Sunday Ride, 25 February

“Harley Heavyweights Hiding in Castlemaine”

We don’t believe it.  55 minutes to get from Bayside through Melbourne’s freeway system to Calder Park BP servo – it’s a miracle.

We are early, enjoy some breakfast and join the assembling ride group for our trip to Castlemaine.  The Calder servo was also hosting the start of a run by a dozen assembled 1960’s Shelby Cobra replica sports cars, confirming the American horsepower theme for our day.

We travelled up the highway, turning off at Digger’s Rest and on to Toolern Vale and north to Gisborne.  Then to Trentham, Spring Hill, Malmsbury, Taradale and Chewton.  A very pleasant ride, little traffic and a clear sky getting hotter.

In the outskirts of Castlemaine is The Harley City Collection created and owned by David Reidie.  A little bit of background in that David was the proprietor of Harley City in Sydney Road Brunswick from 1981 to 2017, moving a lot of 2-wheeled Milwaukee Muscle and clearly having a very close relationship with the Harley Davidson organisation.  His passion for the marque led to collecting the USA classics, especially some very special and very rare 1920’s and 1930’s road and racing models that are on display in his purpose-built museum.  Well, it’s not really a museum, but rather a living breathing collection of fully operational machines, that David rides, maintains, restores or gets them going in their original “as-acquired” condition.  This is the most diverse and special Harley collection outside of the Harley Davidson’s USA Milwaukee Museum.

A couple of Brough’s at the entrance to say hello.

Just some plain old Automotive Masterpieces

You know you are in for something special, when you walk in and are greeted at the door by a pair of Brough Superior SS100’s.  As your eyes adjust and start to take in the large factory space ahead, this is a BIG collection.  It’s a bit of overload as you spot significant bikes that have always appealed to you.  Take it slow and enjoy.  A Ducati 916 production race winner, a Vincent Series B Rapide, a 1960’s Triumph Bonnie in iconic USA Powder Blue colours, a 1930’s Moto Guzzi horizontal single, an Aermacchi 350 Grand Prix racer, a pristine Henderson 4, an Indian roadster and of course “The Crocker”.  Oh, and also there are a couple of old cars, no less than a 1920’s type 35 Bugatti Grand Prix car and a Lancia Mille Miglia competed sports car – this is what they call “a room with a view”.

Sitting amongst the Harley heavyweights is a 4-wheel American muscle car, a powder blue 1960’s Ford Mustang fastback (can you spot it in the photo?).  The same model that was made famous in the hands of Steve McQueen, who thrashed, crashed and jumped the car over the hills through the streets of San Francisco, in the iconic car chase scenes from the classic movie Bullit.  Of course, he beat the villains who met their demise in a big Dodge muscle car that finally sped out of control through a petrol station, with the obligatory huge explosion to send them on their way to the “Pearly Gates”.  The Ford Motor Company marketing bosses were rubbing their hands all the way to the bank!

The Crocker

You hear about things that are extraordinary, mystical, rare and “worth a Fortune”, so what is a Crocker?  I’ve never seen one, just heard about them on American TV Auto Shows.  Albert Crocker was a motorcycle racer in America in the 1920’s and moved to Los Angeles California, buying an Indian dealership and started to build his own race bikes.  In 1931 he introduced his own dirt track bikes and then built single cylinder speedway bikes that became the “Go-To” winner used by the main top racers.

Al started the Crocker Motorcycle Company with limited production of the handcrafted, beautifully engineered and built V-Twin roadsters that rolled out of the factory from 1936 to 1942, when he closed the business due to a shortage of materials caused by the American WW2 military requirements.  The Crocker twin was reportedly the fastest production motorcycle in the USA at the time, and became legendary because of its quality and rarity, now much sought after by heritage collectors.  The myth is truth.

Well, thanks to David Reidie, now we have seen one and heard it running!  They should have called it a Cracker, from the exhaust noise it made.  Some might say “life is now complete” and fair enough … this is beautiful and extraordinary, with the driveline being fully restored in New Zealand and the complicated paintwork done in Tasmania, David rides it as Al Crocker intended.

His example is a 1938 small tank, in that the fuel tank is 2 separate “cast aluminium” tanks, 1 either side of the top frame tube.  The V-Twin engine has very neat and compact fully enclosed overhead parallel valve-gear, at a time when most engines had their valves, springs, rockers and push-rods flogging up and down in mid air above the cylinder head.

The Harley Davidsons span from pre-1920’s to 1960’s, all with their own special designs, purpose, features, rarity and history, so this is just a snippet of what you see there.  There are early Board-Track and Dirt-Track racers, an impressive lineup of the iconic big V-Twin Roadsters and very rare special Harleys like the 1927 8-Valve racer with pent-roof combustion chamber heads using paired parallel valves similar to what you find in modern engines.  The Harley City Collection website (harleycitycollection.com.au) shows the very significant models and David has added his extensive knowledge in writing about the bikes.

Great to catch up with Mike and Janet Walker who joined us at Castlemaine and we shared the road trip east to go home, after the group had a most enjoyable lunch in the comfortable shady outdoor space at the Malmsbury Bakery, escaping the rising heat of the afternoon.  A big thank you to David Reidie for his hospitality and to our captain John for a very enjoyable ride day.

Ride Safe,

David and Mez.

 

Harley City Collection Ride Participants List – 25/02/2024.

Rider Bike Year
Scott Oldfield BMW R90S 1975
Peter Keage Kawasaki ZRX1100 1999
Mike & Janet Walker BMW 1200GS 2005
John Killingsworth (Leader) BMW R1200GS 2011
Paul Clayton Honda VFR800 2014
David & Mez McLennan Triumph Thruxton S 2016
Terry Hoare Honda VFR800X Crossrunner 2017
Brian Mapleback Triumph Speed Triple 765RS 2020