The word legend or icon should not be used too loosely but this bloke and his family have earned the title.
Barry Graham is the son and beneficiary of Jack Graham motorcycles, one of Australia’s motorcycling pioneers. Barry inherited Jack Graham motorcycles in 1971. Jack Graham motorcycles would arguably be the oldest existing motorcycle workshop in Australia. Not much has changed since it’s beginnings in 1929. The shop is situated on one of Sydney’s busiest streets - next to Australia’s biggest airport and yet the shop is best described as, lets just say “special”. With little or no street signage the only sign it’s a motorcycle shop is the sight of half stripped motorcycles behind a rusty old cyclone fence. You’d be forgiven for thinking it was an old wreckers or one of those old hoarders. But contraire - behind this fence is 76 years of Australian motorcycle and motoring history.
Jack started the business in 1929, selling predominantly English motorcycles - Vincent’s, AJS and Panther etc. In 1931 he sold Norton. During WW2 Jack was enlisted to service Harley Davidson and Indians for the NSW Police Force, returning to his shop in 1946. From 1948-52 Jack with his wife ran a small show room in Gardeners Rd Mascot, showcasing the British line up ,Triumph ,BSA and Norton etc.
Barry began his apprenticeship with Jack in 1954 and in 1958 Jack signed on as an agency for the Jap invasion, carrying Honda ,Suzuki and Kawasaki. In 1976 Jack dropped the Japs and went back to restoring and servicing pommy bikes. Today when you walk through those rusty old gates your hit by a line up of collectable and very rare bikes, parts and most of all nostalgia. It’s the shop that time forgot.
Making my way up to the old timber workshop, the boss, Barry is busy wiring a Velocette so Barry’s mate Terry gave me the tour and the story how his grandfather was a customer in the 30’s. The place is no bigger than a shoebox, with 3 stands all occupied at time. The rest of the joint was in shambles. As I was poking around under some discarded boxes and an inch of dust between the old fridge and leaning on the beach was a restored 1939AJS - on the other side of the shop something caught my eye. Under a mountain of old oily rags was a BSA covered in dust. By this time Barry was finished with the Velocette, and wanted to show off his pride and joy - a Brough Superior once owned by Jack Forest the man Forest elbow on Mt Panorama Bathurst was named after. This Brough SS80 was 1 of 200 made with a V-twin overhead valve matchless donk - these bikes are very stylish and collectable. The bike was recently bought by a Yank collector . Barry tells me these bikes can fetch $100,000+. In Barry’s words quote “every bike I’ve sold the purchaser has seen good returns for their investment and that’s nice”. Two such investors have purchased 14 bikes off Barry between them.
The Brough and two other projects are destined for foreign shores. The Velocette to Hong Kong, a present for some rich bastards father, the red Triumph back home to England.
The interest overseas is mainly due to the quality in Barry’s work which has been documented in popular biker magazines in England, Germany and Japan.
One of Barry’s favourite customers is a United Airlines pilot, who when in Sydney checks into his hotel and heads straight to Barry’s yard to see what he’s got. Jack Nasa the President of the Ford Motor Co has also visited Barry and says he might not remember me but I bet he remembers my shop. Like a lot of other Aussies Barry is better known overseas than at home.
You can view Barry’s work or contact Barry at his web site www.jackgrahammotorcycles.com.au
Keep an eye out for Barry on guitar in Carols in the Domain.