Classic Matchless motorbikes often fetch a good price but the following one is expected to go for considerably more than normal when it comes up for auction at Bonhams on Saturday 20th June 2015. The vehicle in question was one of 250 that were built by Matchless way back in 1917 with the intention of being used by the Russian army in World War 1.
Matchless built these motorcycles with sidecars here in the UK with a view to them being transported overseas where they would be fitted out by the Russian army with a machine gun. The machine gun would be operated by the passenger in the sidecar and could be fired in a variety of directions as they would have been fitted with an anti-aircraft machine gun mount making them extremely versatile.
However, Lenin withdrew his country from the war, the motorbike order was cancelled and the vehicles never left our shores back then as they were no longer required by the Russians. Instead, they were auctioned off for £68 each in 1918 to private individuals obviously without any weaponry attached to them.
Apparently, the first owner of this bike lived in Dorchester but the next thing that was known about its history was that it was purchased by Chris Roberts in 1998 when it was in excellent condition. He is keen on things to do with the First World War and is a member of the Great War Society. Mr Roberts spent some time in restoring the motorbike and sidecar fitting it out with a Vickers machine gun.
This is an extremely rare combination as there are only believed to be three motorbikes/sidecars fitted with machine guns left in the UK. Two of them are in museums and the third one is this one owned by Mr Roberts. Furthermore, it is believed to be the only Matchless one left.
Anyway, Mr Roberts has decided to sell the motorbike/sidecar/machine gun. When it comes up for auction, it is expected to go for anything between £25,000 to £30,000.