I love window shopping.
Normally, here at Common Tread, we help you window-shop the hot new bikes everyone wants. However, there is a large contingent that wants bikes that aren’t being made anymore. For most people like me, we have Craigslist and long rides through the country poking our noses into barns. For a lucky few, they simply fork over a wad of cheddar and pay top dollar for the rare machines they desire.
The best bikes go for the best money at auction. Starting today, the Mecum auction in Las Vegas is selling off a whole slew of old, cool scooters. I think Lance is out of town or something, so I slipped in this article about my favorite topic: weirdo bikes. Here’s what I would buy if I had a bigger garage and way more money, and what I'd be willing to pay. These aren't estimates of the auction prices. Instead, I bring you Lemmy pricing: How much I would pay if I was rich and we assume the price of beer remains reasonably flat.
1982 Honda CX500 Turbo
I always thought esoterica should have golden wheels. Honda was flexing its muscles in the 1980s, making all sorts of items simply to show off its technical prowess. One of the gems of the time period was the CX series, which featured a V-twin engine mounted “sideways,” a la Moto Guzzi. It was super-over-engineered, like most Honda products of the time. For instance, the heads are twisted 22 degrees so the intake tract doesn’t force the rider into bumping his shins. Honda realized one day that maximum weirdness had not yet been achieved, so they shoved a turbo onto a CX500. (That was was all the rage for a few minutes in the 1980s.) This one’s got original paint and 16,000 miles on the ticker. ‘Nuff said. Lemmy price? Well, it's pretty clean. If I found it in a barn, I would probably offer $6,500. But this bike is not sitting in a barn. I'd come off of $8,500 of my imaginary money, but I'd probably get outbid.
1957 Ariel Square Four
Ariel was a plucky little British marque that sadly went the way of lots of its competitors: conglomerated after financial woes, only to fade away to the annals of history. The Square Four is probably the best-known of their bikes. It’s powered by what is essentially a pair of twin engines, joined by their flywheels. It’s a two-by-two arrangement. It’s weird. I want this one. It’s restored, so I could theoretically ride it a lot without having to stockpile British parts to keep my American ones company. (In actuality, I would actually stockpile Brit parts, and probably never ride this bike. I'd just sit and admire its lines and let it live out its halcyon days in peace and comfort.) I think a fair Lemmy price would be $23,000.
1898 Daimler Reitwagen Lemmy's new ottoman
OK, OK, it’s a reproduction. But I want a reproduction. If I had the original I would try to get it running and then ride it around, which would probably affect the value. (“Recently fatted up by RevZilla’s own Lemmy.”) This one is a non-working replica, which means I could put it in the living room! The Reitwagen is cool to me because it’s the first internal combustion motorcycle. (This is debated because it has those outriggers, but hey, my first bike had training wheels, too.) I have always been intrigued by its zero rake and zero trail measurements. Intellectually I know that means it handles like a forklift, but forklifts are also kind of fun. I mean, this does have a Briggs & Stratton engine in it that I could probably get running. Lemmy price: Who knows? How can I value this? I guess I'd think about what it costs to make one on my own, and then maybe where this might wind up — perhaps in the front office of some fancy company. (coughRevZillacough) So $6,000? Let's go with that.
1949 Harley-Davidson EL
I have always wanted a Pan. When I have the money, the right bike never comes along, and when I find the right bike, the money’s never there. That’s not a problem with this baby. This Pan is right up my alley. It’s an older resto, so I could gladly ride it around without worrying about molesting a cherry, OEM bike. 1949 was a good year. Harley had just introduced hydraulic front suspension! This bike, being an EL, is a 61-inch Pan, not the far-more-common 74-inch. The littler Big Twin was said by the old timers to spin up faster than the 74-inch Pans. The size difference comes from the stroke and the bore, so the 61 has another one-sixteenth of an inch on the cylinder walls. That means more rebuilds… and that means it’ll stay on the road longer! This one I feel pretty good about laying a price on. I'm assuming this bike has a few repop parts, and it's not wearing its original paint. $18,000 is fair, but this is an auction. I bet it goes to $22,000 or so.
1974 Ducati 750GT
If I had that big wallet, you know I wouldn't go home without something Italian in my truck. This bike is not completely stock. (Who thought those rearsets looked good?) Again, I would ride this baby. (And it would be fun. Someone fitted Koni shocks and older Brembos to it. I like this machine more and more!) Why a 750GT? It made its debut in 1971, and 1974 is the final year of the run. This is the Daddy Bike. The 750GT is the first Ducati to be powered by a 90-degree V-twin. I’m no diehard Ducatista, but I’m pretty sure that makes this a damned important motorcycle. I figure this is worth $18,000 or so, plus an auction premium, so let's call the Lem-lem price $20,000.
1972 Honda CB750 chopper
OK, OK, come on. You knew there'd be at least one in here. This one is killer. This has paint by Molly, the famous chopper painter from way back when. Heavy frame modifications are glaringly obvious. Look at all that plating, gusseting, and molding! Ten-spoke Invader wheels and finned covers make this bike completely redolent of the days of disco. It was a Street Chopper cover bike in 1976. Perhaps Mecum’s puts it best. “Original dust from 1982.” How much is it worth? Oh, I would pay way too much for this thing! It probably has a street value in its unrestored condition of $7,000, but this ain't on the street. And I love it. I would probably dig $9,500 out of my wallet. But I never have had Paint By Molly. $11,000. Final offer.
There were other interesting motorcycles to be had, but these are the ones I wanted for my garage. (Which will be the size of a hangar with my new-found imaginary money.) What are you interested in? Kibbitz below.