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Interview: Matt Machine


Posted on May 18th, by Scott in Other. 27 comments

At the recent Deus V-Twin Festival I had the pleasure of chewing the fat with renowned Australian bike builder Matt Machine. Not only is he a friggin talented bike builder who has built some of the most outstanding bikes in the Southern Hemisphere, but he is also an established architect. Is there anything he can’t build? I wanted to find out more about this humble recluse and luckily he was up for answering a couple of questions:

Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background? 

I’m an architect that has always wanted to be a carpenter, or a builder, or a boiler maker, or something else other than that so I could use my hands and make things. I live in the bush in south New South Wales with my wife and our dog and our cows and our landscape and our weather.

Does living on a farm help your creative process?

It almost is my creative process…you cant help but be inspired by the need to be real with whatever you do, to be direct with your decisions, and committed…thats living in the bush.


At first I was surprised to hear that you were an architect by trade but then it kind of made sense. Do you design bikes like you design houses?

I think I design anything the same. I prioritise a set of issues/elements/parts/whatever according to function or form and then make subsequent decisions based on the combination of those according to the program/or brief/or whatever.

Do you do a sketch before you build your bikes?

No, I hate to draw because I can draw well and when I do I feel I post-rationalise the design way too much… in other words… I start changing the design based on criteria not directly connected with the task at hand and that is not acceptable in any way for me…. so… in all design now, I will only draw something if its absolutely necessary, and I will send it away for build without looking over it, of course I cant do that with things that I am building so better not to sketch, better to feel and work by sight.

I know you’re a big Harley and Norton fan, and recently we’ve seen your European side. Can we expect a Japanese bike soon?

I did an XS 650 recently (pictured below), that was fun,…. but I think the next year will be full of American and British stuff……..but maybe one Jap single will come….


Your favourite bike of all time is the Norton50 es2? What is it about the es2 you love so much?

Well, its that it was my first real bike that I had to learn and really learn to love. when you ride a bike everyday for years and years (an old one I mean) (not one you take in for service every 1500kms, but one you have to look after yourself and love) you can’t help but become connected to that piece of machinery in some soul stirring way. down deep…..I’m almost feeling it now with my 48 pan….its just about miles and miles and falls and breaks and everything that goes with riding in that way.


Your 50 Panhead is one of the sweetest bikes we’ve seen this year. How many hours went into that build? Was it hard to let go?

Well no, cause it was never mine….it was built for one of my best mates Joe….its a very well resolved design I think, even though its undergoing a few little tweaks and changes as we speak. nothing major, just rider comfort stuff. it took about 350 hours to build it.

The MACHINE 50 Panhead. 350 hours of blood, sweat and tears… and still counting

Do you hand make your fairings?

…no, I get the blanks and then I remodel them and change their shape to suit the bike…I hand beat the 50 pan fairing and totally changed its shape, then I recut and welded to make it shorter and then repolished it.

Your Guzzi Le Mans was the standout bike (in my humble opinion) at the Deus V-Twin festival. Every detail looks so well thought out and made to such precision. What’s your favourite part of the bike?  

My favourite part of the bike is the bodywork…it was a big thing for me to really get stuck into the alloy work on that bike, to cut up a tank and rework it, and make that tail section from scratch was a big hurdle that I had to push myself to do. im better for it and I know the way forward for MACHINE, and its in alloy.

 The Guzzi Le Mans won best European at the Deus V-Twin Festival.

What do you love most about your job?

Having a glass of red wine and eating a slow cooked lamb shoulder for dinner with poached quince and ice cream for dessert while sitting outside and watching the fire with my girl and the dog.

Last question. You have $5000 dollars to spend on a bike in Australia. What do you buy and why?

I would buy a mid 90’s 1200 sportster that was registered or just out of rego that I could rework with about a thousand bucks. why?…ride one across australia and then ill tell you why….but that was just in the 5k category ok?!





  • SR85

    I dont like the pan at all… maybe its just the angle but the tank doesnt match it what so ever. i think a chrome tank on it would mix well with the front fairing, Or even BLACK TANK, BLACK FAIRING and BLACK STRUTS with Some BLACK GATORS!

    The Guzzi is Swwwweeeeeet

  • Matthew

    I really dislike the front fairings. Not because his design is poor (because it's not), I just really don't like them on any bike. I'd rather have a bike without one unless it truly needs it (aesthetically). That Guzzi is HOT!

  • Matthew

    I want to know more about that bike in the first image up top. Anyone wanna fill me in on that bike, its gorgeous.

  • Peder

    Both architect and renowned bike builder, that's really impressive. Myself I'm a arch student and huge bike fan, but these days it seems that the bike part is loosing to the arch studies on a count of to few hours in the day.. Reading this was a real inspiration! It shows that hard work at what you love really matter! I'm going to skipp some classes to work on my cb for sure…
    Thanks!

  • redrumracer

    @SR85 – Each to there own but to me the proportions of the 50 are spot on. It's low, it's long, it's mean and it's bloody perfect!

    The Guzzi was a treat to see in the flesh on the weekend too. A resolved design that looks like it could have rolled right off the factory floor. Great work Matt, keep it up!

  • Saint

    Matt is the snot. I was already impressed with his bikes, then I saw some other things he does outside of bikes & was stupified . I dont think he sleeps, & I think he has the perfect mate. Yes, he can do anything.

    Love the Pan if we're keeping track.

  • Twostoked

    The 50 Pan is perfect. I hate when everything is matchy matchy. But then again, I dont wear double denim or the same tracksuit as my wife. :)

  • skot

    I would love to see some of his architectural work, sure love the bikes.

  • http://www.occhiolungo.wordpress.com pete @ occhiolungo

    Matthew (who asked about the bike in the top photo), it is a mid 1920's Norton model 18. 500cc OHV. They made a similar model 25 too. Really great bikes, I think that Matt Machine sold his off sometime last year, check his site for details.

  • http://www.occhiolungo.wordpress.com pete @ occhiolungo

    Hurray for Matt! He works with his hands and his eyes, and makes some damn fine bikes. Even if you guys don't like fairings, you gotta admit that his stuff is good. Thanks for doing your thing Matt, and sharing it with us all.

  • todd

    I remember crashing a party thrown by this bloke pre '00. Loved the party, love his bikes.

  • http://www.machineshed.blogspot.com matt machine

    thanks men….all the comments mean a lot….even the not so good ones. Yep the top shot as pete said was my 26 norton model 18 that i part swapped for the vincent motor that i now have and am building at the moment. it was an amazing bike still in original paint but had been significantly altered throughout its life to be a fast race bike. pete and jeff thanks my friends for your support. its means a lot when men like you from the other side of the world offer your friendship. todd, was it one of the parties in the warehouse in surry hills?….they were big parties…(all in the past now….with my clean living ways)….peder, good luck with balancing the architecture and the bike building….took me a few years to figure that one, but its do-able. scott, thanks for considering me worthy of this little feature on your site…cheers blokes.

    matt

  • hoyt

    Matt – great perspective on the "job" question! No matter how great the job is (or isn't), you have figured the most important parts out.

    Great to see the range of bike interests too.

  • Kev

    Each one of these bikes are stunning and beautifully implemented. A vision with follow-through in every detail. Awesome Matt!!
    Kevin White

  • Ash in Bali

    The small fairings on the Panhead and the Guzzi really suit both the bikes. Good on you Matt, doing what you love doing.

  • Mike

    RENOWNED not Renound!

    Sorry…

    Other than that awesome interview.

  • Scott

    @Mike Amended, thanks.

  • Paddy

    I love the cafe fairings! How can I buy one or do I need to pound one out from sheet alum?

    For the love of god, please, I need that little fairing for my Yam xs650 cafe. Rip me off. I dont care. I want one.

  • Neil

    So Matt, how does one make the leap to 'doing what you want' rather than "what you think you must do'?

    Does it mean bake beans and vegimete soup, no medical benefits and driving a old camry?

  • http://www.machineshed.blogspot.com matt machine

    paddy,
    if you email me at machineshed@bigpond.com i can quote you up one….

    neil,
    it means follow your heart……

    matt

  • HAZ

    That Guzzi is sweet! Love it!!!

  • Blondie

    I have known Matt for 35yrs, we have been thru a lot in that time. If there is one mate that you can count on, it is Matt.
    He loves the life and the work that he is doing,very different to mine but we will always be connected.
    From rebuilding "Doris", designing & building his own house to the 50 panhead, one man would be proud.
    "You know what you are"……….!!

  • John

    Hey Matthew,

    The bike you really like is the same one i really like too. I check out Matt Machine's blog http://machineshed.blogspot.com/. The bike is a machine 26 norton model 18 there is a small picture of it on the right hand side of his blog. I couldn't find out much more about it aside from its an old Norton that he "Machined' up.

    Cheers,
    John

  • http://www.machineshed.blogspot.com matt machine

    blondie…"your just a sonofva…."

    john, ill post some more picks of the 18 for you on the blog….

    m

  • http://mistertinker.com Neil Fenton

    Fine looking work

  • http://www.cubulit.com shekhar

    very nice

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