Friday, January 29, 2010


A friend on the Veteran Motorcycles Forum suggested a look at this fascinating home-built 'Planet' motorcycle; fully a 1500cc OHV from 1916! It is claimed the machine would do 85mph, which sound tremendous, given the poor state of the roads at that early date. Here is what the Melbourne Museum says about it's most interesting exhibit:

"This hand-made motor cycle was built by John Oliver who ran a motor car and motor cycle repair business in Melbourne. Oliver was born at Talbot in central Victoria in 1872 and served an apprenticeship to a wheelwright before becoming involved in the cycle business initially in New Zealand and then in Melbourne. In the early 1900s he established the Planet Cycle Works in High Street Kew. where he built bicycles using frames he brazed together himself. By 1909 the business had transformed into a motor car repair shop situated on the corner of High and Peel Streets, Kew. Oliver had previously built a number of motor cycles under the 'Planet' and 'Planet Aero' brand-names. John Oliver often referred to this one-off machine as 'The Big Bike'. It was built between 1913 and 1916.

Oliver's plans for this motor cycle were drawn up on brown paper after "arriving home one evening a little the worse for an afternoon at the local hostelery" according to his son Monty. John Oliver made the wooden pattern for the engine mouldings and castings were obtained from Chas Ruwolt's foundry in Victoria Street, Richmond and then machined on Oliver's own workshop lathe, including turning the cooling fins. The motor cycle has a large 1497 c.c. capacity V-twin cylinder engine and a single-speed transmission with a lever operated clutch. Originally it was capable of a top speed of 85 m.p.h (140 km/h). The original carburettor was a Zenith later replaced by a Schebler. The original wheels were replaced around 1938 with a pair of conventional second-hand motorcycle wheels. John Oliver died in 1949 and the Planet was left dismantled in storage. John Oliver's sons, Allen and John (Monty) Oliver decided to reassemble the machine around 1980. One replacement magneto was purchased and a non-original S.U carburettor was fitted at this time. After Allen's death, Monty Oliver donated the Planet to the Museum in 1987.