Freshly restored Norton Commando sweeps show & shine

It’s not a very big place, Capel Western Australia. Population: 18,000. Total area: 554 sq km. Bitumen roads: 329km. Gravel roads: 200km. Major industries: Mineral sands, mining, dairying, fruit, vegetables, vineyards, timber, basalt. Average annual rainfall: 677mm.

But the shire of Capel took on a new look last weekend. First and foremost, the sun came out — came out, and stayed out. And this is in June when, history tells us, 20 days out of 30, the people of Capel can expect it to rain.

But the sun wasn’t the only thing that came out last weekend. So did motorbikes. Heaps of them. And not just plain-Jane bought-last-year-to-ride-to-work motorbikes, but a whole of heap of Western Australia’s most prized motorbikes; mostly old, a few ancient, and quite a few not especially old but especially nice.

Some came on trailers but a lot came under their own steam, either down from the State capital of Perth (200km or so to the north), the regional city of Bunbury (30km north) or from any number of nearish-by south-west towns no bigger than Capel itself. At least a few souls made the ride from Albany more than 300km to the south-east, attracted not only by the glorious display of motorcycles on show but by the 300 glorious kilometres of perhaps Western Australia’s most scenic roads (but watch out for kangaroos).

There’s no doubt organisers took a punt on the weather. The Bike Shed Times Capel River Classic Show and Shine was staged in a paddock, surrounded by State forest. The prospect of rain — proper heavens-open stay-inside flood-the-paddock kinda rain — was somewhere on a scale between quite possible and very likely.

See that sky? Blue. Not a cloud in sight. Just a bunch of spectacular bikes (how nice is that Guzzi Daytona in the foreground?) and one of the marquees protecting everyone from the rain that never came.

There were two marquees, but they only provided shelter to 40 or so bikes. The rest were outside, in the paddock, sharing space with trailers and tents and camp fires from the 300-odd trail bike riders who were in the same place on the same day for the 45th Capel 200 Trail Bike Rally through the forest.

But the punt paid off, and the folks of south-western Western Australia were treated to one perfect day to take a very pleasant drive or ride in winter sunshine through towering timbers, wide open sheep paddocks and built-for-bike corners to a destination that looked quite a lot like heaven.

Don’t believe us? Hey. Check out the photos.

Lloyd Gibson finished restoring his wonderful 1975 Norton Commando just in time for The Bike Shed Times Capel River Classic. It was showing just 395 miles on the clock when it rolled into the marquee on Saturday morning. It rolled out again Saturday afternoon as Best In Show, plus first-place trophies in the 1972-1982 and Best European/UK categories.
Al McNevin’s 1942 Flathead Harley-Davidson romped it in as crowd favourite, taking out the People’s Choice award. And little wonder. It’s a stunner.
Did someone say stunner? Here’s an-unner. Runner-up to Al’s Harley in the People’s Choice was Neil Gibney’s  gorgeous 1912 Indian board-tracker. It took out Best American, ahead of the Flathead, and runner-up in pre-1961.
Brian Ritchie found this 1952 Ducati TL98 at a flea market in Italy. It took him a few years to get it into Australia, and then many hours to bring it back to beautiful. The bike took top honours in Pre-1961 and finished second in Best European/UK. Brian told us he’s taking it beach racing next year. We didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, so we just nodded. Hey, why not?
Tom Russell’s 1974 Kawasaki Z1A 900 didn’t win a trophy. But gosh it won some hearts. The spotless Zed One finished one vote behind the Indian in People’s Choice.
West Australian radio personality Ian Blackley agreed to be Master of Ceremonies for the day and kept the crowd entertained interviewing entrants about their bikes (and what others they had at home). He bought along his bike too — a spotless 1974 BMW R90S. It took out runner-up to Best In Show and runner-up 1972-1982.
The event attracted a wonderful display of dirt bikes, including Colin Dickinson’s one-man-show of four big Japanese motocrossers. His 1980 Yamaha YZ465 was judged Best Japanese bike and also took at the Glen Britza Memorial Award for Best Dirt Bike, and his 1987 Honda CR500 won the 1983-1992 category, beating off no less than a 1986 Bimota DB1 for the top prize.
And here’s that Bimota, owned by Tony Hyde. Magnificent.
We don’t reckon many buyers of Kawasaki’s 350cc Big Horn trail bike back in 1976 would have seen it as a one-day trophy winner at a show-and-shine day for classic motorbikes 45-odd years later. But here it is. Steve Martin parked the bike early because he was headed out into the forest with all the other trail riders to jump logs and fight mud on (mostly) modern dirt bikes. When he got back, on the seat of his Big Horn were two trophies — runner up in the Glen Britza Memorial award, and runner-up in Best Japanese bike.
Paul Levi’s superbly presented 1965 BSA trials took second spot in 1961-71.
Marc Conway’s lovely 1971 Triumph 250 Trail Blazer was a crowd pleaser — and a judge-pleaser. It took first place in 1961-71. Love the seat cover.
Craig Morgan brought out two Laverdas from his stable. This 1975 Laverda 750SFC pulled a crowd all day long. Rare as can be, the twin-cylinder SFC was said to be good for 135mph — and is surely one of history’s most beautiful things.
Yes, Ducati made a dirt bike. It wasn’t a huge sales success, which is why they didn’t do it for long, but it was a work of art. Craig Burley took this 1971 RT450 to Capel just to put it on show.
Nev Hurring took three Yamaha 125s to the show. This one’s a 1973 MX125, predecessor to the YZ range. Behind it are 1975 and 1976 YZs. All three were superb.
Here’s Nev’s ’75 YZ, from back in the days when monoshock was a new thing (well, apart from Vincents but let’s not go there). Note the trick-as-can-be gas chambers (or were they just air?) atop the forks.
Dave and Jim Lawson put on a display of glorious old British four stroke dirt bikes. This 1974 CCM was our favourite but the ’79 two-valve behind it wasn’t too shabby either.
Also not shabby — 1968 Cheney Triumph and, behind it, ’74 CCM.
Kevin Gibson brought two Tridents, both beauties. This is the T150 …
… and this one’s the T160.
Dan Talbot took a superb pair to Capel; this 1954 Ariel Square 4 (which is for sale, by the way) …
… and his 1948 Vincent HRD Rapide. Beautiful.
My Ducati — it looks like a 900 Super Sport but it’s actually a 1982 Mike Hailwood Replica, disguised with carbon fibre tank and body work. Gorgeous, innit?
Western Australia’s Ducati Owners’ Club showed up in force. Among them, Chris Pearce took his 1978 GTS900 custom and his ’74 750GT, and Dave Alberghini polished up his 1984 Mike Hailwood Replica 900.
More Latin lusciousness. Another from Tony Hyde, this one’s a ’77 750SS.
Mike Moulding’s 1995 Triumph Daytona 1200 was too modern to qualify for any trophies, but settled in alongside its great grandfather and looked marvellous.
Very nice ’92 Harley-Davidson Dyna from Darrell Playle.
So here’s a fun fact. BMW’s R90S and Suzuki’s Katana were designed by the same person. German designer Hans Muth was apparently designing BMW car interiors when he got a tap on the shoulder for the R90S project. Suzuki obviously thought he was just the guy to jazz up the GSX and give them something different too. And he did. This schmick ’82 Katana 750SZ was shown by Andy Sutherland.
Outdoors, parking spots were hard to find — so the display area and parking area merged into a enjoyably-chaotic show-us-what-ya-brung smorgasbord. We think that’s a 305 Honda Dream, right? Who’d have thought Honda’s top sport bike, as the 23-horsepower twin-cylinder Dream was in the 1960s, would grow into a 115hp four-cylinder CB1100R inside 20 years? (Probably Soichiro Honda …)
Here’s a better look at the CBR.
And right next to it, another collectible modern(ish) Honda — a V-twin VTR 1000 SP2. (By 2006, Honda was finding more than 135hp from two big pistons.)
We thought this bike was a 1976 Ducati 900SS, but we’ve since been told it’s actually a very rare hand-built 1975 model — one of only 250 ever made — and has a local Bunbury owner.  (Yamaha 650 behind it was pretty sweet too.)
We’ve seen Lex McKinley’s 1972 Moto Guzzi 850T quite a few times over the years, including tearing up a race track in historic events. But the Eldorado alongside was new to us, and very nice it was too.
MkV Moto Guzzi LeMans didn’t need a trailer. Clearly still doing what it was designed to do, which is deliver huge fun in style.
Western Australia’s vintage motocross and vintage enduro clubs put on a great display of bikes. Quite a few were fired up and put to work in a special test area among the trees in the background of this shot.
Stacey Hart took two bikes to Capel, both of them beautifully presented — that’s a ’74 Bultaco Alpina 250 nearest the camera, and a ’69 Kawasaki Samurai 250. Neighbouring Yamaha SR500 was schmick, presented by Richard Reed.
A month or so before the show, it was just a 20-acre property in the shire of Capel. Thanks to the Ironstone Adventure Riding Club for inviting the West Australian classic bike community to show their best. Note the two sand pads, waiting for grass to grow and marquees to arrive.






Peter Terlick

3 thoughts on “Sun shines and bikes sparkle in the middle of winter, deep in the forest — The Bike Shed Times Capel River Classic

  1. Slight typo boys,the bike being shown as owned by Tim Cox is not owned by him and is not a 1976 Ducati 900 super sport. Its A very Rare Hand built 1975 one of only 250 ever made total build world wide and has a local Bunbury owner. I rode it there. Hoping to bring my collection of Ducati’s next time.

    1. Many thanks dukeboy075 – we stand corrected! Hope to see you next year. Cheers.

  2. Great stuff! Sadly, we couldn’t make it. But the Honda 305cc twin you show here is a Super Hawk. (CB77) Puts out about 28 HP. Mate let me ride his 250 version back in the day. Lovely little bike! Great ride for its time. Keep up the good work.

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