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Three Days in Invercargill : A Motorcycle Collection and More

It’s not easy to get there, but for serious gearheads and automotive historians, the effort is richly rewarded by this motorcycle collection.

There are many good reasons to travel to Invercargill, New Zealand’s southernmost city. One is to visit the Burt Munro exhibit and the real World’s Fastest Indian at the E Hayes Hardware store, which I reported on in the May issue. The other: to see one of the largest and finest classic and vintage motorcycle collection anywhere, and almost certainly in the Southern hemisphere.

In fact, the motorcycle collection is almost overwhelming in it scope and size, boasting more than 300 motorcycles on permanent display. I counted five Brough-Superiors, six Vincents, and I lost count of the numbers of Harley-Davidson and Indian models. There’s also a wide range of racing exotica and examples of bikes from long-gone manufacturers such as a 1910 Marsh Metz from USA, 1920 NUT racer from the UK, Nimbus “stovepipe” model from Denmark, and a unique Flying Merkel. 

Tom and Heather Sturgess in Nelson, New Zealand owned the collection since December 2014. Having built an outstanding reputation it closed to the public in April 2016. Sadly Tom’s health had not been the best and he made the decision to simplify his life. Offshore offers had been received, but it was Tom’s wish that the collection remain in New Zealand and the move to Invercargill was the best option. 

Not many motorcycle museums can boast having a Britten in their motorcycle collection. But how about three? Motorcycle Mecca has three of John Britten’s race bikes on show, all of them significant in the development of his last, most successful racer, the Britten V1000. 

The Aero-D-One was Britten’s second attempt at building his own race bike (after his first, the Aero-D-Zero) and used a New-Zealand built Denco V-Twin making 120 hp. 

Next came the auspiciously-named Precursor, Britten’s first bike with his own engine. Paul Lewis riding the Precursor finished second to Doug Polen’s factory Ducati 888 in the 1991 Battle of the Twins race at Daytona. Then came the “Cardinal” with Britten’s own 1100cc 60-degree V-Twin engine—the template for the final run of 10 Britten 1000cc racers.

For me, though, the most interesting exhibit was a display of early Triumph motorcycles from the early 20th century. They clearly show the rapid technological development of the era, from single-speed, belt-drive machines with “pedal assist,” through hybrid belt/chain drive, the introduction of the epicyclic hub-type and countershaft gearbox, the introduction of lighting, leading to what we would recognize as a “modern” motorcycle.

Nearby Motorcycle Mecca and also worth a visit is Bill Richardson’s Transport World, a huge collection of classic cars and more than 270 vintage trucks including what is claimed to be the only working Dodge RX70 Airflow extant. The collection describes itself as the “largest private automotive museum of its type in the world.”

So now you have three good reasons to visit Invercargill. Make sure you allow at least three days, too! 

by Robert Smith Canadian Biker Issue #333


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