Classic Motorcycles to Collect | Barron’s


“It’s one of America’s most maneuverable motorcycles,” famed collector Jay Leno says of his 1931 Indian Scout 101, a favorite among the 168 bikes he owns. “It was very well built, with a low center of gravity and a stiff chassis. Indian stuck with the flathead motor a bit too long, but the last days of old technology [are] always better than the early days of new technology. It was built when the speed limit was 45 [miles per hour], and it’s pretty fast.

Classic motorcycles from the United States, Europe, and Japan are booming as high-value collectibles. The prices tend to be very affordable compared to classic cars, but they can be substantial. A restored 1936 Indian Four sold for $ 77,000 at a Mecum auction in Glendale, Arizona last year.

But some English bikes bring more. A 1922 Brough Superior SS80 owned and ridden by George Brough himself sold for $ 463,847 at a 2012 H&H Classics sale. And how about $ 929,000 for a motorcycle with the best name in the world. , Vincent Black Lightning, now famous for the romantic song of the same name by Richard Thompson? The 1951 998cc model, with a racing history, was sold by Bonhams in Las Vegas in 2018, and it became the most expensive motorcycle ever to be auctioned. It is believed that only 19 black lightning bolts with matching numbers exist.

In its day, the Black Lightning was the fastest production motorcycle in the world. The irony is that it was strictly a racing bike and was unlikely to have been driven around town, as it is in the song, by a young English thug. Mr Thompson chose the Black Lightning for his most popular track because “it was always the exotic bike … the one that made you say ‘ooh, wow’,” he told the BBC in 2012 .

So what’s the next step for vintage motorcycles? Mr. Leno’s choice is the first “sand cast” Honda CB 750 circa 1969, manufactured before the company switched to higher volume die-casting production methods. “They’re rare, like a Lincoln penny with a hole in the head,” he says. Only 7,414 of these models (not actually sand cast, but the name stuck) were made. An example sold for $ 148,100 in 2014.

Mansion Global spoke with three other experts, brought together by the Audrain Automobile Museum in Newport, Rhode Island, for its “World on Two Wheels” motorcycle exhibit, which runs through May 16. Motorcycle connoisseurs are Somer Hooker, a member of the board of trustees of the National Motorcycle Museum and a frequent competition judge; Buzz Kanter, founder of Old Bike Journal and future owner of American Iron magazine; and Paul Hageman of Hageman Motorcars, formerly of Gooding and Company and the youngest judge at Pebble Beach. Here are their collection choices:

Harley-Davidson Sportster XR1200, 2009–2013

Only a few Harley-Davidson XR1200s were sold in the US market.

Courtesy of Buzz Kanter

“The XR1200 was a cross between a cafe racer and a dirt tracker that everyone said they wanted,” Kanter says. “Harley originally built them for the European market, but after all the interest he decided to sell them in the United States. But not many Americans bought them, so they were only on the market here for a few years. Now they have a certain mystique. This Harley performance is relatively rare and, as is known, rarity often results in a collection. Mr. Kanter believes that only a few thousand were sold in the US market.

The 562-pound XR1200 used a 1202cc V-twin engine producing 91 horsepower. It was based on the 1970s XR750 flat racing bike made famous by a former American track motorcycle rider with a great winning record, Jay Springsteen, and the bike was praised for its handling and extremely good turns. The top speed was 121 mph.

The XR1200 – and in particular the higher-performing XR1200X – is a sleeper, still available in excellent low-mileage condition for under $ 10,000 if you look in the right places. “It didn’t fit the typical Harley cruiser mold and was ahead of its time,” Kanter says.

BMW R60 / 2, 1960-1969

The BMW R60 / 2, and in particular the 42 horsepower R69S, is fast becoming a collectible motorcycle.

Somer hooker

“Bikes from the 50s and 60s are very collectable, and the BMW R60 / 2 – especially the 42 horsepower R69S – is one of the best values,” says Hageman. “It was upscale back then. It’s like the Mercedes-Benz 300 SL “Gullwing” of motorcycles. They are heavy, but very well designed and amazing, with exceptional torque and power. They were also a bit of a workaholic – European police and military forces used them, often with sidecars. The quality is there.

Some 20,133 of these 436-pound German motorcycles were built, with 30 horsepower from an opposing 600cc twin engine. The model sat on a duplex tubular steel frame and pulled its legendary smoothness via a shaft drive (not a chain). The top speed was around 90 mph. Apple founder Steve Jobs owned an R60 / 2 and often parked it in the company lobby as a symbol of quality to emulate.

The R60 has made its way into folklore as a fabulous touring machine. Danny Liska drove his new BMW from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego, and wrote about it in the book Two wheels for adventure. They were famous for not breaking down on long trips, as Robert Pirsig’s bestseller notes. Zen and the art of motorcycle maintenance. The motorcycle, sold by a motorcycle company that has always been separate from the more famous cars, was only new for $ 1,300, but could fetch $ 15,000 today. Hagerty lists an example of a 1965 competition at $ 27,200 and an undamaged example at $ 13,000. The prices are going up.

Ducati 750 Super Sport (SS), 1974–1981

The Ducati 750SS originated from Italian racing royalty.

Somer hooker

“This bike is becoming very desirable,” says Hooker. “It was supposed to confirm Paul Smart’s victory in Imola, Italy, in 1972.” In this legendary race, Mr. Smart was aboard a Ducati 750 fitted with Fabio Taglioni’s then experimental 90-degree desmodromic valve L-twin. A production version was needed: Companies build racing versions of competition vehicles, a process known as homologation, to adhere to racing rules.

The Ducati 750SS was built in several different versions. In its original 1974 form, it was primarily a racing model, with few concessions for the street. It was not economical to produce due to its bevel gear driven camshaft, but it is highly prized by Ducati aficionados and has helped keep the company afloat.

Ducati planned to replace the 750 with the 860, but public demand kept the 750 in the lineup. In April and May 1975, Ducati hand-built 249 750SS models and sold them mainly in Australia, Canada, South Africa and the Italian domestic market. The latter are also highly sought after.

Only a few 1975 models made it to the United States, in part because their right-side shifting was illegal under 1974 U.S. regulations. There was a major shifting upgrade in 1978. The examples from the late 1970s were the last to maintain a close connection with these Imola runners.

A 1975 750SS was sold at a Bonhams Las Vegas sale in 2011 for $ 51,480. This example was an import from Australia and had been reinstated. It was less than 100 miles since the restoration. “Nothing [of these motorcycles] were sold in the United States when new, and when driving this Italian exotic, it is unlikely that one driver will meet another on the highway, ”Bonhams said.

This article originally appeared in Mansion Global Experience Luxury.


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