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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.
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.
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