Cairns motorcycle collector throws open doors for charity
Ian Hopkins shows us his collection of rare motorcycles. Video: Isaac Egan
HIDDEN away in an anonymous commercial building on the busiest road in Cairns is one of the best private motorcycle collections in Australia.
Ian "Hoppy" Hopkins has amassed about 40 rare and valuable racing motorcycles, as well as a priceless library of posters, books, magazines, framed prints, paintings and other memorabilia of some of the greatest names in motorcycle racing.
Some of the motorcycles are so rare, valuable and important that the factories have tried unsuccessfully to buy them back.
But the collection is at the crossroads and may leave Cairns. Mr Hopkins is hoping that with a tourism operator he may be able to keep the museum in the Far North.
He is keen to create a venue where other like-minded enthusiasts can bring their own rides or drives, have a coffee and a chat to other fanatics and view his collection.
In the meantime, Mr Hopkins will soon throw open the doors of Moto Australia for a charity fundraising event so members of the public can see what all the fuss is about.
The collection, presented in an immaculate showroom, can only be viewed by invitation.
His life-long interest of racing motorcycles stems from when he was 13 years old, living and working on the family farm in Victoria.
"Dad hated motorbikes. He had one because that’s all he could afford living in a country town, but he kept falling off it. So he was never keen on letting me get one.
"Eventually my older brother Daryl and I bought an old 1942 Harley-Davidson. Dad relented because it wasn’t working so he thought there was no danger.
"Yet, somehow we managed to get it going and would ride it around the farm."
His first real restoration was a BSA 650 and he later did scrambling (now motocross) in Victoria before moving to Cairns in 1976 and that was when the collecting bug started feverishly.
In 1976 he started a close relationship with the late Rusty Rees, probably the Far North’s most famous motorbike racer, when he bought a new Kawasaki 1000 road bike from him.
They raced at the Cairns Speedway. In more recent times the 65-year-old has raced on tracks on his beloved Manx Norton replica at Phillip Island and in New Zealand.
So Mr Hopkins has worked with them, raced them, and collected them.
"At one point there were over 90 in the collection but I have sold many and trimmed it down to make it more manageable," he said.
"The memorabilia and the history is more important to me than the actual bikes."
The walls surrounding the bikes pay tribute to many famous names, some who have died.
They include Rusty Rees, Giacomo Agostini, Mike Hailwood, Barry Sheene, Troy Bayliss, Eddie Lawson, Kenny Roberts, Mick Doohan, Wayne Gardner, Valentino Rossi and Casey Stoner.
The bike brands include Ducati, Honda, Triumph, Vincent, Norton, Husqvarna, Yamaha, Harley-Davidson, BMW, Moto Guzzi.
There are limited editions and even a couple of one-offs.
There’s a Yamaha flat track racer and a Ducati Paris-Dakar bike that the factories have tried to buy back unsuccessfully.
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Passion: Motorcycle collector Ian Hopkins among his 40-odd rare and valuable motorbikes. Picture: MARC McCORMACK