THE National Motor Museum, an hour’s ride from Adelaide in the Mount Lofty Ranges, is a treasure trove for Australian motorcyclists.
I’ve visited the place twice — once 30 years ago while riding Perth-to-Hobart-and-back with my new bride pillion on the back of my Yamaha XV1000, and more recently in the leather and air-conditioned comfort of the Jeep.
On the first visit, the collection was modest and mostly about cars, with a few tasty bikes thrown in. We were in a rush, and my Nikkormat was packed way too deep in the ocky-strapped-on backpack to capture the memory. (To be honest, my strongest recollection was being delighted by the endless corners and sensational scenery on the ride out from Adelaide but frustrated at the high volume of cars making it impossible to enjoy those corners to their fullest. I seem to recall being stuck behind a cop car for most of the ride. Very frustrating.)
But I did remember the place fondly enough to put it on the itinerary when we holidayed in the Barossa Valley earlier this year. And I’m glad we did.
The museum started as a private collection put together by a couple of motoring buffs in the 1960s. These days it’s owned by the South Australian Government and boasts near on 400 vehicles including an impressive collection of bikes ranging from ancient to modern classic. You need a couple of hours or three to do the place justice.
I remembered the Nikon and the tripod this time. These were my favourites …
CAPTION: For my money, the Norton Norvil was one of Britain’s brightest motorcycling moments. (Notice glimpse of unmistakeable Sandman van in the background.)
CAPTION: I’d have happily snuck this one into the back of the Jeep while no one was looking. A Honda VFR750R. Could probably have found room for the CB1100R and old 750 four too, although my wife would have had to walk home. And it was a long way.
CAPTION: The stuff of teenage dreams. But hey .. isn’t that Marzocchi rear shock facing the wrong way?
CAPTION: More from Honda corner. I’ve always wanted an SL350. Maybe later. The Benley looks very Zen in the corner.
CAPTION: This display is a memorial to Andy Caldecott, with a couple of his Dakar bikes and this Andy-autographed TM400 front-and-centre. Andy was one of Australia’s most successful desert racers, winning the Australian Safari four years in a row and riding the Paris-Dakar three times. He was killed in an accident during the Dakar in 2006.
CAPTION: British-built Greeves Pathfinder trials bike.
CAPTION: Dirt exotica doesn’t get much more exotic than this. The English Rickman brothers Derek and Don built some very special bikes through the 1960s and into the mid-70s, specialising in frame kits for British iron and Japanese multis. This ‘Metisse’ scrambler houses a 650 Triumph engine. (You can still buy a new Metisse, but I suspect you’d need deep pockets.)
CAPTION: Hands up who remembers this? The Alron, built in Perth by Al Hayes and Ron Lyon, boasted a Rickman frame and Ossa engine. The Alron came in 250 and 400 versions, enduro and motocross. About 30 of the bikes were built before Al and Ron gave up. Bike shops weren’t prepared to stock them, so the project withered on the vine. Pity. Reports from back in the day rated them highly.
CAPTION: Nimbus? No, not a Harry Potter racing broomstick, but a Danish-built four-cylinder 750, boasting an overhead valve engine, shaft drive and, supposedly, the first telescopic forks fitted to a production motorcycle. The bikes were produced for almost 40 years.
CAPTION: It’s easy to forget just how long Harley Davidson has been churning out big-engined motorbikes from Milwaukee. This one boasts a 1200cc engine, no brakes, no clutch, and just one gear. You could buy one in any colour you liked, so long as you liked olive green. Find some sand flats and hang on …
CAPTION: Philosophical predecessor to the Gold Wing? This is a New Hudson Bronze Wing. New Hudson was a British manufacturer which operated through the early 1900s and into the ’30s before morphing into Girling Ltd. The company still exists, of course, making brake bits.
CAPTION: Everyone starts somewhere … Hard to believe this has evolved into a Panigale.
CAPTION: The Panigale of the early 20th Century, the Rex Acme TT 350, boasted 2.75 horsepower.
CAPTION: Yes, we know its a car. Lovely two-seater 260Z once owned by the late Don Dunstan, Premier of South Australia for virtually all of the 1970s. He owned the Z for almost 25 years. Volvo P1800 and Porsche 911 keep it company.
CAPTION: You won’t see one of these down the shops. One of ten ‘pre-production’ Leyland Force 7 coupes, designed in Britain to take on the Falcon GT, Holden Monaro and Chrysler Charger. When the P76 sank, the Force 7 went with it. It ran a 4.4 litre V8.
CAPTION: If the Bike Shed Times’ company Porsche ever departs, we want one of these. Ferrari 308. (Neighbouring Lambo is just too ostentatious for we working-class lads.)