Motorcycle Apprentice


Motorcycle Apprentice
Matchless - In Name and Reputation
by Bill Cakebread

  • A unique record of an apprenticeship and working life in the British motorcycle industry
  • Fascinating insight to the working practices of the motorcycle industry in the 1950s and 1960s
  • Includes period photographs and rare documents relating to the Associated Motor Cycles Ltd factory at Plumstead
  • Bill worked at the AMC factory from 1958 until 1966
  • AMC manufactured Matchless and A.J.S. motorcycles
    • Description
      A young Londoner had only one ambition in life - to work with motorcycles. That simple wish led to an apprenticeship that was to change Bill Cakebread's life forever as the training that Associated Motorcycles Limited provided enabled achievements that he never dreamed possible. This book gives a unique insight to the atmosphere and excitement of working in a motorcycle factory. It is an inspiring story, supported by a host of period photographs and rare documents, which provides a fascinating record of work within the British motorcycle industry in the final years of its decline into oblivion.

      This is the inspiring story of how a young school-leaver with no academic qualifications and low expectations built a successful career based on an apprenticeship with Associated Motor Cycles Ltd, and eventually became Managing Director of his company.

      It describes the very personal story of the ups and downs of factory life in the 1950s and 1960s. In particular, it conveys the unique atmosphere and excitement that surrounds the manufacture of motorcycles, an atmosphere that for those who have experienced it is like no other. The excellence of the training that was provided by the company enabled the writer to achieve far more than he ever anticipated.

      The journey through the factory, starting with the lowliest of duties in the machine shops and ending as personal assistant to the top motorcycle designers of their time, is described in detail. It gives a rare insight into working practices within the different departments and the characters that were employed.

      Supported by a host of period photographs and rare documents, it provides a unique record of work within the British motorcycle industry in the final years of its decline into oblivion.

      Independent Reviews
      Review by Chris Read for Jampot magazine, November 2008 AJS & Matchless Owners Club
      For anyone who has a fascination with the marques of AJS and Matchless, those fabled yarns from the days when the factory was in full swing serve to remind us of how our present day pride and joy was once created. Bill Cakebread served an engineering apprenticeship after coming out of a grammar school education. It was often hard work in grubby surroundings, but he loved it, and it led him to far greater things in later life. Bill's account of his apprenticeship is a wonderful story of a man who lived his dream. The illustrations (many that I've never seen before) are a priceless record of the day, right up to the 2007 AMC revisited event at the Royal Arsenal at Woolwich. Recommended.


      Being a bit of a youngster, I always enjoy books that tell me what life was about in the olden days.... OK, so I'm not that young, but I am certainly too young to have worked in the industry in its heyday. So books like this one, capably written by Bill Cakebread, are always of great interest to me. There are many, many books written about motorcycles, but remarkably few about peoples memories of the people and places that they are associated with. And afterall, many of us enjoy our bikes, not only for the wonderful pieces of machinery that they may (or may not..) be, but also for the piece of history that they evoke. And this book certainly brings a period of quite recent history to life.

      Bill spent his apprenticehip and most of his working life at the AMC factory in Plumstead, London. and has an obvious passion for recording the way of life and his recollections of a time that has long gone. And he does so in a lively and entertaining way. The book is filled with many fascinating photos (what would I give for one of those G50's waiting for their road test..) that really bring it all to life. It is a very honest portrayal - I loved his confession that he has never really liked his former employer's bread and butter products and rode BSA's himself!

      There is a nice section on the history of Matchless from the formation of the company by the Collier brothers in 1878 including the winning of the first TT 1907. And there are also interesting sections on some of the more recent AMC activities ending with "just another plaque on the wall" where the great factory used to stand.

      A very interesting and easy read that I recommend to anyone with a sense of history and a passion for the British Motorcycle Industry.

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Motorcycle Apprentice

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