Over the last 20 years classic bikes have soared in price, taking some machines out of reach for many enthusiasts. However, when you look around, there are still some bargains to be had.
Let’s start with the famous Kawasaki Z1. Early examples in mint condition have reached the £20,000 mark but the Z1 evolved into the z1000 for 1977 and these change hands for less than half the price. You may not get the iconic array of four silencers but the styling is otherwise the same. The handling benefits from an improved frame and the bored out engine gives improved top gear performance. What’s not to like?
The Kawasaki illustrates a general rule that prices become inflated for the early models of any bike, tending to drop for each subsequent revision. Honda’s four, the CB750, sells for six figure sums in the case of the earliest sand-cast examples, with values dropping through the K0, K1, K2 sequence to the K7 which offers much the same riding experience but is less collectable. You pay your money and take your choice, as they say.
Over in the British camp, Nortons and Triumphs seem to command a premium over their less glamorous rivals which is not always justified. You want a 600 or 650 twin? Look at a BSA, Ariel, AJS or Matchless and you might save several thousand pounds over a Norton or Triumph in equivalent condition.
Among Triumph’s many models, the three-cylinder T150 Trident appears to be the only bargain. When new, it sold at a considerable premium over twins like the Bonneville, yet nowadays can often be bought cheaper. Faster and smoother than a Bonneville, but heavier, the T150 even has an illustrious racing heritage, winning countless international events in the 1970s despite strong opposition. Maybe buyers are worried by its complexity? Replacing three of everything can make restoration and maintenance expensive. Curiously, prices for the later T160 triple with revised styling, electric start and left foot gearshift, tend to be significantly higher, taking the T160 well out of the ‘bargain’ category.
Maybe you want a two-stroke? Prices have rocketed in the last 10 years but the Suzuki GT500 can still be yours for the price of a good 250 stroker. Why is this? When new it was discounted in the face of more glamorous opposition, not least from Suzuki’s own 2-stroke triples. Its image has never recovered so it remains an underrated bargain, offering much more performance than any 250 of its era with no real downside.
A left-field option could be a Harley Sportster. The introduction of the EVO models in the mid-80s ushered in a new era of reliability and convenience that the previous ‘iron head’ models never achieved, making them much easier to live with. Old enough (over 25 years) to be used on VMCC events and widely available at the price of a typical Triumph 350 twin, they offer a combination of classic character, style and modern usability that’s hard to resist.
Whichever bike you choose, by stepping away from the collectable end of the market, there are many wonderful machines to be enjoyed for affordable prices.
Do you have one of the bikes mentioned above, and if so, what do you think of it? Let us know in the comments below.