Ugo Cirri’s Unusual 1943 Matchless G3L

The spoils of war

| May/June 2009

1943 Matchless G3L
Claimed power:
16hp @ 5,600
Top speed: 80mph (Ugo's bike, claimed 90mph)
Engine: 348cc, OHV air-cooled single
Weight (wet): 344lbs
Fuel capacity/MPG: 3gal / 72mpg
Price then: N/A
Price now: $2,000 - $6,000

Back in 1967, life for a 20-year-old Piaggio employee wasn’t half bad; regular work at the Pontedera factory producing brightly-colored Vespas gave a decent wage that could be frittered away on pretty women, dancing, lazing on nearby sunny Mediterranean beaches and motorcycles.

“Happy days indeed,” sighs Ugo Cirri, a genial and typically warm Italian who resides in a small village not far from Pisa, and is the proud owner and restorer of this fine but unusual 1943 Matchless G3L. “We’d have improvised races on the way to work on our bikes, all small Italian stuff, but what we really desired were BSAs, Nortons, Triumphs — you know, proper motorcycles. We wanted Mini Coopers, The Beatles, James Bond, The Stones. It seemed everything cool came from the U.K. in 1967, especially if you lived in a small town in Italy.”

Just 20 years previously there couldn’t have been a greater contrast on the street in Italy. A war-torn infrastructure and shortages made life problematic, but there were a few consolations for the Italian people to help themselves get back to normality. The Germans, Brits and Yanks had all been in and out of Italy as invaders and liberators, and they had discarded or abandoned huge amounts of military hardware including tanks, trucks and motorcycles.

“The Italian authorities quickly organized theses vehicles into huge deposits called ARAR camps,” explains Ugo, “and the stuff was sold and auctioned off to make quick cash for the government, and provide cheap transport and raw materials for the people. My Matchless, which started life as a 1943 Matchless G3L British war department model, would have ended up on one of these heaps of metal after the war.”

And who’s to say that this Matchless G3L didn’t land in Sicily in 1943, work its way up through fierce fighting in Italy to end up in Tuscany, only to be abandoned ungraciously after its war service, to then pass into appreciative Italian hands? Ugo has no doubts that it was singled out for special treatment after being rescued from the scrap heap, as the difference between his example and the standard rigid-framed Matchless G3L is all too glaringly obvious, in the form of the beautiful rear end that could only be “made in Italy.”

selvino salvador
5/31/2012 2:26:02 PM

bon giorno ugo,that bike is beautiful .while in verona i saw a aermacchi motor cycle i was excited but this person on the bike drove away before i could speake to him.too bad for me.ciao ugo

bike on highway

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