For those who delve into the past their main reference is the written word, articles from period newspapers, club magazines, and preserved time pieces like the N.Z Motorcyclist magazine. Produced from 1947 to 1957 this publication was the bugle for anything motorcycling in New Zealand and abroad. Initially the brainchild of editor Ted Beckett it lacked for nothing in keeping the NZ motorcycle fraternity in the know with what was happening, or what had happened lately within the 2 islands.
I became aware of this publication after purchasing the first two volumes at a Pukekohe swapmeet about 1984 for the princely sum of $20. They were floating loosely in a plastic bag and as the seller said “nobody really seemed to be interested in them” Wishing to preserve them I had them bound into one hard covered edition and that volume still sits proudly on my bookcase. Over the next 30 years I was to continually add to the that collection and still am.
The N.Z. Motorcyclist covered most aspects of motorcycling in New Zealand as well as abroad, and there was something for everybody. Articles on WIMA (Womens International Motorcycle Association), the old man in Whakatane who built his own m/c, motorcycle quarterly registration figures, results from the various events that operated around NZ each month, and road tests of new models of the time like the mighty little Royal Enfield Ensign were the norm.
Popular items of interest would have been the covering of the yearly N.Z T.T and N.Z. G.P. If people couldn’t attend the events then they definitely wanted to read about them, and of course support their favourite riders.
The popularity of our little magazine was even recognised overseas when in the July 1950 issue of The Motorcyclist (an American publication) Herbert Schwarz wrote “The New Zealand magazine really is a beauty, describes a number of races in exciting style and completes the story with splendid photographs. There too, racing is a big national sport and the roads are the place to hold competitions. British bikes seem to be used exclusively, but we note an advertisement offering Army Indian spares. Gasoline was still being rationed at the time the issue on hand was published. A strong trend toward lightweights prevails.”
Publication numbers are unknown but compared to overseas magazines they would have been small so survival of the N.Z Motorcyclist would have been even less, and like most magazines once read they would have been shared around friends, work mates, given to junior to cut out pictures of his favourite riders or discarded into the fireplace (no recycling then) with perhaps a few being put away to be forgotten about for the next 30 years.
Because of the smaller print runs I have found it easier collecting more of the period English magazines – The MotorCycle and MotorCycling magazines over a similar period. Why? Because there were more produced and more sold in NZ than the NZ Motorcyclist. They were bigger magazines with articles covering more international happenings and lots more advertising. Their readership base may have been larger but what was produced in NZ was exceptional for the time and the editors had to be proud of what they achieved each month.
By May 1954 motorcycling must have been delivering what NZ readers wanted because by June the NZ Motorcyclist had changed to a fortnightly publication. This would have put even more demands on editor Ted Beckett, or perhaps it was a business decision to increase readership so as to be able to deliver a more saleable product because by November 1954 the publication was sold to F.E. Osborne publisher. Ted Beckett did a sterling job as editor/publisher from 1947 up to November 1954 so perhaps it was time for a change. There was only one more time where the magazine was fortnightly and that was in March 1955, after that it went back to monthly. In July 1957 the magazine was given a new title, that being the N.Z Motorcyclist, Scooter and Moped News. With the growing popularity in scooters, mopeds and lightweight motorcycles in the late 1950s it would have been a wise decision to draw in the younger riders who may at a later time graduate to something larger.
As the years have passed more people seem to be becoming interested in these little magazines with Barnstormers getting more enquiries about information and availability of spare or extra copies for the newer collectors.
We have assembled a few cover pages just to show the diversity of motorcycling that the magazine covered. Just click on the cover below to see the display. It is a PDF so you will need Adobe to see it. Enjoy.
Not sure of how many complete sets there are out there, if any, but between myself and one other Barnstormer reader we have compiled a start list of what we believe was produced between October 1947 and October 1957. Presently we are up to 120 issues over 9 volumes. If anybody can add or give correction to this please get in touch through our contacts page.
Perhaps the last N.Z. Motorcyclist, Scooter and Moped News magazine produced, October 1957.
We don’t have any spare issues to sell. If you are truly interested in having them as part of your vintage library then best to advertise through motorcycle club magazines or keep a watchful eye on NZs main auction site Trade Me. Expect to pay between $5.00 and $30.00 each depending on condition and content.
Good luck hunting.
Click here to see our Complete List of N.Z Motorcyclist.
Please Note – We are not selling any of our issues and have only compiled the list to help others build up their own collection.