Ian Falloon is one of the world’s leading experts on classic and collectable motorcycles. If Ian says it, you can take it to the bank. In Part One of this two-part super feature, he dives deep into the Falloon brainbank to predict the bikes that are well on the way to being classics…
One of the first features I penned for a motorcycle journal was in the early 1980s about the premise of considering motorcycles as collectables. Back then very few items were collectable. This included cars and even art works.
The average person had extremely limited disposable income and with massively high interest rates most struggled to pay a mortgage. Because they were cheap, new bike sales were buoyant, but there was little or no interest in old motorcycles.
So, I wrote about the used bargains that were available at that time for very little cash outlay. This included Vincents, bevel-drive Ducatis, and even Brough Superiors. In 1982 you could buy any old motorcycle in for a lot less than a new one. I suggested it might be prudent to buy those Vincents that were advertised for around $500 because they may turn out to be decent investments.
Nearly 40 years on and those who heeded my advice would have done quite nicely thank you. As the market for high-end collectables, particularly cars, has exploded it has dragged lower value collectables (like motorcycles) along in its wake. And while motorcycles were once associated with the working class, as the working class has become wealthier, so has the value of motorcycles as collectables.
It has now reached the stage where all those motorcycles I predicted to take off in 1982 have now become unobtainable for the average collector.
That doesn’t mean I am a soothsayer, but I cannot see this situation changing. Wealth will continue to increase, as will the demand for collectables, including motorcycles.
So where do you start? Typically, the value of collectable bikes is like a negative bell curve. They start at their new price, drop dramatically over ten to 15 years, flatten out for around ten years and begin to rise over the next 15 years or so.
After 40 years they should reach a price comparable with a current new model, and some will increase beyond that. Forty years seems to correspond to the period when buyers who originally owned these bikes, or always dreamed of them, are prepared to pay well over the odds to buy them again.
This is why we are currently seeing a surge in the prices for Kawasaki Z1s and early Honda 750 fours. To make the most from the next series of motorcycle collectables we need to look at those bikes close, or well into, their lowest price point; between 1990 and up to 2008. Some are rare high-end models, expensive new and still relatively so, but these should provide higher appreciation.
Others are more popular models that could take off as they become less common. The best bets are also mainstream makes. History has shown that unless they are super exclusive the best performing collectable motorcycles are from those marques with a strong brand and loyal following. They also need to be a landmark model in some respect.
Enough talk, let’s get stuck into it… Here are my tips for the future.
2008 Ducati D16 RR
One of the models I predicted would become collectable back in 1982 was the 1974 Ducati 750 SS “Green Frame.” Since that time Ducati has moved from a minor to mainstream manufacturer and production levels have increased dramatically.
Ducati also leads the world in the released of limited-edition models, and in my view this devalues their prestige. The main reason the “Green Frame” has earned its reputation is due to its finite status.
The “Green Frame” was the only round-case Desmo and it was offered for one year only. The only comparable modern Ducati is the Desmosedici RR. Although built in quite large numbers (1500), the D16 RR was also only produced for one year and was a factory race replica.
The parallels with the revered 1974 750 SS are numerous. Also, a true race replica for the street, the D16 RR included many unique features.
In 2008 the D16 RR was the only four-cylinder production Ducati. While all the other production Ducati engines at that time used toothed rubber belts to drive the overhead camshafts the D16 RR 90° V-four included a train of straight cut gears.
The basic engine specification was identical to the 2006 GP6, the final 1000cc version before the 800cc limit was introduced in 2007. With an 86mm bore, and extremely short 42.56mm stroke, the displacement was 989cc. The positions of the desmodromic valve operating system (camshaft rotation axis, rocker arm centre, and valve centre distance), valve angle, and twin pulse timing were also as for the GP6.
The pistons provided a 13.5:1 compression ratio, and with four 50mm Magneti Marelli throttle bodies, the maximum power was 200 horsepower at 13,800rpm. This was an astonishing figure for a production bike in 2008.
The D16RR chassis was also derived from the GP6, with a tubular steel frame and cast, forged, and pressed aluminium swingarm.
The Öhlins suspension, Brembo brakes and Marchesini wheels were also GP spec, the only anomaly being a 16-inch rear wheel shod with a special Bridgestone 200/55R16 tyre. The dry weight was only 171kg and the D16RR promised true race replica performance.
Unfortunately, the D16RR took the term “race replica” to another level. As it was built for the track it wasn’t totally suitable for street use. The highly stressed engine didn’t cope well with city traffic and was prone to overheating. And the D16RR was also more difficult to ride fast on the track than a 1098R.
But while other Ducatis may have been more practical and functionally superior, the D16 RR was the only one with a direct Grand Prix racing lineage.
Ducati has only won one MotoGP World Championship, with Casey Stoner in 2007, and the 2008 D16RR is its closest production tribute. I didn’t predict the “Green-Frame” would crazily increase in value from $3000 to $300,000 in 45 years and I can’t really see a similar increase in the D16RR. The entry bar is too high but with the future for high performance race replicas uncertain in our increasingly regulated world I wouldn’t bet against it.
1990-91 Norton F1
As the British motorcycle industry dominated the world for so long British bikes still maintain a strong grip over the collector market. And while Norton may have had a fairly chequered history in recent years, it is an historically important marque and certain models continue to perform well.
One of the standout Nortons of the more modern era is the F1 rotary.
While Hercules and Suzuki struggled to find acceptance for their Wankel rotary powered motorcycles, Norton was surprisingly successful.
The Norton rotary story began back in the 1960s when BSA and Triumph considered a Wankel rotary as a replacement for their ageing parallel twins.
Norton/Triumph continued to develop the rotary through the 1970s, and in 1984 it gained water-cooling. By 1990 Norton was on the brink of financial disaster, but with spectacular success of Steve Spray and Trevor Nation in the 1989 British Formula One and Supercup Championships it seemed logical to create a race replica.
The resulting P55 “F1” was the culmination of 20 years of rotary development, and one of the outstanding motorcycles of the era.
The basis of the P55 was the F1 racer and included Seymour-Powell designed fully enclosed bodywork. But for the rectangular Yamaha FZ250 headlight the styling has stood the test of time remarkably well and the F1 still looks modern.
Powering the F1 was a 588cc twin rotor water-cooled Wankel engine mated to a Yamaha FZR1000 5-speed transmission.
With a pair of Mikuni BDS 34 downdraft carburettors 95 horsepower at 9500rpm was produced in a smooth linear fashion, with absolutely no vibration. But for the excessive heat and thirst it could have been the perfect motorcycle engine.
There was nothing wrong with the F1 chassis. A Spondon twin spar aluminium frame straddled the Wankel engine, and suspension was Dutch White Power; an upside-down front fork and Monoshock rear.
The front brakes were state of the art for 1990, with Brembo four-piston calipers and 320mm fully floating cast-iron rotors. Rolling on a pair of wide 17-inch three-spoke PVM alloy wheels the 192kg F1 beckoned for the open road.
Unfortunately, the F1 wasn’t developed to cope with stricter environmental regulations and ultimately the F1 could only be sold in Britain. Hand-assembled, one a day, at the Norton factory in Shenstone, Staffordshire, 205 F1s were built through until June 1991.
Now the F1 is seen not only as a legacy to the success of the racing RCW588, but also signals the end of an era that began in the 1930s with the legendary Manx Norton. The Norton F1 is the definitive limited edition British race replica of the modern era. Already the F1 is one of the more valuable Nortons and this will only increase, especially if the marque survives.
1996 Moto Guzzi Daytona RS
Moto Guzzi has never been at the forefront of collectability, but as a marque with a strong history and passionate supporter base certain models have always been desirable.
Strangely, while Moto Guzzi is predominately known for large capacity cruisers and touring bikes its most collectable models are sports bikes. Think of Moto Guzzi and the most significant collectables are the V7 Sport and 850 Le Mans. Lesser known, and certainly set to shine, are the four-valve Daytonas, with the rare and virtually unknown Daytona RS at the forefront.
The Daytona grew out of ex-dentist Dr. John Wittner’s modified Le Mans he developed for Battle of the Twins racing in America in the late 1980s.
This featured a rectangular section steel backbone frame and included cantilever rear suspension with a floating final drive unit pivoting on the axle that virtually eliminated torque reaction.
Doug Brauneck rode Wittner’s bike to victory in the 1987 Pro-Twins Championship, including the Daytona race, and for 1988 Moto Guzzi provided Wittner with a new engine with four-valve cylinder heads.
Twin toothed belts drove single overhead camshafts positioned in the sides of the cylinder heads. Over the next two years Wittner continued to develop the four-valve racer, and while it eventually produced 128 horsepower, reliability suffered.
Wittner then moved to Mandello to supervise the development of a production Daytona. A prototype appeared at the end of 1989, with regular production beginning in 1992.
Fast-forward to 1996 and the flawed Daytona evolved into the much-improved Daytona RS. While it may have looked superficially similar, the RS was the Daytona Guzzi should have built in 1990.
There were significant changes to the 90x78mm 90° V-twin engine. Along with higher compression 10.5:1 forged pistons were new camshafts and a lighter and polished crankshaft with Carrillo con-rods. The power was 102 horsepower at 8400rpm.
The strengthened frame was similar to the earlier Daytona, but the front fork was now a 40mm upside-down White Power with a White Power shock absorber.
The 17-inch wheels were new and completing the upgrade was new styling, this similar to the 1100 Sport.
The 221kg Daytona was deemed excessively large and heavy and didn’t receive universal acclaim. But the Daytona RS was a significant improvement on the earlier Daytona, providing superior engine and chassis performance in a higher quality package.
The RS was a great sporting motorcycle in the tradition of the earlier V7 Sport but unfortunately it came too late. Only 308 were built in 1996 and 1997.
Undoubtedly the Daytona RS will become one of the more sought-after Moto Guzzis in the future. I expect it to follow the V7 Sport and 850 Le Mans. It won’t achieve stratospheric prices but will provide a steady increase.
1992 Honda CBR900RR-N FireBlade
When it comes to collectability it is always the first model of a groundbreaking generation that becomes the most desirable.
Sometimes this is out of proportion to functionality and it is generally associated with rarity, or the perception of it.
The bike must also be associated with the introduction of a landmark design. We’ve seen this happen with several popular designs, notably the Honda CB750, but as we’re dealing with mass produced models it’s a bit of a punt to predict this scenario.
But few motorcycles have had the impact of the CBR900RR-N FireBlade and it has all the credentials to become a desirable collectable.
While there was nothing revolutionary about the CBR900RR FireBlade’s design, the idea of combining open class horsepower with the weight of a 600 was a recipe for instant success.
In one swoop, the FireBlade virtually destroyed the 750 class and initiated the high horsepower, light weight approach that continues today.
Now seen as one of the classic designs of the 1990s, it made the opposition seem like fat pigs, and ensured sporting motorcycles were never the same again.
The 16-valve four-cylinder CBR900RR engine shared many features with the smaller CBR600F2. Displacing 893cc (70x58mm), the one-piece crankcase and cylinder block allowed the transmission to be located close to the crankshaft, with the camshaft drive on the right and a small one-piece alternator on the left. With four 38mm flat-slide Keihin carburettors, the power was 122 horsepower at 10,500rpm.
While this power output was unremarkable, the engine was partially rubber-mounted in the twin-spar aluminium frame, and with a box-section alloy swingarm the result was spectacular.
The suspension included a conventional 45mm front fork, styled to look like an upside-down type, and the CBR900RR-N continued Honda’s quest at that time for mass centralisation.
The wheelbase was an incredibly short 1410mm, and every component was trimmed to save weight. From the tiny battery to the small 296mm brake discs, and 16-inch front wheel with specially developed Bridgestone tyre, the emphasis was on keeping the weight down to 185kg.
With an intriguing set of holes in the fairing to quicken side-to-side steering transitions, the CBR900RR turned the sporting motorcycle world upside down.
Providing open class horsepower with 600-class weight, Honda redefined sports bike performance.
Over the next few years, the FireBlade lost some weight and gained capacity, with an all-new model appearing for 2000. It also lost some of its character and was arguably superseded by the Yamaha R1.
Amongst this proliferation of models the first version stands apart. No other bike in the previous 20 years had generated as much hype as the CBR900RR-N and it ended up carving its own niche.
Will the CBR900RR-N replicate the Honda CB750 “sand-cast” in value? I don’t really think so. Forty years on most of the people who will remember it won’t be able to ride a sports bike but because of its historical importance it should do OK.
This isn’t a bike you will make a fortune out of, but it should increase in value over time. Just get one with as low kays as possible and keep them to a minimum.
2006 BMW HP2 Enduro
Apart from pre-war and rare racing models BMW has struggled in the collector market. BMW build too many bikes, offer too many models, and replace these too frequently.
This planned obsolescence doesn’t aid the brand’s classic and collector status. The only series that is appreciating is the early R80 G/S, and this is due to the popularity of GS series in general.
By 2006 the R1200GS was BMW’s most successful model and this led to the introduction of the first of the HP (high performance) low volume sports series, the HP2 Enduro.
Developed by a small team of specialists, engineers and mechanics the HP2 Enduro was also BMW’s first serious production sporting off-road motorcycle.
While based on the R1200GS, with the exception of the engine and the on-board network, nearly all the components were new. Saving weight and focusing on essential off-road ability were the main criteria.
The power of the 1170cc boxer twin engine was increased slightly, to 105 horsepower, with the balance shaft removed to reduce weight.
The HP2 Enduro’s frame and suspension was also new, the tubular steel spaceframe based on that of the R900R Dakar Rally machines of 1999-2001.
Instead of the R1200GS’s Telelever, the front suspension was by a fully adjustable long travel 45mm upside-down fork. The R1200GS’s Paralever swingarm was redesigned, and the light alloy swingarm longer.
The rear shock absorber was developed in conjunction with Continental, this with an air spring and damper system. Easily adjustable, the fully sealed shock was also more resistant to dirt and contamination.
As the HP2 Enduro was designed for off-road use the wheels were cross-spoke aluminium, a 21-inch on the front and 17-inch on the rear. These were fitted with specially developed Metzeler tubeless “Karoo” tyres.
The brakes included a single semi-floating 305mm disc with a twin piston caliper at the front, and 265mm rear disc with the R1200GS’s floating twin piston caliper. Unlike the R1200GS the brakes were without ABS, this considered detrimental in off-road situations.
The bodywork was also new, with a 13-litre fuel tank nestling between the upper frame tubes. Quality detail touches included asymmetrically drilled handlebar clamps to provide two positions, a tapered aluminium handlebar with conical ends and stainless steel serrated footpegs.
With a claimed dry weight of only 175kg the HP2 Enduro was the lightest large capacity boxer yet.
Testing was undertaken in extreme conditions, including the Baja California Desert race with Jimmy Lewis. BMW subsequently supported privately entered HP2 Enduros in the Erzberg race in Austria and the German Cross Country Championship (GCC) with then current champion, the Finnish rider Simo Kirssi.
The HP2 Enduro was only offered for 2006 and 2007 but its success prompted BMW to release further HP versions in the coming years.
While the boxer twin is an essential ingredient of BMW’s DNA and the dual-purpose GS their pivotal model, the HP2 Enduro offered significantly improved off-road capability. We’ve seen the appeal of the Paris-Dakar replicas for the serious BMW collector and as it was rare and expensive, I believe the HP2 Enduro will eventually follow suit.
1993 Harley-Davidson FLSTN Softail Nostalgia “Cow Glide”
Harley-Davidson is another marque with a huge customer base and passionate following. It has also fostered a sense of tradition and created brand loyalty by continually releasing Anniversary models.
Harley’s first big party was the celebration of ninety years in 1993 and the Heritage Softail Nostalgia was one of five 90th Anniversary models released that year. While the others have been consigned as just another Anniversary model, the Nostalgia is now one of the most coveted classic Harley-Davidsons.
Basically, the Nostalgia was a restyled Fat Boy. Like the Fat Boy the Nostalgia began with a Softail chassis, Evolution engine, broad mudguards, and a fat car-like front tyre.
The Evolution engine was first introduced for 1984 and replaced the Shovelhead. The result of seven years development, the Evolution produced not only more power than the Shovelhead, but also ran significantly cooler and cleaner.
As Harley’s first new large displacement (1340cc) V-twin in 18 years, a lot rode on the Evolution’s success. Fortunately for Harley it got it right and the Evolution’s improved reliability and durability saved it.
With an 88.8mm bore, long 108mm stroke and a single 40mm Keihin carburettor, the power from the 45-degree air-cooled pushrod V-twin was a moderate 57 horsepower at 5000rpm.
Inspired by 1950s customs, the Nostalgia’s shotgun style mufflers included shark fin tips and a suitably evocative throaty exhaust note.
The Nostalgia’s tubular steel frame was shared with all the FX and FL-series Harleys, and reproduced the look of a traditional hard tail, but without the harsh ride.
Two horizontally mounted Showa shock absorbers were hidden underneath the engine and a 41mm Showa reproduction Hydra-Glide front end provided a plush ride.
As the Nostalgia weighed a hefty 312kg fully laden the Nostalgia was more suited to highways, back roads and boulevards at sightseeing speeds.
The Nostalgia was as much about looks as function. Whitewall tyres sat on the 16-inch spoked wheels and Holstein calf-hide bovine inserts on the seat and saddlebags provided an extreme visual statement. Harley made no attempt to go modern with the Nostalgia.
As the only FLSTN built as a numbered limited edition of 2700, the Nostalgia holds a special place in Harley’s history.
While some of the rare racing Harleys, like the VR-1000, achieve the highest prices for the more modern models, for most collectors Harley-Davidson is still about style and cruising.
Even when it was released in 1993 collectors paid over the odds for the Nostalgia “Cow Glide” or “Moo Glide” and it is now one of the most sought-after production Harley-Davidsons of the modern era.
As Harleys age their price increases, almost exponentially as they become older and rarer. The Heritage Softail Nostalgia is a sure bet to substantially increase in value.
Not quite: The bikes that are not hugely collectable yet, but will be…
2006 Ducati SportClassic Paul Smart 1000: The MH900e established a blueprint for a factory custom inspired by racing success and Pierre Terblanche’s second rendition was the SportClassic Paul Smart Replica.
Again this was more of custom than replica but while the MH900e retained strong visual links to the original the Paul Smart 1000 shared little with the 1972 Imola original.
Unfortunately for the PS 1000, Ducati had produced a real Imola replica 30 years earlier; the 1974 750 SS “Green Frame.” As a limited edition the PS 1000 should perform OK as a collectable, but it will never be a “Green Frame.”
1991-2003 Kawasaki ZXR750R, ZX-7RR: After dominating Superbike racing for many years with a succession of air-cooled fours, with the introduction of the World Superbike Championship in 1988 Kawasaki turned to water-cooling.
But their initial ZXR750 was too street based to be competitive. Then for 1991 Kawasaki released a limited production homologation ZXR750R. This short-stroke (71×41.3mm) 750cc engine produced 121 horsepower and an updated version appeared for 1993.
That year Scott Russell provided Kawasaki its first World Superbike Championship.
In 1996 the limited edition version became the ZX-7RR, and this continued to form the basis of the factory Kawasaki Superbike racers until 2003.
Almost forgotten, the rare limited edition homologation ZXR750R and ZX-7RR was Kawasaki’s equivalent of the Honda RC45 and RC51 but hasn’t achieved the same recognition. But given Kawasaki’s brand loyalty that will surely change in the future.
1998 Yamaha YZF-R1: Like the Honda CBR900RR FireBlade the Yamaha YZF-R1 established a new Superbike standard. Whereas Honda pursued a lightweight, minimalist approach, Yamaha’s mantra was “No compromise.”
The key YZF-R1’s key component was an extremely compact engine, with a “stacked” gearbox; the mainshaft above the output shaft. The engine produced 150 horsepower at 10,000rpm, and while this was more than adequate, the most impressive feature of the YZF-R1 was its compactness. The wheelbase was only 1415mm with an optimised centre of gravity.
The dry weight of only 177kg was less than the Honda CBR900RR, and the R1 immediately set the standard for Superbike performance. Over time the R1 has been continually improved but the first model will be most remembered.
1994-96 Triumph Speed Triple: Triumph’s Hinckley resurrection began in 1991 and got off to a slow start. The range was initially built around a series of spine frame triples and fours, including the sporting Daytona. But while the Daytona didn’t really succeed as a state-of-the-art sports bike, for 1994 Triumph released the niche market Speed Triple.
With its low bars, rear-set footpegs, and single round headlight, the naked café racer style pioneered a new market. This was the Triumph triple in its rawest form, and it was an instant hit.
The 885cc triple was much the same as the Daytona, but the exposed plumbing was tidied and the gearbox had five speeds.
The spine frame Speed Triple was Hinckley’s most significant model of the 1990s and will eventually receive the recognition it deserves.
Australia’s go-to-guy for classic motorcycle wisdom. Ian has written nearly 45 books on motorcycles that each offer unparalleled insight on the historical and technical development of particular makes and models.