Wednesday, March 30, 2011

My Bikes...The GS Years

Although the BMW was an excellent bike, procuring parts was a nightmare. At that stage there was only one BMW bike dealer in NZ, located in Auckland. That's about 600kms from here and they would not run an account, so everything had to be paid for in advance. Remember this was in the days before internet banking. Sometimes a small item would cost nearly as much in freight as the item itself. If you planned on doing an oil change at the weekend, invariably the filter wouldn't arrive till Monday ! I decided I would buy a new bike from a dealer in my area. I was now convinced that shaft drive was the way to go for touring, so without resorting to a large capacity machines like a Goldwing or XS1100 Yamaha, the choices were Kawasaki GT750, Yamaha XS750 or Suzuki GS850. I tried them all. They were all nice machine, but somehow the GS850 stood out over the others. So in August 1979 I bought the first GS850 in this region. It proved to be a good choice. The Suzuki was a 100%  reliable two-up tourer. That big seat was superbly comfortable on long trips and my new girlfriend, who didn't even mind getting wet on the back of a bike, found it so comfortable she would often lean against me and go to sleep, especially travelling at night when there was no scenery to view.....we've now been married for 26 years.
This is how the GS arrived with high American style handlebars. As far as I know all GS850s came with that long rear mudflap, but most dealers left them off as they assumed the owners would think they looked daft. I was there when my dealer assembled the machine and I told him to fit it. Practicality comes before looks for me.

After a few years of riding a BMW with low narrow bars, I needed something similar for the GS. I chose XS1100 Yamaha bars and fitted a replica GS1000S fairing. Also added a rear carrier with the necessary adaptions to carry the pannier racks I had kept when I sold the BMW.

I wanted the fairing to look as though it was original equipment, so had it painted black and ordered the original tailpiece decals which I installed inverted on the fairing. There was a gap in the decal where the reflectors are at the rear so I fitted two of the Suzuki badges off the handlebar crash pad. I had many people ask where had I got a factory fairing for a GS850.
As you can see I also had to relocate the rear direction indicators to make room for the panniers.

Although the lowish bars were OK for weekend blasts, I found on long touring rides I would get a pain in my lower back. The foot pegs were slightly further forward than the BMW, so I tried going back to high bars and resurrecting the touring screen I had used on the Z650. It took a little getting used to, but it removed the aching back problem. From then on I used the low bars and fairing most of the year and at holiday time I would spend about an hour fitting the touring gear. Although this riding position puts more weight on your butt, this wasn't too much of a problem with the big comfy GS seat.
This photo I would say was taken after a trip, not before as is evident by the road dirt on the main stand, exhaust system and final drive housing.

I was so pleased with the GS850, that after 45,000kms I decide to trade up to a newer model of the 850 which I took delivery of on the 20th of August 1981. Apart from some cosmetic changes the only other difference was  the use of CV carburettors. As you can see in this photo, I again fitted the replica fairing, painted to match the rest of the bike. One slight difference was the direction indicators were now rectangular and mounted on shorter stalks. This required making up spacers, for the front items, so they would stick out past the edge of the fairing. This job was done by an old fellow who was a friend of my boss at that time and who loved using his lathe. He made a superb job of them and in fact I still have them in a box of bits in my garage.
In this photo taken by Graham Morrell I was trying genuine Suzuki bars as supplied on European models, but I found them too low.

Here is the GS loaded up while on a tour. Parked here beside Lake Taupo. Taupo is NZ's largest lake and is in fact a huge drowned volcanic crater. These are the XS1100 handlebars again. Compare with above photo.

Again I used the higher handlebars and screen for long tours, especially in colder weather.  The previous screen had got accidentally cracked while the bike was being serviced, so I replaced it with this item I bought from a bike enthusiast in Dunedin who was forming them in an old baker's oven. It was more effective than the previous item as it extended out to protect the hands and came partly down the fork legs to keep the wind off the knees. Here the bike is parked near the Huntly coal fired power station. In January 1983 I was almost tempted to buy a GS1100GK (that was the model that came with fairing, panniers and top box as standard), but after a short ride on one I just found it too bulky. The Suzuki was my only vehicle at this stage so it got used for the short commute to work as well as for touring. In January 1984 the mufflers finally got beyond patching up and I replaced them with genuine Suzuki items. This was no doubt brought on by the short distance running.

Early in 1985 I saw a nice GS1100G with very low kms for sale in the Suzuki dealers in Hamilton. This dealer also had a used Vetter fairing and panniers in stock in excellent condition. I thought trading the 850 on the 1100 with the Vetter gear would be the ultimate deal. But for some reason the dealer didn't want to trade my 850. He seemed a bit unsure of whether he would be able to resell it with around 60,000kms on the clock . I went home a bit depressed. After being home a few days I started to think about how nice that Vetter would look on my current bike. One phone call was all it took and the deal was done. This photo shows the GS with it's new Vetter, but at this point still carrying the Krauser pannier racks. By mid year (1985) the GS was starting to use a little bit of oil and I elected to put rings in it in August before things got too bad. The mechanic who did the work said the engine was in perfect condition internally, but the rings had got a little "tired", and in his opinion that was probably due solely to the short distance commuting. I decided right then that when I replaced the GS, I would also buy a small bike for running to work.
By 1985 BMW had now established a reasonable network of motorcycle dealers and although there was no dealer in my hometown, there was a dealer each in Palmerston North and Wellington. Both cities around 100kms from here. My wife knew I desired another BMW, but at over $14,000 for an R80RT, we decided they were just too expensive.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Trucks continued...

As far as I know, all NZ Scammell Crusaders were 8V-71 Detroit powered. This 8 wheeler with twin stacks is parked near a hotel for the night in Masterton, before the long trip back to Wairoa in the morning.

TM Bedfords with the wide cab were also 8V-71 powered. As far as I know Produce Freighters no longer exists.

F model Macks used to be common amongst the line haul rigs. this is an 8 wheeler of G.H.Burridge of Wellington about to take part in a truck parade.

A 6 wheeler of Darrell Shellard's at the same event.

Allen & Huntley ran a small fleet out of Masterton, including this 8 wheeler Isuzu.
Another company that has

Nupin Distributors of Porirua, near Wellington had several American trucks like this White Road Boss flat deck, named "The Governor"......

....and this W model Kenworth called "Rocky" with Cummins 350 power.

A smart Mercedes-Benz 1424 of Bulk Transport first went on the road in 1978.

W model Kenworth, with 350hp Cummins and 10 speed Roadranger. I crossed the road to look at this rig near Rotorua. The driver crossed the road to look at my motorbike.

Monday, March 28, 2011

My Bikes continued..

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Trucks in Colour

In the 1970s I bought a great little view-finder Minolta from a friend. This was a brilliant camera for holiday pictures, but a bit limited if you wanted to take pictures of trucks on the move. Finally I had saved enough to buy my first SLR. With the assistance of a friend in the photography business I purchased a Nikon EM. I chose, on my friends advice, to get it without the standard lens and instead chose a 36-72 zoom.At last I could take some good photos.
Dominion Breweries at Mangatainoka operated several different brands of trucks, but like this Isuzu they were all in this distinctive livery.

An International T2670 of Powell's of Makuri comes to the crest of the Rimutaka Hill Road. For the next 10 minutes or so the Jake brake will get a good work-out at he descends into Featherston. Makuri is on the road from Pongaroa to State Highway 2 near Mangatainoka. The trip through the Makuri Gorge is a pleasant motorcycle ride, but that's another story....

MANs were not that common in NZ in the 80s. I can't even remember where this photo was taken of this forward control model towing a self-steering semi-trailer. In NZ we got Australian models of these which as you can see had the headlamps mounted in the front panel, unlike the European models which had them in the bumper.

This Kenworth K144 stock truck is parked up in Masterton on a vacant lot while the driver stays in a nearby hotel.
This 1981 model looks  little different to the latest models on the road now.

Road-Air operated a large number of refrigerated trucks for many years from their base in Havelock North. This Volvo F12 is parked at Solway Park Motor Lodge in Masterton.

In the 1980s NZ built a synthetic petrol plant at Motonui in Taranaki, on the west  side of the North Island. This Detroit Diesel powered Oshkosh was one of the vehicles used to transport the components of this plant from the wharf at New Plymouth to Motonui.  Motonui made it's last synthetic fuel in the late 1990s as fuel prices did not rise to the levels expected and the manufacture of synthetic substitutes was not economically viable. With the worlds fuel sources running out I wonder if it's viability will change in the future.

This 1975 Mack R797RS was also used to transport components for Motonui.

Normal control MANs are even rarer than the forward control models in NZ. This 1977 25256NC sits idling in Opaki Road in Masterton, while the driver nips in to the dairy (Kiwi name for corner store) for a pie or a milk shake.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

More Bikes

To continue the story of bikes I have owned:

The obvious step up from a 350 Four was a 500 Four. A nicely balanced machine and more power than the 350, but some how I still had a soft spot for the smaller high revving four. One minor thing I didn't like with the 500 was the flat mounted speedo and tacho whereas the 350 had the gauges angled toward the rider.
At one stage I owned a 900 Kawasaki which I never really liked, and I haven't got a photo of.  One of the main problems being the seat. I was doing quite a lot of long distance touring now and the Kawa seat was like sitting on a block of concrete. I soon found not having a car had its drawbacks (girlfriends who didn't want to come out in the rain) so bought a car and  this used Honda 450. Although I had mechanical problems with it, which involved removing the engine from the frame, a task which I perfomed in my Dad's garage, I actually quite enjoyed owning it.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011


Once the Suzuki 90 had given me the bike bug, I had to have something bigger. The "Grapevine" soon let me know that there was a very tidy 350 Suzuki for sale in Carterton (about 15 minutes from here). One look at the way it had been cared for convinced me that this was the bike for me. A deal was soon done and I now had a bike to tackle the open road. The previous owner had modified the exhaust baffles in it so it did have a bit of a crackle to it's note. My father (a non motorcyclist) didn't like it and told me he always heard me coming home at night. It did some reasonably long day trips on this and it was totally reliable, but in typical two-stroke fashion, not particularly economical. I remember once travelling over 200km (over 400kms round trip) tovisit a friend...only to find he wasn't home. But it was still fun ! Looking at the above photo, which shows a workmate (Kelvin Stevens) trying it for size, the handlebars look horrendously wide now. Time passed and a perusal of my bank balance told me it was time to buy a "real" bike. I went to my local dealer and ordered a brand new Honda 350 Four.

The Honda arrived in it's crate on a Friday and the dealer, knowing I was desperate to ride it, offered to assemble it on a Saturday morning. I went down to my dealers early and watched the procedure and heard it fire up for the first time. It was music to my ears.

The 350 Four was smooth, quiet (even my father approved) and economical. I remember once on a section of a holiday trip getting exactly 70 mpg. That's about 4 litres/100kms for the youngsters. It was totally reliable, but like most bikes of this era with their 4 into 4 exhausts,  it started to rot out the mufflers. This wasn't helped by the fact that it was my only vehicle so had to be used for the daily commute to work as well as weekend touring. With it's redline at 10,000, I was particularly fond of the sound it made at these high revs. It was my first brand new bike, my first 4 stroke and my first bike with electric start.  I managed, with careful welding, to extend the life of the mufflers long enough to trade up to something bigger....

Sunday, March 20, 2011


I wanted to photograph trucks even before I owned a camera and often think of the photos I could have taken. We used to (as a family) travel to Rotorua to visit relations. I remember well the different models of long nose Internationals. I remember in Malfroy road two trucks reversed into a shed, alongside each other, with their fronts facing the road. Can't even remember what one of them was, but the other I thought wore a Leyland badge. It had very low windows in the front corners, and I now wonder if it was actually a Bristol. If anyone remembers or has a photo I would be delighted to put it on this site. Another one I remember was a white or cream coloured Mack articulated tipper which used to park near the intersection of Lake Rd and Fairy Springs/Old Taupo Rd. I think this was probably the first Mack I had ever seen. I remember it had the word "Thermodyne" signwritten on the bonnet side. I'm guessing it was probably a B series. Again if anyone has a photo.... This would have been early to mid 60s. Also in Te Puke I remember a Guy (Invincible I think) pulling logs through the main street one day. I know Matthew Wright's "Trucks Across New Zealand" book shows a Guy belonging to Hugh Fraser. I seem to remember it was blue. Was this the same truck.
This is the first camera I ever had. It was given to me by my brother-in-law and had to be one of the best things I have ever received. The films only had 8 frames per roll, so you had to be fairly economical with picture taking. Consequently I haven't got many truck photos from this era. These cameras actually had a very good lens. I later discovered you could buy colour film for it and took some very clear photos which I had enlarged.
One of my first photos was this LAD Leyland Comet of Transport Nelson which was driven by my second cousin Laurie Walling. Laurie was a brother to Alf who ran trucks in the Mount Maunganui/Tauranga area. A couple of years before this Laurie had taken me with him for a full day in his earlier model Leyland, but that unfortunately was before I had a camera. The happy "trucker" in the photo is my late father, Arthur.
This Mercedes 1418 with trailing axle used to park regularly in High St in Masterton.
Transport Wairarapa had the Atlantic fuel and oil distributorship for this area. This is their AEC Mandator with an A-train of tankers, and their Bedford flat-deck.


On the 25th February this year Masterton's main street was closed to host entrants in Americarna. Americarna is an event to celebrate American cars and was held in the Hutt Valley, about an hours drive from Masterton. A drive over the Rimutaka hill to Masterton was part of the event. I was there with my camera.
This 1934 Packard Super 8 was superb.
Interior of above Packard.
1949 Ford Fordor Sedan.
Only an American could have an arse this big.
1967 Chevelle looks very standard...but that's how I like 'em.
1966 Impala looked very cool in this colour (or should that be color).
1958 Bel Air shows its family resemblance to...... 
......this 1958 Cadillac.
I've never really liked large diameter wheels with ultra-low profile tyres on 50s and 60s cars, but somehow this'62 Continental suited these "Wires".
1957 Thunderbird. Nice colour.
Not many Mopars there, but this '66 Dodge Coronet 440 stood out in this colour.
1968 Barracuda. I like these. Not too large.
I've always liked Corvettes of this era. A '69 I think. I particularly like the steel wheels with the wide wheel bands, rather than "mags".
1973 Corvette. I think I like the hardtops over the convertibles.
American coupes (hardtops?) of around this year all look good.1969 Malibu.
A rear end designed like this could only be American. 1960 Chrysler New Yorker 2 door hardtop.
1948 Nash ambassador. Blue is my favourite colour.
1958 Rambler Ambassador.
1970 Rambler Rebel. I like Ramblers, they are just not as common as the Fords and Chevs.