The Favourite Motorcycle
Prior to World War I, W.H. Smith of the Smith Brothers Garage at Petersburg in South Australia sold (and possibly assembled) bicycles and motorcycles using the name The Burg. Following the outbreak of war with Germany in 1914, the town was renamed Peterborough (due to anti German sentiments). In response, Smith re-badged his motorcycles Favourite (1). It is estimated that fifty Favourite motorcycles were built at the Smith Brothers Garage (2). Davis suggests that nearly fifty Favourite motorcycles were built between 1914-1915 (3).
The National Motor Museum Favourite motorcycle is one of the three known surviving motorcycles from the fifty or so built at the Smith Brothers Garage in Peterborough, South Australia. The date of manufacture is not known, but the parts used indicate between 1918 and 1921 as a likely timeframe.
The Favourite was originally sold to a grazier in Yongala for use on his property, until the 1950s and 60s when it was owned by Mr Bob Francis who raced it in Motorcross events in and around Adelaide. Mr Gavin Sanford Morgan purchased The Favourite in the 1970s installing it in the National Motor Museum at its inception, with the NMM formally purchasing it in the 1980s.
The Favourite motorcycle is a typical example of a veteran Australian-built motorcycle, which were assemblies of proprietary components imported from the United Kingdom, with some locally constructed body parts. It also demonstrates two modifications typical to veteran motorcycles: replacing the problematic pedal start mechanism with running boards, which made riding more comfortable; and the fitting of narrow diameter ‘well’ rim wheels as the original, wider diameter ‘beaded edge’ rim wheels became unavailable.
Whilst numerous examples of Australian-built veteran motorcycles remain, the Favourite has historic and scientific/research significance due to an extremely rare level of integrity: apart from the in-service modifications, it retains its original parts and configuration; the engine exhibits limited wear; additionally, the original paintwork (including line-work and transfers) remains intact and in good condition. The historic significance of The Favourite is enhanced by the well documented ownership and use.
It also demonstrates two modifications typical to veteran motorcycles: replacing the problematic pedal start mechanism with running boards, which made riding more comfortable; and the fitting of narrow diameter ‘well’ rim wheels as the original, wider diameter ‘beaded edge’ rim wheels became unavailable.
(1) Saward, R. (1997) letter to Ken
(2) National Motor Museum, display text
(3) P. Davis, (1974), Motorcycles in Australia, Sydney : Paul Hamlyn. P75
Conservation treatment of the Favourite
The Favourite Motorcycle is the first vehicle to which the NMM and Artlab have applied the Conservation Management Tool for Historic Functional Objects. The Conservation Management Tool is a systematic framework developed by Principal Conservator, Joanna Romanos. The tool facilitates the process of determining the significance of an historic functional object and defining the conservation objectives relating to its operation, appearance and use/application. The conservation objectives enable development of conservation recommendations that preserve the significance of the vehicle.
Based on an understanding of what makes The Favourite significant, the aim of the treatment is to return the motorcycle to an ‘operable’ condition. This does not mean that the motorcycle will be ridden, but rather that the functionality of the motorcycle is reclaimed. Intermittent operation (required to maintain the operable condition, and to preserve the working parts by redistributing load and lubricants) will be undertaken at low loads and on rollers (to avoid potential accidents and damage to the motorcycle). The existing paint, linework and transfers are considered extremely significant. Accordingly, the aim of the treatment is not to ‘restore’ the motorcycle to an ‘as new’ appearance, which would necessitate significant intervention (if not destruction) of these applied finishes. Instead, the treatment aims to preserve these applied finishes through treatment steps that will stabilize and protect.
Each discrete part of the motorcycle has required a unique treatment approach that is influenced by its material, condition, significance and potential function. Broadly speaking, treatment has included:
The Favourite Motorcycle
Date unknown but parts used indicate 1918-1921 time frame
National Motor Museum, Birdwood, South Australia