Of all the great British motorcycle manufacturers, no company practiced ‘badge-engineering’ with more verve than AMC. Founded as Matchless by the Collier family in 1878 to produce bicycles, by the turn of the century the firm had moved on to motorcycles, growing by acquisition over the next five decades. AJS, Francis-Barnett, Sunbeam, James and eventually Norton would all join the Matchless empire, necessitating a name change to Associated Motor Cycles for the parent company. Starting in 1949 with a newly designed 500cc twin, the Matchless and AJS brands were particularly close, the only real differences between models being cosmetics and the badge on the gas tank.
Deserts being in short supply in the Midwest, the folks at Merril’s Norton-Ducati dealership in South Bend, Indiana, came up with a different use for this Norton/Matchless hybrid. They shoe-horned an early twin-carb 750 Atlas twin into a spare G80CS chassis to come up with a flat-track racer, shown here in TT form with front brake and meaty, traction-enhancing 16-inch rear wheel. The shop provided the bike to a succession of riders for local races, and though their names have been lost to time we do have some recent history. Joe Leonard, multi-time AMA and USAC champion, rode the Norton for demonstration laps at the Del Mar Mile, then signed the gas tank. Other AMA Hall of Famers Carroll Resweber, Everett Brashear, Walt Fulton and Babe DeMay also signed the tank. That autographed original tank and a freshly painted replica are included in the sale.