Southern Hemisphere's leading motorcycle collection grows

24th October 2019

Tucked away in a streetscape of heritage buildings in the small New Zealand town of Invercargill, bike enthusiasts will find heaven on earth.

Motorcycling runs through the city’s veins. Home to the annual Burt Munro challenge, its reputation as a petrolhead’s paradise is flourishing, in large part to southern tourism hub Transport World, which is home to Classic Motorcycle Mecca.

The leading motorcycle museum in the Southern Hemisphere opened in 2016. It boasts more than 300 classic motorcycles, sidecars and prized artwork. With bikes ranging back to 1902 (both a Motosacoche and Peugeot hail from that year’s vintage), three out of four John Britten bikes found on public display (including one of just two Cardinals), a Simms Corbin Custom and more Brough Superior than visitors can shake a stick at, its appeal has grown thanks to a recently-completed extension.

Transport World visitor experience manager Juliana Baxter says the extension has made it possible to showcase a wider pool of motorcycling interests.

The new-look Classic Motorcycle Mecca is bigger and more diverse than ever before, with Japanese, motocross and speedway bikes added, as well as a tribute section to legends like speedway icon Ivan Mauger and a greater focus on interactive displays and technological improvements.

“Initially the collection focused on classic bikes from Europe, the United Kingdom, and the United States. We quickly realised that motorcycle enthusiasts were passionate about their favourite marques, so diversifying our collection became a key priority,” she says.

Highlights among the new inclusions are Ivan Mauger’s 1977 Speedway World Championship bike, the 2017 Brough Superior, and a Honda CBX 1000.

Classic Motorcycle Mecca is the second attraction opened by Transport World, the brainchild of Jocelyn O’Donnell. The vision to create New Zealand’s premier wheeled destination began when her father, transport magnate Bill Richardson, suddenly passed away in 2005. He left behind a beloved private collection of vintage trucks numbering in the hundreds. In 2015 Bill Richardson Transport World opened its doors to the public, and with more than 300 vintage vehicles of all makes and models it is the largest automotive museum of its kind in the world.

Motorcycles were not part of the plan: but when the opportunity arose, it seemed like a natural evolution.

Following “a rush of blood to the head”, Joc and husband Scott purchased a collection of classic motorcycles from American ex-pat Tom Sturgess in Nelson. After a dozen journeys the length of the South Island, the bikes were unloaded from a custom-fitted transporter and – instead of being tucked away in glass boxes – were displayed on gleaming tongue-and-groove floors, allowing visitors the chance to get up close. Stories abound of enthusiasts taking photographs at all angles: even lying underneath their favourite motorcycles to get the best shot.

The ambience of the restored heritage buildings the collection calls home adds to the experience, O’Donnell says.

“The buildings complement the heritage of the motorcycles found within the collection. Every inch of Classic Motorcycle Mecca, from the bikes themselves through to the patina of the wood and exposed brickwork and the classic steel windows, celebrates real craftmanship. Housing the collection in a space like this makes it feel like an almost immersive experience.”