North Coast: Moto Mania in Nabiac

North Coast - Quick Facts

Getting there
Nabiac is 272km north of Sydney via the F3 and the Pacific Highway.

January: 12-28C
July: 5-18C

The NSW north coast has a mild, pleasant climate all year. Most rainfall occurs in the summer months and March.
Tourist Information

Brian Kelleher's a bit of a bike collector. Like the rest of us, he's got a shed where he keeps his prides and joys and likes to tinker around, keeping them tidy and road ready.

This keeps him pretty busy, because at last count he's got 560 bikes to play with. And a real big shed.

Brian, and his wife Margaret, own and run the National Motorcycle Museum, in the small town of Nabiac on the NSW mid north coast, just south of Taree.

Like most serious collectors of anything, Brian started at an early age.

"I was 16. The old man said I couldn't have a bike." Ah, teenagers - they never listen.

His first machine was an AJS500 twin. By the time he was 19 Brian had about 15 bikes, and a notion that setting up a motorcycle museum could be a viable and very enjoyable lifestyle.

He has now been collecting for more than 30 years. After 25 years running a dealership in Canberra, where he originally established the museum, he and Margaret moved to Nabiac ("We wanted to go somewhere warm") in 2000.

The collection of 560 machines comprises 320 which Brian owns, and another 240 which have been lent for display.

However, the real beauty of the museum lies in the fact that Brian is also passionate about Australian motorcycling history and culture. He has acquired an amazing assortment of memorabilia models, posters, toys, clothing and an extensive library which includes owners manuals dating back to the 1920s.

It's this breadth and depth that makes the National Motorcycle Museum the country's most important and comprehensive motorcycling archive

The collection is housed in a purpose built facility, laid out in three sections.

The main wing houses pre-1960s bikes, and includes many speedway, road racing and early Australian machines. There's also a display of engines, including a 1905 FN and a Royal Enfield 700 Meteor from the mid 1950s, "The first real superbike," according to Brian.

Brian has a thing for XS650 Yamahas. Otherwise, he seems like a fairly well adjusted bloke. "They've got character," is his reply to the obvious question.

He has 19 XSs, along with other post 1960s bikes - including a big range of off-roaders and outfits in an adjacent wing.

The third section of the museum is chock-a-block with bikes awaiting cleaning up.

Bringing bikes back to concourse condition, never to hit the road again, is not the policy here. They are displayed as they were ridden, and 80 per cent are runners. Brian kicks them over regularly.

The oldest bike at the museum is a 1909 FN, while the latest is a 1988 Matchless G80. The most valuable is a Vincent Black Knight. A 1919 four-stroke Kenilworth scooter is probably the rarest.
"The most desirable thing in the building," according to Brian, is an AJS7R, which sits near a gorgeous Seeley Suzuki TR750.

You could literally spend days in here. In terms of sheer numbers, there are more BSAs than anything else, and British makes are well represented because these were Brian's main area of interest when he started collecting.

Pride of place at the entrance goes to a one-off ABW - Australian Battle Wagon - cruiser, powered by a 112 cubic inch V twin based on Howard rotary hoe casings.

Another lovely home grown machine is a Bartley Penny, manufactured in Cootamundra in 1912. It uses a 680 cc JAP engine.

Brian Collins' tiny 47 cc Yamaha streamliner, on which he broke 24 Australian land speed records in January 1973, is nearby.

In the 1960s wing you'll find a superb 1966 Bultaco Metralla - the Barcelona Bomb - which, with a top speed of just over 160 km/h, was the quickest 250 around in 1966.

Outfits include a 1918 Harley 1000 cc Model J which was registered non stop to the one owner from 1918-1954. It's adjacent to an XS 650 outfit with a chair made from a bathtub and a 44 gallon drum. The prettiest combo is a 1957 Norton 19S.

Brian also has the oldest Yamaha in Australia, a 1956 150 cc two-stroke, plus some fine early model DT trailies.

Weird stuff includes a Rokon 2WD automatic ("Useless," says Brian) and a 1994 Chang Jiang. This is a BMW boxer clone, from China. It was imported for evaluation by a bloke who hoped to sell them, but when he took a look at the abysmal quality of the thing he broke down and cried.

The speedway section features an Australian Solo Championship honour board, and Brian is working closely with the Veteran Speedway Riders Association to create the first comprehensive display of Australian speedway bikes and memorabilia.

He would like to do the same in the road racing area.

Brian is still collecting. These days his reputation has spread and bikes tend to find him. When I dropped in he was negotiating on a shed full of Triumph twins.

At $3000 a pop he was interested, but was...err... wondering when he should raise the subject with Margaret.

Brian's motivation now is his desire to keep our motorcycling heritage here, rather than seeing it disappear overseas, and he's keen to talk to anyone who shares his passion. He's particularly interested in adding photographs and other memorabilia to the museum.

He's just formed D.O.N.K. - De Olde Nabiac Klub for "Enthusiasts of Anything Mechanical." March saw the first of what will be regular Saturday swap meets at the museum.

Clubs and groups are well catered for. If you can get 19 mates together, Brian will put on a Saturday night dinner (BYO) at the museum and show you around.

The National Motorcycle Museum is worth a visit. There's no other bike shed in Australia quite like it.

All information was correct at the time of writing but may change without notice.
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