There’s a lot of pressure in the motorbike world to produce the next best thing and that fact has remained unchanged for decades. Some motorbikes can have a great design but fail to make an impact because of outside circumstances. This was the case with the 1931 Matchless Silver Hawk. It was a beautiful looking machine, yet couldn’t reach its full potential because of the Great Depression. We’ve decided to explore the history of the Silver Hawk and find out what made it memorable.
An innovative product
For years, British manufacturer Matchless had been looking for an innovative engine design. The company had released the 397 cc V-Twin Silver Arrow and though it was a unique machine, it had problems with overheating. The Silver Arrow served as the inspiration for the Hawk, having a similar frame.
The Arrow was designed by racer Charlie Collier and the Hawk was created by his brother Bert. He focused on the engine and came up with a V4 that made the Hawk stand out. The motorbike had a 592 cc design with a flexible engine. The bike’s elegant appearance only added to its appeal.
Presented as a luxury vehicle, Matchless’ sales literature described the Silver Hawk as “unquestionably the most fascinating machine to ride that has ever been built. It combines the silence, smoothness and comfort of the most expensive motor car with a super-sports performance. On top gear alone the machine will run from as low as 6 miles per hour to over 80 miles per hour, while the acceleration given by the four-cylinder overhead camshaft engine in conjunction with the four-speed gearbox must be experienced to be believed.”
The Depression hits
As well designed as the Silver Hawk was, no one could predict the Great Depression of the 1930s. After four years of production, the motorbike was discontinued. Luxury items weren’t selling well, which forced Matchless to shut down production.
According to this article, the Silver Hawk had “a brilliant design which was unfortunate enough to be conceived at just the wrong moment in history. The majority of customers for whom the Silver Hawk had been designed were simply unable to make a purchase of such a luxury item in those times of economic gloom. It was a notable design worthy of a better fate.”
In the modern day, the Silver Hawk is appreciated by motorbike enthusiasts. It’s just a shame that it could never get the recognition it deserved when it was crafted.
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