Back To The Future - 1984 Revisited

Tucked into Mr. Horie Naoto’s luggage when he arrived in Australia for a short visit last year was a 40-year-old copy of the Yamaha Motor staff magazine, 55MPH. The yearly glossy magazine was produced exclusively for Yamaha Motor Japan staff during the 1980s, and Volume 3 - The Australia Special - is Horie-san’s favourite issue. Until he stepped off the plane at Sydney International Airport, the old magazine was his main connection to Australia.


Horie-san’s brief trip Down Under did not provide him with enough time to visit the same destinations as the 1984 magazine crew. Still, he was keen to spend time on two wheels, so the Yamaha Motor Australia team put together three days of riding, which you can read about in our Destination Yamaha Sharing Moments story.


Despite the time restrictions, the local crew organised a surprise for its guest, a visit to Sydney’s Pyrmont Bridge, where one of the iconic shots from the 1984 Magazine was taken. 


Cars, busses and trucks no longer have access to the old swingbridge, which still opens regularly to allow larger boats in and out of Darling Harbour; however, wheeling a motorcycle onto the bridge was possible and a great now and then photo was the result. While much has changed in the Pyrmont area since 1984, locating where the original photograph was taken, proved easy.

As Horie-san departed Australia, a few Yamaha Motor Australia staff decided to organise a trip to Bathurst and the famous Mount Panorama circuit to revisit some of the locations depicted in the images of the original magazine. The idea was to produce more then-and-now photographs, as well as enjoying a good ride. Riding from Sydney to Bathurst is much easier than in the 1980s. Back then, much of the road across the Blue Mountains was single lane, which could quickly reduce traffic to a snarl. These days, it’s more about staying under the speed limit on the heavily policed roads.

For anyone visiting the Mount Panorama circuit, visiting the National Motor Racing Museum is a must, and a great way to be reminded of how much the circuit has changed (and in some cases remains the same) since the first race was held there in 1938. Of course, Bathurst is no stranger to motorcycle racing; Australia’s first Motorcycle Grand Prix was held at the Yetholme circuit - located just outside of Bathurst -  in 1914 which you can read about in our Destination Discoveries story.

The main straight of the famous racing circuit was our first stop on a lap of the fantastic 6.2 km strip of bitumen. We discovered that the location of the original photograph had changed significantly over the pats 40 years. In 1983, the pit buildings were single-level wooden structures already well past their use-by date. While the footbridge across Conrod Straight remains, it is no longer visible from the photo point due to the modern, multi-story pit garages and VIP suites that have been built.

The next stop was the right-hand bend at the top of Mountain Straight, known as Griffins Bend. The tight right-hander requires bravery and skill to negotiate at race pace without losing precious speed. In 1984, the circuit was lined with trees and barbed-wire fencing erected by the framers whose properties border the circuit. These days, it’s all concrete walls and safety fencing. The two-stroke Yamaha FZ250R looks a little offline in the old photo as it heads into the corner. While setting up our shot at the location, we were visited by Frank Colzato riding his 1925 Douglas motorcycle. Unfortunately, the hill’s gradient was too much for the 100-year-old machine, and he was forced to retreat. Luckily, the circuit is a two-way public road when not being used for racing, so a quick U-turn was possible for Frank.

Next on the list was Conrod Straight. We were unsure why the decision was made in 1984 to photograph the rider heading the opposite way to the racing direction. Still, the photograph shows the circuit before the Chase installation, which was built for the 1987 1000km car race. While the second Conrod hump – which saw many bikes and cars airborne – was flattened to create the Chase, the iconic footbridge has survived. 


A lot of the infrastructure in and around the Mount Panorama circuit may have changed over the years; however, other than the changes to Conrod Straight, the circuit remains very much how it was when the first race motorcycle race meeting was held over the Easter weekend in 1938. The ride up, across and down the mountain will still take your breath away, even at the 60km/h speed limit, while the postcard view from the top of the mountain reveals how the circuit obtained its name.  


With the sun starting to descend, and a coldness in the air being felt, we headed to our final photo spot - Bathurst train station. Like many train stations built to service inland cities and large towns around Australia, Bathurst train station is a beautiful piece of architecture, well preserved to retain its old-world charm and heritage. As with the photographs at the circuit, spotting the location of the 1984 photograph took but a few moments. It’s just a shame we didn’t have a Yamaha RZ250R to relive the old days. 


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