British Chassis Legend – Pair of Seeley Racers in Europe

In England, Race by Tim HuberLeave a Comment

Colin Seeley built some of the most legendary British motorcycle racing frames of all time. The chassis expert grew up a stone’s throw from Brands Hatch Circuit where a young Seeley would be drawn to the world of two-wheeled competition. He enjoyed a decently successful racing career, starting as a solo rider before becoming increasingly involved in sidecar competition where he earned multiple championships. The racer turned frame-fabricator competed at some world class events including a handful of 1960’s TT races. Despite him having a wildly noteworthy career in the motorcycle world, Colin Seeley is one of the lesser-known legends of the British moto-world, at least in terms of impact he had on racing.

Seeley got his start building frames for the famous Matchless G50 engine, though he would go on to build frames for all different kinds of international powerplants. A Seeley-built chassis boasted ridiculously sharp handling, especially for machines of his respective era. So it was somewhat of a natural progression of events when Seeley was approached by Suzuki GB’s Rex White in the early-1970’s to build a Suzuki-powered racer for an up-and-coming Barry Sheene – who later said Seeley’s Suzuki was the best handling machine he’d ever ridden to that point.

Seeley’s company grew from a small-time operation in a single garage to a full on factory employing more than 25 people. In ’66, Seeley bought Associated Motor Cycles’ (AMC’s) racing department when the company went into receivership, giving him the tools and equipment needed for production. While Seeley Motorcycles obviously continued producing high-performance frames, the British boutique manufacturer began also selling complete “ready to race” machines. Seeley employed advanced chassis-production techniques such as bronze-welded tubing that resulted in incredible frames that were nothing short of feats of engineering. Sheene would win his first British 500 Championship aboard a Seeley Suzuki. Almost overnight, there was an exponential influx of orders of Seeley’s from the public, and sales were limited to how many it could produce.

As a result, Seeley bikes are rare finds. Add to this the fact that they were used for racing which means that many examples were wrecked or ridden ’til the wheels damn near fell off, and a small amount are circulating today. The Rickman Brothers undeniably built some awesome frames for road racers, but I still think Seeley deserves more shine than he got for his amazing work.

The first 500cc G50 Seeley machines rolled out of the small factory in the Summer of ’66, and even after going on to develop frames for various other makes and models, Seeley Motorcycles continued to produce and sell the 500cc Matchless powered racers. The first of these two Seeley racers is a 1972 Seeley Matchless G50. As the seller points out, this example is not a replica or recreation, but is in fact very much the real deal.

This example was first run at the 1972 Senior TT where it was utilized by Jim Ball for Malcolm Moffat to ride. This Seeley would change hands and pass into the possession of Brian Richards who would see the bike used to compete at the Manx Classic Senior where it would clock an average speed of over 102 mph while being piloted by Bill Horseman. This same example would later be ridden by other notable riders such as Bill Swallow, Bob Jackson, Danny Shimmin, and Brian Alexander. The example has current CRMC paperwork for the 500cc GP class and is also eligible for similar events with the VMCC in the UK as well as other competitions in other regions.

I’m not sure of the origin of this example’s name, but as you can see painted on the fairing, this machine is referred to as “Myrtle”. It really is a gorgeous example, the seller refers to it as being of “museum quality”, which is seemingly an apt description based on the photos. The frame is incredibly clean which is obviously vital to determining a Seeley’s value. Though the bike being sold is a ’72, I came across some footage on youtube of a ’71 Seeley G50 showing a walk-around and it being fired up:

The other example for sale is another Seeley that is also a particularly special machine as it is powered by a 920cc Wesley power-plant. This machine was previously saw three Ireland Grand Prix’s while possibly being piloted by Woolsey Coulter, a British motorcycle racer who took more than a decade off from racing before returning to competition. He now teaches at his Woolsey Coulter ART (Advanced Rider Training) academy. This engine features a bottom-end with a one-piece crank with Z-cams, a five-speed transmission, Marzocchi forks, and interestingly has front disks from a Yamaha TZ.

The previous owner of this Seeley knew the machine like the back of his hand, becoming intimately acquainted with exactly how the thing ticked. Years of experience has been translated into notes that are invaluable in avoiding gremlins older bikes are often prone to having. A handful of various parts also had to be custom machined for this Seeley, from key components down to individual washers with weird dimensions. The bike is by no means in museum condition, but it’s nonetheless an awesome example from a legendary name. It’s also a fascinating motorcycle to see stripped down.

Another factor that gives me more confidence in this machine is the shop in Northern Spain where it’s currently being sold: Classic GP. Classic GP has only been for about a year now, but they’ve already established themselves as a trustworthy source for exotic and elite machines. They specialize in scoots from the ’70’s, ’80’s, and ’90’s and deal in both street and track bikes. Its owners are particularly interested in motorcycles of historical significance, though they also have a bit of a thing for classic Ducati’s and vintage GP bikes. I recently featured a ’93 Factory YZR500 Two-Stroke GP bike that is another one of the shop’s bikes. I spoke with Camilo Lupo from Classic GP and his enthusiasm for bikes and racing was abundantly clear even through the language barrier.

Though it’s not in English, Machines Et Moteurs has a post featuring a Seeley Norton Commando 920 that is pretty beautiful, and an epic example of a legendary all-British vintage scoot.

You can find the 1972 Seeley Matchless G50 “Myrtle” Racer for sale here on RaceBikeMart in the United Kingdom with a price of $33,875 (or £25,000).

You can find the other Seeley Wesley Racer for sale at GP Classics or here on RaceBikeMart in Spain with a more reasonable price of $13,800 (or €11,500).