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Magnificent Obsession - Classic Motorcycles at 2019 Knysna Motor Show

Tuesday, 16 April 2019 07:21 Written by  Knysna Motor Show
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Magnificent Obsession - Classic Motorcycles at 2019 Knysna Motor Show Knysna Motor Show

Passion. That will be the over-riding energy in the classic motorcycle section at the 2019 Knysna Motor Show on Sunday, April 28. Over 60 motorcycles ranging from the early 1900s to the classic superbike era of the 1970s and 1980s will be on display, and all of them will be presented with a degree of love and devotion that borders on the obsessive. 

  • Over 60 classic motorcycles and over 300 classic cars will on show at the Knysna High Sports Grounds on Sunday, April 28, from 9 am to 4 pm
  • This is the eighth running of the Knysna Motors Show, organised by the Garden Route Motor Club, and brought to you once again by Sanlam Private Wealth

“I love the boundless passion of the motorcycle builders that display their bikes on our show,” says chief organiser, Peter Pretorius. “There is a common thread amongst all these motorcyclists, and that is their attention to detail on the bikes that they build or restore, and their incredible mechanical knowledge, which they are only too keen to share with all the show-goers.”

The biker’s display this year will once again cover a broad sweep of age periods and genres in the classic motorcycle field, and once again the bikes on the lawns at Knysna will by invitation only, as will the 300-plus vintage and classic cars at the event.

“Every year I am knocked out at the high standards of the machinery that enters for the show,” says Pretorius. “What is wonderful about the motorcycles is that so much of their mechanical detail is readily on display, down to the last nut and bolt.”

Classic Ducatis.

Neville Fisher is a Ducati fanatic that hails from East London, and he will be showing two special examples of the smaller Ducatis that created such a stir in this country in the early 1980s, the Pantah series. The 500 cc and 600 cc Ducati  Pantahs claimed Superbike race track glory here in the 1980s, notably in the hands of the famous Petersen brothers, and today the small V-twin machines are hugely prized collector’s items.

Fisher, who runs a motorcycle specialist customising company in East London called FRP, will be showing a pristine original-specification blue Ducati Pantah 500 SL from 1980 and a modified 1979 Ducati 500/600 FRP TT Special in silver, with a red frame. Neville has modified the frame to later TT2 geometry, which includes reducing the steering head angle from 30 to 24 degrees, giving it a much sharper appearance and handling. It now runs 17-inch wheels instead of the original 18-inch wheels, and a mono seat.

Neville will also be entering his track racer-cum- café racer 1969 Triumph Bonneville T120. Bonnevilles are very dear to Neville’s heart as he made his race track debut on a Bonneville at the old Roy Hesketh circuit in Pietermaritzburg in 1981, and stunned the locals with a performance that saw him competitive on the old 1969 machine alongside all manner of much more modern Japanese superbikes!

Triumph specials

Gavin Venter is a Knysna-based motorcycle specialist builder who has a national reputation for the amazing machines he creates. This year his display will include six motorcycles, and heading up the list is a bike known as War Bird!

“This is the first so-called “art-bike” that I have built, as it was especially commissioned by a lady customer who wanted to display it in her living room as an art object,” says Gavin. “It is based on a 1957 Triumph Thunderbird 650 cc machine and includes all sorts of interesting items such as early-period girder front forks. The War Bird name is a play on the Thunderbird name.

“Another really interesting and whacky motorcycle will be another customer commission, built for an antiques dealer. It has a military theme, based on a small 300 cc Sherco trials bike, and features an artillery gun shell for the exhaust, while the headlamp is a converted World War Two gas mask!”

Venter’s business, known as Phoenix Customs, will also display his own long time favourite, a 1971 Triumph Tiger 650 done in the classic Bobber style with massive front wheel and no mudguards, while his wife Alta’s considerably modified Yamaha XT500 will also be attracting lots of attention. Two more Triumphs will include a 1964 model-year 650 and a customised rare 350 Twin, in café racer style. Brian Davidson’s original-spec 1968 Triumph Tiger 650, re-built by Phoenix, will provide a valuable reference point to the custom-bike fantasies indulged in by Venter and his crew.

The oldest bikes

The honour of displaying the oldest motorcycle this year goes to Brian Wallace, with his 1911 singe-cylinder FN. This motorcycle was built by the same Belgian company that produced the famous FN rifle, used here by our military. FN (standing for Fabrique Nationale) was famous for developing the use of shaft drive for motorcycles from 1903, and the Wallace machine has a shaft drive, as well as pedal operation to get the motorcycle mobile before starting the engine. This machine has a two-speed gearbox and a clutch. FN actually built motorcycles right up until 1967.

The second-oldest motorcycle on display was also restored by Brian Wallace, but is now owned by Adrian Denness. This is a 1912 Bat. It was named after the founder of the British company, Samuel Robert Batson. Extremely rare, this single-cylinder machine uses a belt drive with a gigantic rear pulley, and is a single-speed machine. Being a 500 cc model, it has tremendous low-speed torque.

The third machine in the Wallace line-up is a 1914 Douglas, a two-speed model but with no clutch. This is a horizontally-opposed twin-cylinder machine, and Douglas was the first to produce this configuration of engine, long before BMW started with “boxer” twins in the 1920s. Starting and pulling away is a complicated affair as there is no clutch, and the technique is to pull in a cylinder decompressor, paddle the bike forward in first gear using your legs, and then releasing the decompressor, which starts the engine, and away you go!

All these very old bikes feature “total loss” lubrication systems, which means that there is a separate oil tank, but no sump, and the oil that is fed to the engine either burns away or drops earthwards, once it has done its lube job. So if there are oil droplets beneath them, rest assured that that is the way they are supposed to be!

British Thumper

A motorcycle familiar to many who did their military training here in the 1950s and 1960s is the AJS 500 single-cylinder model. This AJ, as it was commonly known, was built up from spare parts by Lofty Pretorius. The parts were obtained from the famous Rubes Motorcycles shop in Main Street, Johannesburg, which specialised in all manner of British bikes, long after the so-called Japanese invasion of the 1960s and 1970s.

Lofty has ridden the AJS for over 40 years, and he has competed on trials with the bike as well as in countless bike rallies. He has also raced it in classic bike events at Kyalami and Zwartkops.

“The fun and memories that this classic motorcycle represents over the 40 odd years brings a smile on my face every time I ride the machine. It has proven to be one of the most reliable classic bikes that I have owned, despite all the abuse handed out to it over all these years,” says Lofty.

And a Moto Guzzi Le Mans

Lofty has also entered a Moto Guzzi 850 Le Mans Mk II from the early 1980s, which he rebuilt from a box of bits as a café racer. Being a Ducati lover, he fashioned the fairing after the famous “Duke 900 SS” of that period, and the bike also features special exhausts, made just a stone’s throw away from the sports fields that today host the Knysna Show! The exhausts, manufactured in the 1980s, were called Rex pipes, after George Rex Drive in Knysna.

And much, much more

Apart from the 70-plus classic motorcycles on display, there will be over 300 invitation-only classic and vintage cars including over 20 Bentleys from the early 1920s onwards, 11 Mercedes 190SL and 300 SL models from the late 1950s, supercars from the likes of Porsche, Lamborghini, Aston Martin, Ferrari and Pagani, a special electric vehicle display featuring the latest BMW electric cars and tributes to many classics.

Of these tributes, Morgan sports cars will celebrate its 110th birthday at the show, Mini celebrates its 60th birthday this year, and Bentley, with a huge display of massive old sports machines, will be commemorating 100 years of top-flight British motoring history in 2019. To celebrate this, Bentley will also show modern Bentleys at the Knysna Motor Show, such as the Continental GT and the Bentayga SUV.

Special Hotel Deals for Motor Show Weekend

In co-operation with the Knysna Motor Show, special accommodation deals are in place for visitors to the show. The Pezula Hotel is one of these, and you can contact them by clicking on the following link: https://pezulahotel.com/specials/knysna-motor-show/ .

The Protea Knysna Quays Hotel is also offering special motor show deals. Call reservations on 044 382 5005 and mention “Knysna Motor Show Special.”

The 2019 Knysna Motor Show is a one day event that runs from 9 am to 4 pm on Sunday, April 28, 2019 at the Knysna High School Sports Grounds. Admission prices are R50 for adults, children 12-18 will be charged R10, and children under-12 get free admission.

Contact details are: Peter Pretorius, email on This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it., or by cell phone on 082 321 4724. For more information, go to the Garden Route Motor Club’s website on www.grmc.co.za

Read 533 times Last modified on Tuesday, 16 April 2019 09:49
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