IF YOU grew up in the 1970s, your favourite bikes are very likely from Japan and almost as likely to be wearing the badge of a Honda. We visited the wonderful shed of an ex-pat Kiwi who now lives in Western Australia and is creating his own dream collection.
FIRST PUBLISHED NOVEMBER 2018
IT’S DIFFICULT to choose a favourite bike from a collection in which every one is a masterpiece and every one has a story to tell.
Some of the bikes in this shed are well-established classics — icons of that era between the late ’60s and the mid-’70s when the Japanese juggernaut conquered the motorcycle world, rolling out a seemingly endless run of magnificent bikes from 50cc minis to four-cylinder super-bikes and everything in between.
Others here are less well known — machines that might not fit the definition of ‘icon’ but which own an important place in the bike story of the man who has collected them.
The man who has built — is still building — this collection was right in the thick of that Japanese motorcycle boom back in the early 1970s. Apprenticed to a bike shop in Dunedin, New Zealand, he had a job that must have been the envy of many of his young mates: uncrating and assembling new bikes out of Japan — like Honda’s first-series grey-tank XR75s, orange XL175s, green-tank Honda Elsinores and silver-and-black XL250 Motorsports.
‘Wouldn’t it be great to have all of them’, the 16-year-old Nev undoubtedly would have thought to himself.
And here we are, 45-odd years later, and Nev does have them all. Well, most of them.
“Yes, I’ve still got a wish list,” Nev told us. “But I’ll need to make more room first.”
We’re not going to tell you Nev’s surname, nor where he lives. (His shed has some pretty slick security in place, but he’s understandably not keen to put it to the test.)
But we can tell you he never finished his apprenticeship as a motorcycle mechanic. After a falling out with his boss, he found himself in a totally different line of work; boot-making.
Over the years he progressed from the factory floor to the boardroom, enjoying a career that ended relatively early when he decided at the age of 53 that he could afford to slow down — and put more energy into restoring and collecting classic bikes and cars.
That was 11 years ago. Today, his collection numbers about 40 bikes and maybe a dozen cars – mostly in outstanding condition, some of them concourse.
Some of them were pristine when Nev bought them but, despite never finishing that apprenticeship, Nev is plenty handy enough with the tools to enjoy the challenge of a refresh or a full-blown rebuild.
The day we visited there were several projects underway in the workshop area of his cavernous shed; bikes that were not yet ready to take the roll around the corner into the showroom.
“Each bike gets a name before it goes around the corner,” Nev says “and that name goes on the tank. It’s a ritual, I guess, that says the restoration work is done and the bike is good enough to go on show.”