EURO­PEAN AU­TOTECH

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New Zealand Classic Car - - CLASSIC CAR SERVICING - Words and Pho­tos: Gor­don Camp­bell

Euro­pean

Auto Tech is a fam­ily-owned busi­ness proudly si­t­u­ated in Tau­ranga. Shane, the new owner, has 25 years’ ex­pe­ri­ence in the trade in­volv­ing Euro­pean, Ja­panese, and Amer­i­can ve­hi­cles — but his pas­sion has al­ways been for Euro­pean mar­ques, in par­tic­u­lar Mercedes-benz.

Eas­ily the best mo­tor­cy­cle col­lec­tion in the coun­try, NZ Clas­sic Mo­tor­cy­cles has a few ex­hibits to please the clas­sic car fan, and it would be a par­tic­u­larly one-eyed clas­sic car en­thu­si­ast who could not be moved by at least some of the mo­tor­cy­cles on dis­play.

An ex­pat Amer­i­can phi­lan­thropist, and for­mer marine with world­wide busi­ness in­ter­ests, Tom Sturgess and his wife Heather had amassed just on 300 clas­sic bikes in a com­mer­cial build­ing in Nelson, and won­dered what to do with them. Tom’s an­swer was to es­tab­lish a gallery to dis­play the col­lec­tion, and he needed a pro­ject di­rec­tor. He found the right per­son lo­cally — Wayne Daniel, a qual­i­fied mo­tor­cy­cle me­chanic and suc­cess­ful busi­ness­man who shared Tom’s vi­sion and pas­sion. Neil Mclach­lan, one of New Zealand’s fore­most in­te­rior de­sign­ers, was an­other vi­tal mem­ber of the team.

It’s taken four years to cre­ate an ex­tra-spe­cial and unique place to show off the Sturgess col­lec­tion for max­i­mum ef­fect. It’s been very taste­fully ex­e­cuted with the dis­plays and im­pres­sive art­works cre­at­ing an am­bi­ence that’s part his­tory mu­seum, part petrol­head par­adise, with­out any sug­ges­tion of it be­ing a blokesonly cave. There is plenty to ap­peal to all tastes. The cars on dis­play are mo­tor­cy­cle-re­lated, such as the two three­wheeler Mor­gans and the Messer­schmitt Kabi­nen­roller. Like the bikes, they are im­pec­ca­bly pre­sented.

A par­tic­u­larly ap­peal­ing fea­ture is that the ex­hibits aren’t roped off. Vis­i­tors can walk among many of them, in­spect them closely, and touch them. Oth­ers are stacked up to three high in clev­erly con­structed racks, which gives a dif­fer­ent per­spec­tive, as well as avoid­ing claus­tro­pho­bic dis­play ar­eas.

Golden op­por­tu­nity

Tom has re­fined his col­lec­tion over time, which means bikes have come and gone. This has caused some in­ter­est­ing ‘dis­cus­sions’ when Tom has asked Wayne to pick 20 bikes for dis­posal and then crossed 19 off the list. Wayne’s sug­ges­tion that Tom should se­lect the other 19 him­self would be met with “I can’t!”.

The col­lec­tion now num­bers just un­der 300, the lat­est ac­qui­si­tion be­ing a 1931 Match­less Sil­ver Hawk, a V4-en­gined rar­ity des­tined to be the mu­seum’s first in-house restora­tion.

The Match­less was one of the bikes on Tom’s wish list. While I was talk­ing to Wayne at the mu­seum, Tom was at­tend­ing a Las Ve­gas auc­tion, hop­ing to tick three more off his list. Sev­eral of the ex­hibits are for sale to elim­i­nate dou­ble ups of mod­els or to delete the odd bike that doesn’t re­ally fit the col­lec­tion. This would be a golden op­por­tu­nity for an en­thu­si­ast to buy with com­plete con­fi­dence, at New Zealand mar­ket prices. Bikes are only sold off­shore as a last re­sort. Wayne sees the col­lec­tion be­com­ing a clas­sic­mo­tor­cy­cle mar­ket, where bikes can be of­fered for sale on be­half if they are up to stan­dard and a re­al­is­tic sale price can be agreed upon.

Plans are be­ing formed to of­fer guided clas­sic-bike tours, us­ing bikes hired from the col­lec­tion. The re­gion is a mo­tor­cy­cling par­adise, and at­trac­tions could in­clude Peter Jack­son’s Omaka Avi­a­tion Her­itage Cen­tre in neigh­bour­ing Marl­bor­ough. It would fit neatly with Tom’s per­sonal un­der­tak­ing to gen­er­ate rev­enue for the re­gion, as well as pro­vid­ing a unique mo­tor­cy­cling ex­pe­ri­ence.

A planned tech­nol­ogy en­hance­ment is a QR code sys­tem, which will doc­u­ment the known his­tory of each mo­tor­cy­cle, em­pha­sis­ing the hu­man in­ter­est as­pect of each bike. Tablets to be in­stalled be­side some ex­hibits will ben­e­fit those with age­ing eye­sight.

Su­perbly pre­sented

The old­est bike is a 1902 Peu­geot, and there are ma­chines from all parts of the world, in­clud­ing a cou­ple I’ve never heard of. They are su­perbly pre­sented, with a few in clean, un­re­stored con­di­tion that would tell plenty of sto­ries. Some are grouped by brand, and the Vin­cent gallery, In­dian cor­ner, and race bikes dis­play are just three mag­nif­i­cent dis­plays.

Wayne says lo­cal clas­sic- and vin­tage-en­thu­si­ast vol­un­teers have been the life­savers of the gallery. Some

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