Elizabeth Street: The first 100 years

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Some, like me, were standing with a group of club members of my era, remembering where companies such as Pratts, Performance Motorcycles and Honda dealer, Mayfair Motors, used to be. Other groups of older riders were reminiscing about businesses that had closed before those I knew were opened. There were motorcycles lining the footpaths and side streets, dating from 1903 to 2003 together with displays of historical photographs.

R90/6 and sidecar
Dominic Sciberras and his R90/6 outfit in Elizabeth Street to celebrate its 100 years of motorcycling
The organisers had done a great job of putting it all together and getting clubs to be in the theme of the day. It didn’t quite work out how they had hoped but in the end, it did not matter. It was a time tunnel weekend. Journeys back in time — in the mind at least. Love is in the air, the ABC Aussie pop history documentary series had the final of five episodes on the Sunday night. On Saturday, Elizabeth Street celebrated 100 years of continuous motorcycle activity. Music and motorcycles; two constants in our lives, taking us back to somewhere in the past. Elizabeth Street is, and was, motorcycling. In the past, the place, almost the only place. For one morning, we were all back. It was wall to wall motorcycles. Motorcycles of all (and riders of most) eras. The smiling faces said it all. It was a feel good day. Groups were standing and looking at motorcycles.

Ken Wright and his mint condition R100RS
We had club members who brought their motorcycles in to show off our motorcycle heritage and present. Tony Weare (K1200RS), Peter Cullen (R60/5), Ray Isles (R75/7), Lloyd Griffith (R51/2) and Dominic Sciberras (R90/6 outfit) all put their hands up to be at the day. There were club members everywhere with their BMWs parked in the area and it was hard to walk anywhere without getting into a conversation. I’m sure there were many others I didn’t know, who were there. It was great to see our club supporting an important motorcycling event. It went deeper than that. A couple of our members made it happen. David Langridge and Ray Isles were, with Mary Chiodo of Peter Stevens, some of the main movers in getting the concept turned into reality. Without their work, it would not have happened. Very well done. David was the voice of the day, speaking on a couple of occasions before the event on 3AK’s Bike Rider program as well as on ABC radio 774 with morning show host, Jon Faine.

On the day, dressed resplendently in suit, collar and tie, topped off with a magnificent straw hat, he worked the stage in front of the historic Argus building (home to the Argus newspaper which, until its end in January 1957, was the paper of record for much of Melbourne’s early years). He interviewed people of interest, spoke on men and machines and gave the day a vocal focus. It was a cool ale and a quiet sit down at the end of the day for David. It was a day of catching up with people from the past, looking at bikes, and just standing in the sunshine watching the passing parade. Out of the box We have all heard the story. A brand new bike, thirty years old, never been ridden, in a shed.

Of course, it is always a mate of a mate who knew someone, or, of course, it must be true because they saw it on the internet. It was never (or not often) even seen or touched. Every now and then they appeared for sale at the auctions (usually in the USA). Not always cheap. Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. These bikes do exist and club member, Ken Wright, now has one in his collection.

A 1978 R100RS Motorsport with three km on the clock. No, this is not a typo, three kilometres, in absolute showroom condition. The Motorsport was the first of the limited editions in the RS. It was not a numbered or very common model. There are not many around now. There are stories that these bikes had special internals that pumped out more power. Not true. They were just the standard RS, with an impressive special paint job, and the dark navy seat. The bike, when Ken picked it up, still had the protective light grease covering many parts. The exhaust system had to be removed for polishing, but other than that, a good wash and it was straight out of the showroom in 1978. The bike started life as a showroom motorcycle, on the floor at Light Motors in Adelaide. Light Motors was the South Australian BMW car dealer for many years. The dealer principal wanted to show BMW’s other product on the floor. It was never for sale. It occasionally got a bit of a kick over, and oil change and a go around the block. Light Motors went out of the business and the bike, for many years, lived in the collection of the former owner. It is an extensive collection; including one of only two right hand drive BMW M1 cars in the world. The RS was not for sale in the usual sense. The owner was looking to send it to a good home, almost via an interview. Ken was in the right place at the right time and importantly, in the right club. It was Ken’s membership that got him the bike.

It has gone to a good home. It will join Ken’s R90S, R69S, R1150RT and 2002, 700 (the only one in Australia) 323 and 316 BMW cars. Ken said it will get a red plate and be seen on the road; where even a museum pieces like the R100RS Motorsport is meant to be.