Peter Williams Motorcycles (PWM) has announced limited production of a Mk4 version of the celebrated Mk3 Matchless G50 Arter Special race bike, 47 years after this groundbreaking machine gave Williams the first of many racing successes.
This machine was affectionately dubbed ‘Wagonwheels’ for its cast wheels, an innovation that would become ubiquitous in the world of motorcycling, along with the disc brakes carried on the magnesium castings.
The 500cc Matchless single cylinder engine should have been well past its competitive sell-by date even when the Mk3 debuted in 1969 – the racing engine had first appeared in 1958 with production ending in 1963. However, through clever engineering that extended beyond the wheels and brakes to the lightweight Grand Prix Metalcraft frame, small frontal area and design optimisation – ‘packaging’ as bike designers like to call it – Wagonwheels was a winner from the off.
“The Arter Special Mk3 Wagonwheels demonstrated and helped to prove several design innovations,” says Williams. “It was the climax of that type of motorcycle’s development and led the way with disc brakes, cast wheels, compact design and some aerodynamics. Its legacy is to be seen on every modern motorcycle.”
The international and domestic race successes were as numerous as they were extraordinary. In 1970 Williams and Wagonwheels were second to the MV Agusta of Giacomo Agostini in the Senior TT, then still a GP championship round, repeated the feat in 1971. In 1972 Williams won the Hutchinson 100 on Wagonwheels. “I am not sure of which of these results I am most proud. Was it my first TT or my last? On reflection I think it was neither and not a TT either. It was the Hutchinson 100 when I overtook Giacomo Agostini on his MV to win the main race. I have always been sorry that the results do not show Giacomo’s name because he fell off. Was it because of the surprise of being overtaken or because he tried too hard to keep up?” wonders the still-mischievous Williams.
Even today, Williams recalls the brilliance of Wagonwheels: “Wagonwheels never once, during the three years of racing, let me fall off; it almost encouraged me to try for ‘eleven tenths’. It knew its own way around the Isle of Man TT circuit and all the short circuits. If ever a machine could be an intelligent entity Wagonwheels was it. My whole attitude to motorcycle road racing is summed up by my affection for Wagonwheels. Riding on the limit was my joy. Braking to the limit and beyond was my aim and getting the front as well as the rear wheel into a slide without falling off gave me the satisfaction I craved.”
The original Mk3 bike now residing in New York now in the care of Robert Ianucci and Team Obsolete
Contemporary classic racers and collectors will find that same satisfaction in the Mk4 version of Wagonwheels. Using modern CAD/CAM technology to ensure production to exacting modern standards, PWM Wagonwheels Mk4 is ready to return the Arter Special to its winning ways. Production of this hand-assembled machine will be strictly limited, with a guide price of £45,000. The replicas will be eligible for Classic CRMC racing not withstanding the mag wheels and disc brakes because the rules allow this bike. It is hoped that with sufficient confirmed order, bikes will be delivered in time for next season.
See more on the Peter Williams Motorcycles website.
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