Motorcycle Features

Historic bikes in Tassie


Tasmania in the warmer months is a biker’s paradise, with a plethora of well maintained, winding and hilly roads, and relatively little traffic. On a recent visit to Tasmania HV visited the new location of the National Automobile Museum of Tasmania, in Launceston and also came across a few other bike initiatives.



You hardly get inside the doors of the National Automobile of Tasmania before you come across the first bike exhibit: a 1939 Velocette KSS, in road going trim. However, many KTT and KSS ‘Velos’ were 90mph-tuned and modified with racing clutches, making them the preferred privateer race bikes in the UK in the 1930s. The post-1936 KSS MkII had a revise engine, with an aluminium cylinder head.



Many people haven’t even heard of ‘Dot’ – Devoid Of Trouble – motorcycles that were developed in Manchester in the early 1900s, powered by Peugeot engines. However, a Dot won the twin-cylinder class of the Isle of Man TT in 1908. The display bike is a 1911 model, chassis number 108, powered by a JAP 1000cc twin.



The Suzuki GT750, water-cooled two stroke’s 67bhp made it a potent machine in 1972. It was nicknamed the ‘water bottle’ in Australia and featured a patented system for burning off residual fuel and oil in the crankcase, thus reducing the amount of tell-tale blue smoke.


1969 Honda CD90


In 1969, Honda rewrote the spec’ book for commuter bikes, with overhead camshaft engines for the CD50, CD65 and CD90 bikes. The lightweight bikes were also great performers and the CD90 could achieve 60mph.




Norvins were specialised race bikes and the display model featured a Norton Featherbed frame and a Vincent V-twin engine – combining the best handling British frame of the time with the most potent engine.



The Vincent-HRD Series B Rapide caused a sensation when released after World War II. Phil Vincent’s use of the powerful V-twin engine as a stressed member reduced frame weight and complexity. The display bike was sold into Tasmania from new and has remained there ever since.



The Indian Prince was a 1925-28 entry level bike, slotting below the Chief range. This bike had finally been restored after almost 50 years of stop-start rebuilds.



The first Super Sport 750 put Ducati into the super bike market in 1972 and in 1975 the engine capacity was increased to 900cc, being based on the 860cc ‘square case’ engine.



The 1973 Kawasaki Z1 900 was originally intended to be a 750cc bike, but was eclipsed by Honda’s CB750 and redesigned with more engine capacity.



Indian’s Chief was originally introduced in 1922 to replace the Powerplus. A big twin, it was more powerful than the more agile Scout. This 1946 model was the only Indian in production after WWII, having the advantages of a sprung rear frame and skirted fenders over Harley-Davidson.



This Matchless G50 is one of only 180 originals built. The race-tuned 496cc engine was developed from the AJS 7R and produced more than 50bhp at 7200rpm. Although down on power compared with the Manx Norton the G50 was lighter and had excellent handling.



Other bikes we came across were this fisherman’s BSA Bantam (covered in a separate story), a Royal Enfield cafe racer project we spotted in a cafe in Zeehan and a worse for wear Ariel single at Pearn’s Steam World in Westbury.





We also spotted these exquisite 200mm-long models of a Trumpy T120 and a Harley in Mole Creek.



Made by an ancient ex-truckie, Mel Blunden. They’re hand-crafted in Tasmanian timbers and everything is wood – even the chains, cables and plug leads.



Interesting place, Tasmania.

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