The Honor Guard

Two Matchless G80 CS singles, towed with an Austin-Healey 100-6 and a vintage Allstate trailer, make a road run for The Quail.

| September/October 2019


As urban legend has it, the hamburger was a spontaneous pairing of a beef patty and a bun. Likewise, the Amphicar was a sly fitment of a Triumph drivetrain and propellers into a water-tight convertible to form a car and boat, all in one. And Alice Cooper, the mash-up of a minister’s son and a makeup mirror was … well, go watch Wayne’s World for details! Laud or lament these cultural icons as you please, but such disparate elements sometimes do yield splendidly offbeat successes. 

Might this include the odd quartet of barn-find vehicles seen here? Let’s take a visit. The beefsteak of 1950s English motorcycling, these 500cc Matchless G80 CS singles were among the first factory scramblers, a full decade before motocross arrived stateside. With aluminum engine cases, aluminum heads and magneto ignition, the big Matchboxes were simultaneously maximum and minimalist. Many, like these 1954 and 1955 models, were stripped of their lights, re-geared and reshod for offroad work, and then summarily trained America’s first generation of dirt riders. These two bikes were siblings, asleep at the back of a garage for nearly 50 years after their owner bought a new Yamaha RT1 in 1970.

The slinky black 1958 Austin-Healey 100-6 roadster endured a similar slumber — nearly 30 years in a garage after its owner withdrew from the world, closing the garage door and piling boxes and housewares atop and around the car. In its day though, 61 years ago the Big Healey (so-called, as it’s big brother to the Bugeye Sprite) was a formidable sports car, with a 2.6-liter, dual-carb inline six, a lightweight aluminum central body, and few creature comforts. And the little 1964 Allstate trailer? It was purchased new for $138 at a neighborhood Sears store by a gentleman who used it sparingly before retiring it in the side yard, where it sat for nearly a half century.

It’s not unusual, really, that such vehicles would be sidelined, squirreled away or forgotten over time. There must be millions of such cases across America. But what’s eerie is the common denominator of these four: Family men just like us bought and used the machines during their prime, and as they aged out of the game, they still retained them — right to the bitter end.

Which raises a question: Why do we connect so indelibly with machines, keeping and protecting them long after they can serve any real purpose for us? Some may call this hoarding, but I call it honoring. And so, in honor of their former owners, car racer friend (and classic motorcycle enthusiast) Randy Pobst, photographer Seth DeDoes and I decided to combine them for a trip to The Quail Motorcycle Gathering. The inspiration for this came from racer John Morton’s excellent book Inside Shelby American, where he describes using a Jaguar XK150 as a tow vehicle for his Lotus Super Seven race car during the early 1960s. “If a Jag can tow a car trailer, why can’t a Healey tow a bike trailer?” I thought. So we hatched a plan, and as Sergeant Friday drawled in Dragnet, “The story you are about to hear is true.”

The sound and the fury: celebrate the machines that changed the world!

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