known as Wagon Wheels, this Arter Special Mk 3 was the crowning achievement of Tom Arter and Peter Williams’ years of racing together. Williams and Arter, a top-rate tuner and race sponsor, first teamed up in 1966, ultimately running a pair of 350/500cc bikes fitted with AJS/Matchless 7R/G50 engines mounted in special Reynolds frames built by master tube bender Ken Sprayson for John Surtees. Surtees never used them because of his move to car racing.

Order the July/August 2015 issue of Motorcycle Classics to read more about the Arter Matchless G50. Contact Customer Service at (800) 880-7567 or contact us by email

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