There is something reassuring about museums, be they public or private collections, as they offer an open window into another time that can be shared by all. The curators and private collectors are the gatekeepers of worlds past, and this is never more true when it comes to motorcycle collections.
I was fortunate enough to visit the Peterborough Motorcycle and Antique Museum recently, which is situated in the mid-north of South Australia. Peterborough is approximately 260km north of the city of Adelaide and a pleasant three-hour drive on the A32, which is part of the Barrier Hwy to Broken Hill.
Located on the comer of Kitchener and Jervois street, just off the main road, the museum is housed in a former historic Baptist Church and offers bed and breakfast accommodation in the separate Tennyson Hall, which was built in 1913 as a men’s prayer room.
Ian and Belinda Spooner opened the museum in 2008, and as well as housing numerous interesting antiques, the majority of space is taken up by Ian’s collection of motorcycles, many of which have never been seen or heard of in Australia.
Ian started buying motorcycles in his teens, and although the word “collector” was not mentioned, he simply admitted that he “couldn’t get rid of anything”. And Ian continues to add to his inventory to the point where the church hall is putting some constraint on how much can be displayed.
The first thing that is noticeable about the exhibits is the large number of impressive small capacity European made two-strokes from the 50’s, 60’s, and 1970’s. This is offset, to a degree, by machines like the 1981 1000cc Laverda Jota triple and a 1971 Honda 750 automatic, which was sold in the U.S. but never made its way to Australia. Ian also has on display several French vintage racing motorcycles in the shape of a very rare 1921 Yvels with a 250cc Villiers racing engine and a France which used a 350cc Jap engine.
Another fascinating machine is a recreation of a 1939 water-cooled and supercharged 250cc Benelli Grand Prix racer. The replica was literally hand built by a nautical engineer over 15 years, using a four-cylinder 250cc Yamaha engine as the basis for the powerplant.
Also on display is a collection of motorcycle memorabilia in the shape of photo’s, posters and signs. But one item that did catch my eye was a set of white leathers hanging on the wall. I recognised these as belonging to 5 times 500c Grand Prix winner Dutch rider Wil Hartog.
Hartog came to Australia for the Swan International Series in the late 1970’s bringing with him the daunting Suzuki RG680cc racer. A round of the series was held at the Adelaide International Raceway, and during unofficial practice I witnessed Hartog lose the front on the approach to the speedbowl, which unfortunately broke his collarbone and ended his series campaign. Hartog gave the leathers to a friend of Ian’s with whom Hartog had stayed while in Adelaide.
Ian’s enthusiasm for his motorcycles and displays is contagious, and he takes the time to talk to his visitors about the many exhibits on show. For me, the museum was well worth the trip alone, but the town and surrounding area also have a lot to offer.
Peterborough was once an important regional railway hub and the Steamtown Heritage Museum displays steam trains and carriages of this bygone era with the added attraction of a sound and light show. At Hallet on the A32, there is the opportunity to visit Sir Hubert Wilkins birthplace. The Famous South Australian was a celebrated war photographer, aviator and polar explorer and there is, of course, the historic former copper mining town of Burra to explore while just thirty minutes away is Clare with its world-class wineries and excellent food.
Words Geoff Dawes © 2015. Photographs Geoff Dawes © 2015.
Below is a link to the Peterborough Motorcycle and Antique Museum website and to google maps for the Adelaide to Peterborough route.