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A Wellington man's special motorbike collection

John Pace on his 1954 Matchless, alongside the 1941 green BSA – his “sentimental favourite”. Photo/Ken Downie.

A Wellington man's special collection. 

John Pace’s dad hated motorcycles. So when he turned up out of the blue with a classic BSA, Pace says his jaw dropped. “I just couldn’t believe it when he said he’d bought it for me from the television production he’d been working on.” That was in 1978, when the family was living in London and John Pace senior had a job supplying cars and other vehicles for the British film and TV industry (including Jonesy’s butcher’s van for Dad’s Army). Sometimes he’d stand in for the actor and drive them on screen, too.

The green 1941 BSA 500cc cost £800 and was a star in its own right, having made frequent appearances on the telly, including the early-70s series On the Buses, and another show where it was ridden by British actor David Jason. When Pace immigrated to New Zealand in the early 90s, he brought the BSA with him, along with a 1949 Army Indian Scout that had been used by the Canadian army.

Today, his motorbike collection has doubled to include a silver 1954 Matchless 350 and a 1975 Honda Gold Wing 1000 – all stored in a huge garage under his house in Wellington, where he works as an industrial consultant.

“I was a rocker, back in the day; I’ve still got the leather jacket to prove it, though it doesn’t fit anymore,” Pace says, pointing to where his jacket hangs on the wall among a collection of motorcycle memorabilia. “Back then, I had lots of British bikes, before settling for a Royal Enfield 750 Interceptor – a very cool bike for a rocker.”

He’s ridden his bikes all over the country, and says the BSA remains a sentimental favourite. His father died many years ago, but Pace still recognises him every now and again in old TV programmes. “Recently I spotted him driving a Rolls-Royce in an episode of To the Manor Born,” he says. But never in his life has he seen his dad riding a motorcycle – “not even on TV”.

This article was first published in the July 2019 issue of North & South.

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