SOMEONE once told local man Mike Price that he couldn't build a motorbike hearse.
So he set out to prove them wrong.
Now Mike reckons he's built the world's first true motorcycle hearse and he's looking to set up a factory in south Auckland to make them.
He's moving back to New Zealand after living in Melbourne for 20 years and says he'd rather set up shop here than in Australia.
"It'll create jobs and the country needs exports," he says.
The venture began when he went to a mate's funeral.
"Someone passed a comment that he should have arrived on a motorbike," Mike says.
The next comment was along the lines of "but you can't do that".
"You should never say you can't do something to Mike because he'll do it," says his partner Anne Ellis.
For a year and a half the automotive engineer spent his nights working away in his garage.
The bike began as two wheels and a coffin on the garage floor. Then Mike added a 1340cc Harley Davidson motor, a fuel tank and front guard.
Next he made the rear guard and spent around $16,000 on hydraulics and $5500 on brakes.
He added a second driver to give the hearse more stability and tucked a lot of componentry under the cowling.
"I built it as I went. The hydraulics just evolved," he says.
Anne says if they ever rolled the bike out of the garage they tried to do it when no one was around.
"We took it out on a road in Melbourne and had to pull over. People were stopping in the middle of the road to have a look."
The burnt orange bike is 4.8 metres long, weighs around 600kg and has five gears and an adjustable cradle that carries up to 200kg.
It's all-electric and with the touch of a button a jockey wheel drops down and wheels the coffin out at 90 degrees.
At this stage the bike's a prototype and the next one will be lighter, Mike says.
For three years the bike's been "tucked out of sight" to make sure no one pinches Mike's idea. But after having secured copyright in 28 countries, he's now got it on display for everyone to see.
At one point the couple approached Harley Davidson about manufacturing the bike but the company wanted them to sign a contract before they'd even look at it.
"It was 28 pages long and they wanted our first-born. We said `forget it'," Anne says.
Now they're on the lookout for a partner to help export the bike to the world.
See www.worldsfirsttruemotorbikehearse.net for more information.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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