Market Review Part 1
Money follows interest in the vintage motorcycle market
(Note: This article was originally written and published mid-2018. Since then, we’ve seen a steady drop in activity from the private sector, and motorcycles are harder to sell. Exactly why remains unknown, but this remains a buyer’s market. On the road rules!)
In alignment with the corresponding demographic, we’re witnessing another change occur in the vintage bike market, and it’s been building for years. As 70s high schoolers retire they’re investing in the bikes of their youth…more CBX, less Clubman. In a recent conversation with sales guru Michael Moore (eurospares.com) came a point of emphasis: “How many Model T guys do you know? The Mustang crowd is thinning as the base grows older.” Vegas road tripper Ron Starling pointed it out a decade past, noting the rising percentage of Japanese classics rolling thru those South Bay turnstiles. My personal theory credits the truly iconic Honda 750 for leading this revolution, and the SOHC made the inclusion of other impact superbikes predictable. Watching once affordable models escalate, the following takes a look at what’s available at discount and in Part 2, analysis on some old favorites. As always the editorial focus is the classic rider – motorcycles capable of taking you wherever you want to go.
You might have noticed what a clean Ducati 900 Super Sport is fetching these days, and prices approaching $40.000 (!) are becoming more common. This machine is included here because like the grail-like 750 Super Sport preceding it, prices will continue to rise annually. Not a cheap machine to maintain if ridden, the 900SS combines all the elements of a high-end classic, including a race-winning pedigree. The Desmo’s Italian legs and remarkable presence placed it among the leaders in the 70s performance standings, and 2020 might be a make-or-break year for the would-be Desmo owner. Patience and good connections might net a rider for around $25K, but those chances are quickly becoming few and far between.
Initially limited to the Euro market, Honda’s CB900F/Bol d’Or arrived in 1979 as the first serious revision of the original SOHC. With solid results, changes listed a new chassis, wheels, and a complete restyling over a production version of the twin-cam, 16v RCB works engine. The Bol d’Or was a solid success in Europe and the UK, offering new levels (for Honda anyway) of balance zip, tightened handling and styling. Still behind the CBX for outright speed, but a better, more capable bike everywhere else. Accepted in US circles as an upscale version of the 750F, Honda’s 900 was offered in 1981-82 until being replaced by the one year only 1100cc. None of the CB/F twin-cams will ever draw CB1100R money, but the 900F is gaining interest by virtue of its reputation and Bold’Or endurance lines. Spares are available and original, maintained runners can be found. This bike is going up.
Kawasaki Z1000 M.k.II
Coming after the Zed 903 and Z1000, Kawasaki’s remade Z1000 M.k.II is quickly turning into classic motorcycling’s worst-kept secret. Those focusing only on the technical aspect will note the M.k.II’s strengthened chassis and mechanical revisions didn’t result in a noticeably quicker Kawasaki, just a vastly improved one. Showing just enough of the original to keep you from mistaking it for anything else, the M.k.II shares specification with similar models such as the Z1-R II (also gaining in popularity) and more enthusiasts are beginning to appreciate the third series’ angular lines and muscular attitude. Traditionally modified with an aftermarket 4-into-1 pipe, bigger carbs or any number of available tuning parts, a ‘traditionally’ non-stock M.k.II’s suffers little in value loss…if the work is performed correctly. Clean, running examples are being listed at $6000 or more, and following the ascending Z-1, LTD, Z1-R and Z1000 TC makes the Z1000 M.k.II a smart and enjoyable investment.
BMW remains among the most popular vintage motorcycle for two main reasons; unflappable design and market success. Happily, some bargains remain, such as the R100T – a full size budget standard with plenty of posh appeal. After 1981 the engines had lowered compression, a plastic airbox, air injection and new (failed) valve seat material compatible with unleaded fuel. The head work needed to fix is common and most have already been done. Parts support is excellent but prices are steep. Having the latest engine and chassis revisions to the twin-shock platform (1979-1984) even a rough twin can usually be salvaged into a capable tank-bag tourer. The sporting S and RS models will always command more, but neither are functionally superior to the standard R100.
Among the first of a new generation of large displacement machines from Europe, development of the BMW R75/5 began in the mid-1960s. This forward thinking put the /5 in a great position to steal some Honda thunder, and it did. Available in 500, 600 and 750cc, prices for pre-1974 drum brake models peaked then dropped some years ago, and value remains somewhat below other Euro 750s of the same era. Those brakes might encourage a little more room in traffic, but overall the /5 performs well on modern roads and uses far less plastic. Continuing the mechanical excellence established with the brand in the 1930s the slash-five is ewel like in black with white pinstripes and maintains all the useful and endearing features adored by classic riders like a mainstand, tool storage, tasteful touches of chrome and deep, quality polished alloy. At 460-lb. the R75/5 offers a superb balance of smoothness, power and confident handling. Many with experience claim the last-series (1977) 750/7 is the finest airhead of all, this one with disc brakes. Prices are sure to increase, but for now opportunity exists for another solid buy. Nolan Woodbury