Australian & NZ Motorcycles

Today in Motorcycle History

Maori Motorcycles

Maori were motorcycles produced from 1914 to 1919 by Zealandia Motor Works, London NW, to a design by A. R. Bannister from New Zealand.

The machines were intended to cope with the road conditions in New Zealand. They had a 292cc JAP engine with a variable gear mechanism built onto the drive-side crankcase. They were fitted with belt final-drive and Saxon spring-forks, and although they appeared to be conventional, they were very sturdy. To shield the rider from mud, the motorcycles were fitted with footboards.

Some 20 machines were built in England by two New Zealanders, Bannister and G Johns, but sadly all but one were lost when the first shipment met with disaster at sea in 1914 - the ship was torpedoed. [1] Further production was halted by the war.

The distributors were to be Johns, Bannister and Co. Ltd. of Gisborne, New Zealand. One machine made it to Gisborne, and was used for some years before disappearing forever, supposedly buried in an orchard. The story goes that this sole survivor was rescued from the sinking ship and put into a lifeboat. And then returned to England. And then sent to New Zealand. Where it was buried in an orchard. Uh huh.

But there is a photograph of it, albeit rather fuzzy, in the NZ national archives, so at least some of the story is true.

Dave Ransom in NZ was attempting to build a replica in 2013, according to an article in

Notes 1. The M.A. Bull book states "the boat was wrecked at Capetown, according to G. Maynard Johns, son of the owner." It also says that "George Johns won handicap races with the Maori in New Zealand."

Sources: Graces Guide,; New Zealands Motorcycle Heritage, book one 1899, by Maureen A. Bull, published 1981.

The Twin Screw Steamer Rangatira 1908-16

1916 Departed London for Hobart and New Zealand ports.

1916 March 31 While en-route to Tasmania and New Zealand, the six year old liner was stranded in dense fog in what is now known as Rangatira Bay on the North West corner of Robben Island at Table Bay, Capetown. She was abandoned as a Constructive Total Loss, but much of her 7,500 ton cargo was salvaged in the five months that it took for the ship to break up.

Notorious Robben Island has claimed 26 vessels and Rangatira grounded in a large kelp bed in 30 feet of water, at the same spot as the Tantallon Castle on the 7th of May 1901. The island had long been a prison (Nelson Mandela was later incarcerated there) and a great drunken orgy developed when convicts were sent to help with the salvage operations.

The Royal mails were recovered as the Public Records Office at Kew (London) list in their records information on payments made for mails salvaged from the vessel.

She was carrying a heavy lift crane for the port of Lyttelton's Gladstone Pier in her holds and it is also reputed that she could have been carrying twenty "Maori" motorcycles built for Johns Bannister and Company of London and intended for the New Zealand market. (404)

Tues, 11th June 2024
Further to my correspondence of last year re. the 'Maori' motorcycle. I have discovered from the published records of the Gisborne Borough Council that the registration number G624 was issued in 1916 to a 'Maori' motorcycle whose owners were Johns, Bannister Ltd of Gisborne. No day/month or bike frame/engine details given. Information is in the 'East Coast Directory' published in 1922 ( page 162) listing of GBC motor vehicle registrations. Directory volume held at the Gisborne library .
Ian Bade

Sat, 4th March 2023
An interesting article on this make can be found in the book 'New Zealand's Motorcycle Heritage", book one 1899,by Maureen A. Bull published 1981. (copy attached)
Ian Bade
5th March 2023
The book is worth getting. They come up sometimes at swap-meets etc. I have 2 copies. Well researched by Maureen. It includes an article on one of my LMC's. The book being published in 1981 my bike now has the correct pepper-pot muffler rather than the later straight thru version.
Another interesting fact - my other LMC was previously owned by George Johns who designed and financed the production of the "Maori" motorcycle and was a racer in his younger days. I think he used the LMC for his design especially the variable gearing.
Ian Bade

Mon, 04 Sep 2017
kiwifantail54 at
Maori 1911
My friend here in New Zealand has what is believed to be the only Maori motorcycle in the world left,it has a 1911 JAP engine,does anyone have any knowledge of the model or the engine,its a single cylinder ,belt drive to the rear wheel.
Gareme Duckett
New Plymouth New Zealand

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