The Peril turned towards the next volcanic cone, Mt Eden. It has the best views of Auckland and for me, represents a slice of motorcycling history.
First, a pic of The peril on Mt Eden, overlooking Auckland City. Guess why the less reverent among us call the "Sky Tower" the sparkplug. Bloody horrible thing. A radio station ran a competition to recommend a colour for the tower - one caller suggested "pink, with veins." I nearly fell off my chair.
But back to Mt Eden. In the early '70s I had six months to kill before I was scheduled to start a course at Auckland Technical Institute and spotted an advertisement for a spare parts bloke at the Auckland Kawasaki dealer, Laurie Summers.
It was based in the suburb of Mt Eden and they must have been desperate because I got the job. I commuted daily about 30 miles from Orewa where I lived. The bike I had at the time, in the bulletproof mind of a bulletproof young man, was not fast enough for the job. Oh no. But I’ll get to that in a minute.
When I arrived at Laurie Summers there was an amazing range of characters. Graeme Crosby worked in the Onehunga branch along with an extraordinary racer called Eric Bone. Eric only has a birthday about every 6 years, making him a well-seasoned 18 so far. Or so he says.
Below - Eric Bone (on the right) racing his H2 750 Kwakka circa '74 or '75, turn 4, Bay Park Raceway. He still rides the same H2 in post-classic races.
Even then, Croz was the sort of rider that you’d take your mates to watch and say “check this guy out!” Every time the flag dropped it was like lighting a jumping jack firework. With that boy, you were never sure what was going to happen.
There was Glen Williams who went on to be a champion rider, and Wayne List who had a brand new Mach III (he became spannerman for legendary rider Rodger Freeth, who once fitted aerofoils to a TZ750. How big do your balls have to be for that?).
I was domiciled in the spare parts cave downstairs with Colin Macalister, whose photographic recall of parts numbers never ceased to amaze me. Someone would come in for a wheel nut and while I headed for the parts book Colin would call out the number.
Below: Where Laurie Summers was. Now a Korean souvenirs shop - the lady inside was suspicious about why I was taking photos and when I told her the sorry tale of my MT 250's throttle, she laughed. That story is told below ....
Back then, up in the roof was the mangled frame of the first Kawasaki H2 – the awe-inspiring and really bloody scary 750 triple.
It had been ‘road tested’ by one of the staff by blasting off down Mt Eden road with the side stand down, finding itself embedded into the side of a brick garage when the rider was unable to lean into the left hand corner.
In fact it had been a nasty accident, the rider being seriously injured with many broken bits inside.
Below: More Mt Eden, looking up to the summit.
The Onehunga Branch had a nice 350 Suzuki at a decent price so I bought it. It may have shortened my commute time but the thing frightened the crap out of me.
The forks were made from two inch plastic water pipe, or at least they felt like it, and the shocks were filled with pieces of well-used chewing gum.
The frame had a hinge in the idle and the seat felt like it had been replaced by a metal one off a Massey Ferguson tractor. It would have stopped better if I’d held a piece of wood against the tyre.
The bike needed some serious sorting out. So what we did to solve all these woes was remove the standard bars, which were wide enough to be motocross handlebars and were mounted on rubber grommets so they flexed liberally back and forth.
We put racing flat bars on it. Yeah, that should fix the problems.
We did this one fine day at the top of nearby Mt Eden and we used that location for two reason - we didn’t want anyone to ask where the A7 Avenger flat bars came from and because the staff were banned from working on their bikes on the footpath outside during the day.
Fair enough, we’d have spent the whole day out there if we could because none of us could afford a bike that didn’t need constant love and attention.
The only minor problem was a lack of care in routing the throttle cable. The problem manifested itself as an awful lot of go-pedal as I came down the road off the mountain. It sloped steeply off the summit and ended in an Armco railing and a cliff.
Below: The T350. Looked good, but had the typical traits of a 1970s Japanese two stroke. Cool bars though!
Fortuitously. I had adjusted the front brake so both the shoes were in contact with the drum and I had just enough stopping power from T-boning the railing and flying through the air with the greatest of ease to serious injury or death a long way below.
And this thrillseekers, is the road down from the summit, with the welcoming armco at the bottom.
For a while I drove the courier van that delivered packages of immense importance around the city, culminating in two events that signaled the end of the old Commer. The first was the throttle jamming fully on, meaning I had to drive the thing from Onehunga to Mt Eden by turning the key on and off. I started it by putting it in first gear, then winding the starter, bouncing along the road until it fired. When the head gasket blew, turning the interior into a sauna and steaming up the windscreen so bad I couldn’t see, the Commer was dispatched to the car knacker’s yard.
I left The Count’s (as we called the place) did my course and got another job. But the final sting in the tail was visiting Mr Macalister one day on a brand new Honda MT250. It had been running a bit lean and while fiddling round with it on the footpath, the no-working rule not applying now I’d left, I managed the jam the throttle open.
I switched off the key but the thing kept running, as we motocrossers used to say, WFO. Firing on the hot sparkplug. I stamped it into gear and dropped the clutch, an act that merely resulted the bike dragging me round in tyre-smoking donuts, much to the amusement of the many bikers around. Eventually the carb flooded and the MT coughed to a halt.
The mechanics over the road, the sales staff at The Count’s and the people inside Bill Russells over the road, clapped as they pissed themselves laughing.
Below: Looking west - the stadium you see will be the home to the next Rugby World Cup, scheduled to kick off in just a few weeks' time. Rugby is a bit of a religion in NZ, so this is a very big deal.
Gratuitous Auckland shot.
There's still more to come thrillseekers, don't move that tuning knob.