Market Review Part 2


The glorious old timers retain charm, prestige and value, but aged Moto Guzzis are motorcycles you can ride. Across town, or across the continent. Speaking of that, have you priced a Rocket 3 lately?

Old Favorites

Many claim otherwise, but the Brough Superior was motorcycling’s first superbike, if the definition truly means advanced performance. More powerful and refined than anything on the pre-war market, George Brough’s JAP and Matchless powered twins (in sv or overhead valve guise) were carefully produced. Models like TJ Jackson’s 1939 SS80 (top) were factory documented to sustain speeds approaching 100 mph. This, at a time when paved roads were rare. Notch the same legendary qualifications and add more technical prowess for the Vincent Black Shadow and Harley Davidson big twins, the latter more affordable as an AMF build. As investments, keep an eye on prices and pick your spots if you’re serious about buying an established classic. Ownership clubs and forum contacts are vital as price fluctuation is widespread and random.

Moto Guzzi Le Mans
Those who know our devotion to the brand might question the in-house ability to write an unbiased analysis. Especially if Moto Guzzi’s flashy Lemon’ is the subject. Biased or not, there’s no denying the sporting Tontis remain a bargain compared against other big-bore exotics from Italy, including the original Le Mans 850 produced between 1976/78. By far the most collectible of all. I’ve seen regular and ‘specialist’ versions (including modified bikes and/or with factory racing parts) attached to asking prices approaching $25K. All totaled, that 35% of what’s asked for a 750 SS Desmo or Imola replica. You can find examples for less with some patience, but the first series Guzzi Le Mans 850 will surely continue to appreciate.


Moto Guzzi Le Mans 850 II

Produced until 1994 (‘Ultimate Edition’) and imported widely the Le Mans line is among the most popular from Mandello. In fact, so memorable was the first-issue 850 that many examples of the Le Mans 850II have been stripped into Mark One copies – dramatically affecting value and making a rare model even more scarce. More angular per De Tomaso’s ‘Modena wedge’ styling influence, the 850II and USA’s CX100 were products of Lino Tonti’s wind tunnel testing. Set up properly, they outperform the original in terms of road-holding, stability and rider protection. Revised with new bodywork and squared-off engine castings, many insiders regard the Le Mans 850III best of all, combining the small dimensions of the first 850 with notable mechanical upgrades – nikasil coatings in the bore and vastly improved levels of finish. Both the 850II, CX100 and 850III are quickly ascending – more so in the UK and Euro markets. Anything less than $5000 is likely a project, but deals do happen.

Some notches below on the collector scale is the fully equipped Le Mans 1000. More muscular with more compression, bigger valves, aggressive cam timing, a strengthened frame, bigger forks, floating iron brakes…get the point? Naysayers point out the 16” front wheel and ducktail but the 1000 ignores its critics. Keep an eye on the 20th. Anniversary Le Mans 1000 SE of 1987, a true Guzzi Bol d’Or tribute often fit with the close ratio gearbox. Following models (1989-forward) mix uniform 18” wheels, lavish appointments and refined cycle parts. There’s been enough bad press written and misinformation spread around campfires to keep prices artificially down, making yet another great buying opportunity. More touring superbike classic than investment material, the later the Le Mans, the better.

The Triples

Showing strong popularity among a wide variety of enthusiasts, the English triples in Triumph or BSA form are endearing classics, solid investments, and enjoyable riders. Based generally on the T150 and following T160 configurations, it’s a virtual toss up in popularity between the Triumph-badged X-75 roadster and BSA’s initial release Rocket 3. Generating lots of press late into 1968 until Honda’s new 750 arrived, many were surprised to learn just how well the Beezer lived up to its ‘Rocket’ billing – capable of gunning past the Asian four through the change up. Built over the same basic platform, Craig Vetter’s X-75 and Rocket 3 come from completely different places. Many adore the boldly customized X-75, I’m in the camp that favors the Rocket’s ‘per-mod’ rayguns. Again, parts are easier and cheaper in the post-interweb era than they used to be, and considering the production practices of fifty-years past, a caring owner shows just how good a vintage British triple can be. Vertically split these are not engines for the armature wrench, testing even the savvy spanner by being both difficult and unpredictable. Here’s a tip for buyers: unlike other makes where originality is valued over all, restored British classics actually command more. Depending on the crowd it’s a hit or miss deal with the X-75, while refurbished Rocket 3’s are pulling  $20.000-plus. Like the 900 Desmo, best get it done before they’re gone. Nolan Woodbury

1969 BSA Rocket 3 750cc

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