Test your Vintage Motorcycle Buying Mojo!
Pop quiz to test your vintage motorcycle buying mojo:
1 . Which is worth more—a 1985 Honda V40 Magna (VF700C) with very low mileage in near flawless condition or a 1950 Whizzer Roadmaster in good serviceable condition but with some dents, rust and some non-Whizzer bits used for backyard repairs?
2. You’re riding along on a back road and see some vintage bikes set up in a farm yard with “for sale” signs on them. The sign says, “$2,000 each, firm, your choice.”
You have about $2,000 in reserve you’ve been saving toward a really good vintage bike to restore—not a full frame-up mega project but something rideable with only some moderate fixing. Your choices in the yard are:
- a 1967 Honda CB450 in rough but rideable condition with some surface rust and a slightly dented tank;
- a 1973 Kawasaki Z1 with parts missing (mufflers, mirrors & front fender), grimy, dented tank, surface rust, missing speedo, non-running now but “ran last summer”;
- a 1964 BSA Thunderbolt Rocket (A65T) in average but complete condition. Dirty, some rust and it makes a subtle “pfft” sound when the kickstarter is pushed through. Starts and runs—question is, for how long?
Which of these is the best deal?
3. You’re cruising and spot a 1976 Honda CJ360T with a “for sale” sign on it on the roadside. From everything you can see, it is all original and in showroom condition. No evidence of ever having been dropped or crashed—not a scratch.
Only 2,600 miles are on the odometer and it starts on the first kick. The owner is asking $1,400 for it, including the original tool kit, owner’s manual and shop service manual. Is the owner off his nut or is the bike priced right?
4. You’re at bike show and really have the bug to get a classic Euro-bike and you’re ready to spend some cash to do it. A 1959 Moto-Guzzi Falcone in gleaming, as-new condition stops you in your tracks and it’s for sale. You decide to make a serious move for it; what should you offer in order to avoid looking like a complete amateur, while not setting yourself up to get skinned?
5. What you’re hoping to find may have just been put out at the end of a driveway for sale: 1980 Honda CB750F Super Sport with a Windjammer, adjustable backrest, 42,000 miles, lots of oil seepage, grime and a rusty chain on it.
The owner says they’d like to get $3,000 for it. The owner says it runs great, has had regular maintenance, but it can be hard to start on cold mornings. You’ve heard these bikes can pull like a truck and fly low when they have to, so it’s a machine you’re interested in. What do you do?
6. An elderly fellow you meet says he’s considering selling the motorcycle he acquired used back in the early seventies. He says it’s just too heavy for him to handle, so he hasn’t ridden it in several years, but he’d love a light, easy-to-ride bike like the 1981 Honda CM400A Hondamatic you’re riding to get out on the road once in a while again.
He admits his bike is much older, doesn’t know where to get parts and has no idea what it may be worth anymore. He asks if you’d consider trading even-up. In his garage, he pulls a blue tarp off a 1969 Munch Mammut 1200 TTS. It is dusty, but in like-new condition. Should you make the trade with him?
These scenarios can be confusing, rewarding, costly, and stressful or any combination of these. What is the right price range for a vintage motorcycle in any condition from basket-case to showroom original? Imagine having reliable, researched pricing data and tips about how to assess and grade a vintage bike at your fingertips at a moment like this!
Now you can, thanks to the folks at the Motorcycle and Model Railroad Museum of Wisconsin, Inc., which is responsible for putting together The Comprehensive Vintage Motorcycle Price Guide 2015-2016 Edition.
The guide covers 70 marques ranging from 1901 to 1996. Pricing data are compiled based on opinions and information from collectors, dealers, auctioneers and experts in the field of vintage motorcycles.
While the guide cannot define the perfect price for every bike model, age and condition, it can be extremely helpful in helping to put the transaction in a realistic price range and negotiations can take it from there.
Now, let’s see how the guide can help with the scenarios in our pop quiz:
1. In the grading guidelines included in the Guide, the Honda Magna would be Condition 2—excellent, while the Whizzer would be a Condition 4—good machine. If you thought the Whizzer’s age and relative rarity would make it the higher value proposition, think again. The Magna would be valued at about $2,500 while the Whizzer would be valued at about $1,300. Of course, if you need a 1950 Whizzer Roadmaster to complete your collection and you’re so obsessive about it that money is no object, forget the price guide.
2. In this “ya pays yer money and takes yer pick” scenario, if you find all three bikes very desirable, deciding which to go for is more than just a money problem; yet, choosing poorly can be costly. Buying a non-running bike can always be risky and a Brit bike with an evident blown head gasket may be more of a project than you can handle without professional help.
According the price guide, here’s how you might look at the three candidates: the Honda would probably be considered a Condition 4—good machine, placing it in the $3,500 value range—making it seem to be a very good buy and it would likely be a light duty clean-up restoration. The Kawasaki might be a gamble if you can’t get to hear it run, but on the other hand, even as a Condition 6–poor, the Zed is valued at around $4,000, double the asking price! Problem is, you may never get to ride it without a lot more outlay. The BSA would probably be a Condition 5—fair bike at best. That would put its value in about the $2,400 range. It represents the least in terms of potential added value over the purchase price, but if restored to even a Condition 3 level, could increase in value to the $4,800 range. Which of these is the best deal is dependent on your objective—a vintage rider or an investment.
3. The Honda CJ360T is something of a dark horse among vintage bikes. Not all that many were made, but they were a very basic econo-bike lacking even an electric starter and center stand. New, they came in just under $1,000, but despite being very basic, they have appreciated somewhat in value. The Honda as described would probably be considered a Condition 2—excellent example. In that condition, the asking price is right in line with the Price Guide’s value range. You can always make the case for a lower price, but if the seller also has the Price Guide, you may not get very far.
4. A Moto-Guzzi Falcone Sport of that vintage in Condition 1—perfect/new, will have you reaching fairly deep into your pocket; it would fall into the $9,500 range.
5. Hondas are known to be tough to kill, but nothing lasts forever. The rusty chain, oil seeping and grime would seem to belie the “has had regular maintenance” thing. At best, this one might be considered a Condition 5—fair, but even at that, would be valued in the $1,000 range—but no way at $3,000, even with the fairing and backrest! If you think it’s worth bargaining for, try to bring the seller in for a gentle landing in reality and the right price.
6. Let’s see, your Hondamatic if in showroom condition (1—perfect/new) might be worth up to $2,000! Better think this through. You check your copy of the Price Guide (which is sized to fit easily in the pocket of most riding jackets). His old Munch, on the other hand, in like condition may be valued in the $100,000 range. Hmm. Tough call. (Read our review of a book about how the Munch Mammut changed one man’s life here: Beyond my Wildest Dreams).
These are just a few examples of how The Comprehensive Vintage Motorcycle Price Guide 2015 2016 Edition might save you money on that next vintage bike or even help you make money on one you may consider buying and re-selling.
- Title: The Comprehensive Vintage Motorcycle Price Guide 2015 2016 Edition
- Author: Compiled by The Motorcycle and Model Railroad Museum of Wisconsin, Inc.
- Published: 2015 paperback, 240 4.25” x 6.5” pages
- Publisher: Whitehorse Press, 107 E. Conway Road, Center Conway, NH, 03813
- ISBN: 978-0-884313-95-0
- MSRP: U.S. $15.95