After being revived by the Malenotti family, the historical brand’s new Model X Reloaded steers a new path into the future.
By Michael Harvey
Can you link these names: Natalia Romanov, Bruce Banner and Steve Rogers (okay, so far so easy Avengers fans)? How about Henry Collier and his sons Charlie and Harry? Not so easy, perhaps? The word that links all six is “Matchless”. That’s Matchless as in the turn-of-the-last-century motorcycle brand that dominated the business and took three TT (Tourist Trophy) wins, thanks to Charlie and Harry Collier and, Matchless that will be seen across cinema screens this weekend as the chosen, off-duty attire of the Black Widow, Hulk and Captain America who line up alongside Tony Stark’s Iron Man in the second instalment of Marvel’s super-hero franchise Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Matchless, the pioneering 20th-century motorcycle brand and Matchless the 21st-century maker of high-end leather jackets, outerwear and accessories are the same company. Italy’s Malenotti dynasty, best known for their spectacularly successful re-invention of Belstaff, acquired the largely moribund Matchless name in 2012, with the designer Michele Malenotti almost immediately starting work on the clothing line “Matchless London”.
This time however the project is not just about clothing; last year Matchless relaunched as a motorcycle company with a concept bike “The Model X Reloaded”, designed largely by Michele’s father Franco, which celebrates the marque and takes its name from the company’s most famous and most celebrated bike.
“We want to build the Rolls-Royce of motorcycles”, Michele Malenotti told Telegraph Luxury last year, speaking at the time of the Model X Reloaded’s launch at the Milan Motorcycle show. “Indeed I spoke with the Rolls-Royce CEO and he told me ‘congratulations, you have a found a place in the market where nobody is selling right now’.”
For fans of big, comfortable torque-y bikes the Model X Reloaded is a striking new addition to the market, with some real innovation very much in the spirit of Henry Collier’s original bikes. It features, for example, fully adjustable handlebars and seats and even two sets of instruments so the rider can chose to cruise, feet forward, or get his or her head down and feet tucked under. The engine is a 1.9-litre V-Twin manufactured by S&S of Illinois, famous as an upgrade unit for Harley-Davidsons (S&S started in the late 1960s making performance exhausts for Harleys) but also familiar as the unit in Morgan’s eccentric and adorable three-wheeler.
The Model X is expected to go into production in the UK later this year. Malenotti Jnr is already in talks with distributors and seems confident that independent networks selling four-wheeled brands like Rolls-Royce and Bugatti already have more than enough customers to make the Model X Reloaded the small-volume hit he’d like it to be.
“We are building a brand universe,” says Malenotti, “One that can be passed on to the next generation. We are taking a different route to brands like Harley Davidson and Triumph that started with motorcycles and moved on to clothing. Protective clothing was as important to Henry Collier as motorcycles. He was a pioneer of technical, protective clothing for motorcyclists over a hundred years ago.” Super-heroes, superbikes, super-elegant leather jackets; in the Malenotti world they are one and the same thing.