The biggest motorcycle museum in New Zealand has been rescued from closing down and being split up and sold off to overseas interests.
New Zealand Classic Motorcycles opened in late 2014 in Nelson on the north coast of the South Island with an enormous private collection of about 300 machines from more than 60 manufacturers.
Businessman Tom Sturgess and his wife Heather collected the bikes over the past decade, but they decided to close the doors after Tom had major cancer surgery last year.
Now the collection has been rescued by Bill Richardson Transport World of Invercargill on the southern tip of the island and home of The World’s Fastest Indian rider Burt Munro and the annual Burt Munro Motorcycle Challenge.
Director Scott O’Donnell says the collection will be housed in the Invercargill CBD, not at Transport World.
It is expected the new attraction will open to the public in late 2016 on a permanent basis and will be a great complement to the E Hayes & Sons Hardware Store which houses Munro’s streamliner and other memorabilia.
Tom had always hoped the collection would remain in New Zealand and it seems he may have knocked back overseas offers.
“I am sure Invercargill will receive as much enjoyment and make as many new friends as we have,” Tom says.
“This has been a great journey – we have achieved a lot over the past few years, for which I am grateful. We have had some good fun along the way.”
The collection ranges from a 1902 Motosacoche to a 2007 Vincent Black Shadow with just about everything else in between including some sidecars, scooters and three-wheeled automobiles.
It also includes not one, but three New Zealand-made Britten racing bikes.
Tom’s collection was presented in a way that allowed customers to get up close, inspect the finer details of the impeccably kept bikes and even sit on some of the bikes for a quick snap.
It is not known whether this practice will continue at the new museum.
The collection has an even mix of British, American and European bikes, but its value has never been disclosed.
When asked how much Transport World paid for the collection, Scott says, “Millions, but I’m not saying how many.”
Tom says the museum was never about making money, but preserving history and “romance”.
“I love the stories, and the feel, and I hesitate to use this word around motorcycles, but the romance of them, and sharing that with other people.”
Thankfully, now that the collection has been rescued, that romance will continue.