The classic Japanese bike scene is undergoing somewhat of a renaissance. Gentlemen of a certain age are realising that the machines from the 1970’s embody fond recollections of a time when things were simpler and we were all a bit more carefree. For most of us down here, life on two wheels began with a small Japanese machine – often a 50cc, such as the Suzuki AC50 “Maverick”. The eastern imports were relatively cheap (for what you got) and looked the part – no matter what your idea of cool was. Due to a positive mix of nostalgia and the fact retro is once again chic, increasing numbers of old Japanese bikes are now being dusted off and revived. Some are once again being used as daily commuters whilst others are getting their first spruce up (and service!) for around 20 years.
The Classic Japanese Motorcycle Group (CJMG) is based in Christchurch, New Zealand. The general aims of our group are to Resurrect, Restore and (most importantly) Ride Japanese bikes from the Pre-1980 era. In some ways, we are stuck in a time-warp but we all share a passion for the design, early technology and politically incorrect values of machinery from that era. The majority of our bikes are from the 70’s – proudly featuring gas-guzzling two-strokes and wonderfully (or is that boringly?) reliable four-strokes.
Our keen band of obsessional members recently held its second Pre-1985 Japanese bike show on 16th and 17th October 2010. After the success of our initial one day show in 2009 (the first in the South Island for around a decade), it was decided to open the event up for an extra day. The proceeds from this year’s event have been donated to the local St John’s Ambulance service. This community mindedness is also an attempt to appease our collective consciences after several summers of riding smoky two strokes around the region and potentially hastening global warming! Our intent with the show was to give owners a public forum to exhibit the machines that they have so beautifully restored, to encourage others to drag their old bikes out of the shed (and hopefully recommission them) as well as offer an intense nostalgia trip to the many local bikers. One of the great pleasures of these shows is watching blokes hang out for the day recalling their adventures (and traffic infringements) on the different models and become misty eyed over THE bike they had always lusted after.
Despite Christchurch being hit by a 7.1 magnitude earthquake the previous month, we decided to press on with the event and luckily the chosen venue escaped any major damage. With most of the exhibits in place by Friday night, things were looking good until around 10.30pm when we had yet another aftershock! Thankfully none of the bikes were affected and we were able to open to the public on the Saturday as scheduled. The range of bikes was impressive, with all marques represented from 50cc tiddlers through to 1000cc monsters. The exhibitors were mostly from the local region but three bikes made a journey of over two hundred miles each for the event.
Within the show, a highlight for the two stroke enthusiast was an impressive line-up of the Kawasaki 500cc Triples. We managed to display an example of the: 69, 70, 71, 72, 73 and 76 models. Although you could see yourself in their chromework, these beauties do not just sit in the garage. They all smoke, rattle and howl on a regular basis. The “Eau de 2-Stroke” around this section was intoxicating! One of the rarest bikes on show was a 1969 Bridgestone GTR 350. This is a low mileage ex-demonstrator bike that had remained in the back room of an old USA dealer and has recently found its way to NZ following his demise. This (unrestored) bike attracted a lot of attention as everyone had heard of/read about the Bridgestone but very few had seen one in the flesh. In terms of locally not often seen bikes, we also had a 1975 Suzuki RE5 Rotary (one of 14 originally imported to NZ) – described by its owner as representing “Suzuki’s technological dead-end”. The most spectacularly shiny and ultra chromed bike was a gorgeous 1967 Yamaha YM2C “Bigbear” high-piped street-scrambler. The restorer of this demonstrated amazing attention to detail.
Another mouth watering sight was the Suzuki GT group. Included within this were several beautifully restored “first model” bikes: a red GT380J, a blue GT550J and a Candy Jackal Blue GT750J. In fact, we had a few very desirable “first models” such as: 1969 Honda CB750 K0, 1969 Kawasaki H1 500 and 1973 Kawasaki Z1 900. The final innovation for this year’s show was to have a “Barnfind” section. Within this we had a 1971 Kawasaki “Bighorn” trail bike (suitably flanked by haybales) that had genuinely been rescued from a South Island Farmer’s barn. The owner has a bedroom full of NOS parts with which to return this beast to her former glory – hopefully in 2011. There was also a very early Suzuki twin from 1961, a partially restored 1980 Kawasaki Z650F1 and a 1975 Honda CB350 that is about to get the full Dunstall makeover!
The show was a great success with positive feedback being received from the public who came along to relive their youth. It was obvious from the many in-depth conversations that the local biking fraternity is well informed about history, performance and even correctness of paint shade. There were more than a few discussions over what was original versus restored versus over-restored! The owners of the bikes did themselves proud with the way they turned their precious toys out and the CJMG members can take a bow for their efforts in organising such a positive event. Although our show is small by UK standards, the comments from folk suggest we are tapping into a latent interest for many blokes. It also appears that there are quite a few machines still hibernating in local garages that have not seen the light of day for many a year. Since the show, we have been contacted by people who are keen to come with us on the monthly ride-outs we hold (a 1979 Honda CBX1000 has just joined the fold).
The standard of presentation was excellent and more than a few hours with the polishing rag were obviously involved. The attention to detail and desire to restore to original specs was commendable. As a result of the goodwill of local bike shops and our major sponsor (Spring Lynne Motorcycles), we were able this year to offer prizes for each section plus a Best In Show trophy. The winners were determined by public voting across the two days. The honours were taken by the following bikes and each was an absolute credit to their owners: Best Under 125cc (sponsored by Rolling Thunder Motorcycles) – 1971 Suzuki AC50; Best Off-Road (sponsored by Pitlane/Cycletreads) – 1979 Honda CR125; Best Suzuki (sponsored by Sportzone Suzuki) – 1974 Suzuki GT750L; Best Yamaha (sponsored by Trevor Pierce Motorcycles) – 1967 Yamaha YM2C “Big Bear”; Best Honda (sponsored by Casbolts Honda) – 1974 Honda CB750K2; Best Kawasaki (sponsored by Norjos Kawasaki) AND Best In Show (sponsored by Spring Lynne Motorcycles) – 1973 Kawasaki Z1 900.