Motorcycle museum ‘a lifestyle thing’

The small town of Deneys-ville on the banks of the Vaal Dam houses the only motorcycle museum in South Africa.


The Historic Motorcycle Museum has been a work in progress by former bike racer John Boswell for over 30 years. “I had a personal collection and I did not have a big enough shed… so I opened a museum,” he said with a smile.

There are more than 130 rare motorcycles on display and John is the owner of one of the biggest static engine collections in the country. “It’s a petrolhead thing… these machines are so full of character,” the 61-year-old says.

John explains he is not out to make money. “This is a lifestyle thing. This is a biker-friendly venue,” he says, pointing to the bar and museum. He adds that on a Sunday morning you can find up to 500 bikers sipping a beer and eating breakfast.

John once came fourth in the British Motorcycle Championship and moved to South Africa in the eighties to pursue his career in sidecar racing. “It was a career thing and a sunshine thing, of course,” he says, lighting another cigarette.

He loves thoroughbred race bikes and still has his three-cy-linder 750cc Triumph, as well as his twin-cylinder 950cc Westlake. He walks, cigarette in hand, to the museum, which has an entrance fee of R20.

“All of the bikes are running. Two thirds of the bikes are on loan from owners who are tired of them collecting dust and who want others to enjoy them,” he says.

John Boswell, former motorcycle racer, with his collection of bikes. The Historic Motorcycle Museum in Deneysville, Gauteng, has been a work in progress for Boswell for over 30 years.

John Boswell, former motorcycle racer, with his collection of bikes. The Historic Motorcycle Museum in Deneysville, Gauteng, has been a work in progress for Boswell for over 30 years.

When asked which is his favourite bike, he stops in his tracks. “Everyone always asks me this. I don’t have a favourite. They’re all bloody lovely.”

The museum houses one of only four motorcycles manufactured in the then Rhodesia, named the Rhodesian Ridgeback: a 1962 125cc. There is also a priceless Czechoslovakian-made Jawa racing machine.

He points out the Aermacchi 350cc single cylinder (produced by Harley Davidson in 1964) and proudly announces: “That’s the only one left in Africa.”

Although the museum consists of only one room, it is paradise for a biking enthusiast. “Some people spend five hours here. Studying and reading everything,” he says.

John pauses in front of a commemorative wall for Gary Hocking, the former world champion in the 350cc and 500cc categories. Hocking died in 1962 during a practice session. “He was the best in the world. This is the best collection of all his trophies and memorabilia,” Boswell says.

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