Rare War-Time Motorbike Once Buried Under Veggie Garden To Be Auctioned

A Melbourne owner of a rare Triumph motorcycle went to incredible lengths to save it from war: pulling it apart, wrapping it up, and burying it six-feet under his vegetable garden - now its story is finally being told.

The 1939 Triumph Speed Twin 5T Motorcycle with Dusting Sidecar narrowly escaped wartime, and you won't believe the length the then-owner was willing to go to keep it. 

Cyril Kelly had saved up because he really wanted the 'superbike' - it was the coolest bike of the era.

Shortly after buying it, the rare motorbike was identified for war service, meaning the government would collect it under the compulsory acquisition program.

However, the acquisition was not to be, thanks to the devoted and innovative Kelly who hid his bike in an incredible fashion.

10 daily spoke to the current owner of the bike Philip Horner, who's father William bought the bike off Kelly after the war.

William Horner on the motorbike having just completed restoration of the sidecar. Image: Supplied

"Dad was friends with Cyril, they were market gardeners and had a plot next to each other where Monash University is now ... They grew vegetables which is why they were exempt from serving in the war."

Horner said his father had helped Kelly dismantle the motorbike, wrap up the components and bury it six-feet down underneath the market garden, to avoid police metal detectors.

He said they even ploughed 40 acres of land so that the freshly dug up soil where the motorbike was buried wouldn't stand out.

"Each part, except for the sidecar, was completely sealed up in grease paper and then wrapped up again in a waterproof canvass. Moisture and dirt could not get to the metal or paintwork."

When the police came to acquire the Triumph, Kelly told them that someone had stolen the bike and left the sidecar behind. The army didn’t want just a sidecar by itself so they left it.

Located under a market garden in the suburb of Wheelers Hill in 1939, the motorcycle remained for the duration of the war until it was unearthed six years later.

It was then reassembled as new, and after all that effort -- Kelly then decided to sell the bike because he wanted a car!

Horner's father was the obvious buyer: "Dad never told anyone Cyril's secret during the whole war so Cyril sold Dad the Speed Twin as a reward for the trust that he had placed in him and not sold him out."

The motorbike's new owner was an active member of the vintage motorcycle community and restored the bike back to its former glory in the 1980s.

It has stayed in the family ever since. 

Baby Graeme Horner (Philip's brother) sitting on Dad William Horners' Triumph speed twin motorcycle in 1952. Image: Supplied
William Horner taking the twin to an Oakleigh Motorcycle Club reunion. Image: Supplied

"I think that every time Dad got on that bike he felt like he was 23 again, the same age as when he bought it. He just loved that machine the first time that he saw it and it grew the more he rode it. He had so many adventures in it." Horner said.

But now this incredible piece of Australian history is looking for a new owner.


William Horner on the motorbike as sons Philip and Graeme watch on. Image: Supplied.

The motorcycle is to be offered at auction in November, something Horner has mixed feelings about. 

"I'll be sad to see it go, but it's the right time ... If I don’t find the Speed Twin the right home now then in the future when I depart this world it will only sit in the garage for 10 years..."

This unique motorbike - and special slice of history - is expected to fetch for just under $50,000 AUD at auction.

Horner's sons Ricky and Rayden will share in the sale.

"With the money from the sale, my boys can do something they love."

"I look at it as a present from their Grandfather that they never met or knew. Something that he can do to enrich their lives from beyond the grave."

Members of Oakleigh Motorcycle Club including William (left) at the top of Mt Wellington in Hobart, Tas. Image: Supplied