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Lot 290: 1933 Matchless 592cc Silver Hawk

Sale of Collectors' Motorcycles, Bonhams & Butterfields (12 November 2005)

The early 1930s was a period of severe economic depression, yet the 1931 Motorcycle Show at Olympia, London witnessed the launch of not one but two four-cylinder models aimed at the very top of the market. The ultimate fates of the two newcomers would turn out to be very different however. Ariel’s offering – the Square Four – would enjoy a lengthy production life lasting into the 1950s, whereas the rival Matchless Silver Hawk would be gone within four years.

Matchless had introduced another vee-engined model, the twin-cylinder Silver Arrow, the previous year, and the Silver Hawk’s design shared many of the Arrow’s features, most notably the narrow inclined angle of the cylinders: 26 degrees. Displacing a total of 592cc, the latter were contained within one casting and topped by a single ’head, just like the Arrow’s, but the Hawk was intended to be a luxury sports-tourer and so enjoyed the advantages conferred by overhead-camshaft valvegear. Drive to the upstairs cam was by shaft and bevel gears, and there was no denying that the v-four Silver Hawk’s was one impressive-looking motor. The frame and cycle parts followed Silver Arrow lines, incorporating cantilever rear suspension broadly similar to that adopted later by Vincent-HRD. Expensive to make and introduced at the wrong time, the Silver Arrow failed to sell despite its mouth-watering specification and was quietly dropped in 1935.

This example once formed part of the private motorcycle collection of the late Steve McQueen, one of the finest movie actors of his generation and a man with a passion for speed on both two wheels and four. This machine is offered with a Certificate of Title.

Lot Details
Auction Sale of Collectors' Motorcycles
Bonhams & Butterfields, Petersen Museum, Los Angeles, CA
Lot Number290
Outcome SOLD
Hammer Price$40000
Hammer Price (inc premium)$46000
Condition rating
Registration number
Chassis number
Engine number33B1927
Engine capacity (cc)
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors