12 months ago
Back in the 1970s, when Randy Hoffman was riding his 1963 Vespa around New York City, it was hard to find parts for his scooter when something broke. So he started making them. The self-taught mechanic soon realized that he loved constructing motorcycles too, and started collecting them.
“I found a group of people downtown that were involved in vintage English motorcycles and I got involved in that,” said the 57-year-old cabinet and furniture maker who now lives in East Hampton, N.Y.
Turns out the vintage motorcycle scene is a hot market. Over the years Hoffman has bought and sold several vintage bikes. But his collection has been narrowed down to four, all in the $100,000 range. The rare list includes an original 1948 Velocette KTT, a 1949 Velocette, a 1949 Vincent motorcycle and a 1950 Vincent Grey Flash.
“They don’t look like modern bikes,” Hoffman said of his line-up. “You can see all the workings of the motors. They look like old motorcycles, but most people would look at them and have no idea what they’re looking at. They’re beautiful.”
Hoffman isn’t the only one putting his money on two wheels. Investing in the stock market can be a lucrative endeavor, but nowhere near as fun as investing in motorcycles. Bonhams auction house in London teamed up with GoCompare.com, a U.K.-based financial website, to create a dream list of some of the world’s most sought-after and expensive motorcycles.
“All of these bikes would be on the dream list of collectors worldwide,” said Ben Walker, director of the International Department of Collectors’ Motorcycles at Bonhams in London told RealClearLife. “I used to push my nose up against store windows when I was little, looking at bikes like these, thinking they were amazing. They’re boys’ toys.”
Most of the motorcycles have been sold in the U.S. or U.K., and Walker said some appreciate in value by as much as 20 percent each year. Selling prices vary from buyer to buyer and depend on things like where the bike came from, the motorcycle’s history, previous owners and whether or not the bike won any races.
“It’s about the history of the bike,” Hoffman said. “One year can make a difference. A half of year can make a difference. Model numbers and names make a huge difference.”
Here a few of the sexiest motorcycles to date:
1951 Vincent Black Lightning
Valued at 657,652 British pounds = about $931,070
Arguably the most coveted motorcycle ever built, the Black Lightning was first made in England’s post-war period and sold for about $700. Today, if you can get your hands on one, they’re closer to a million dollars — nearly 5000 percent the initial value. About 30 Black Lightning were made in the original batch, but Walker said there are 19 still known to still exist with the original engine and frame.
“A lot of them are spoken for and a lot of them have been broken up over the years,” said Hoffman, who said if you want one and it’s on the market, you better move fast. “You’re not going to find another one,” he said.
1932 Brough Superior 800cc Model BS4 Project
Valued at 331,900 British Pounds = approximately $469,887
But, Brough Superiors motorcycles are almost equally as rare. “I happen to love the Brough Superiors,” Hoffman said.
This classic Brough Superior comes from the U.K.’s pre-war period and sold for just under $300.
1929 Brough Superior 968cc SS100
Valued at 315,000 British Pounds = approximately $447,297
This treasured motorcycle comes from Europe’s interwar period, or the period between the first and second World Wars, an era Walker called a golden age for motorcycles because of innovation and high levels of production.
“This bike had the speed and power that motorcyclists wanted at the time,” Walker said of the limited luxury motorcycle that originally sold for $255. The bike was later nicknamed the “Rolls-Royce of motorcycles.”
“The fact that Rolls-Royce, the best in vehicles, allowed this motorcycle to be called the Rolls-Royce of motorcycles is really high praise,” Walker said. “These were the superbikes of that time. There was very little that could touch them in speed.”
1951 Vincent White Shadow in Chinese Red
Valued at 305,210 British Pounds = approximately $433,395
As the name would suggest, the Vincent Black Shadow motorcycle came in black. But in 1951, 11 Vincent motorcycles left the factory with a bare aluminum case that was not painted. One very rare bike was coated in a Chinese Red and sold for around $532. Today that bike is worth nearly 2,800 times as much.
1939 Vincent-HRD 998cc Rapide Series-A Project
Valued at 275,900 British Pounds = approximately $391,775
A prototype of the Vincent-HRD was released at the Olympia, England, motorcycle show in 1936. The bike was dubbed, “the plumbers’ nightmare,” Walker said, because of the number of oil pipes feeding off the engine. While the public was originally skeptical, the vehicle, which Walker said was an extremely powerful motorcycle, was produced in 1939 for a limited time in the U.K.
“If the war hadn’t broken out, there would be more of these bikes,” Walker said.
Hoffman concurred. “That’s a pretty amazing bike,” he said.
The motorcycle originally sold for just over $600 and has since risen in price by nearly 950 percent.
1990 Honda VFR750R Type RC30
Valued at 65,290 British Pounds = approximately $92,434
This modern motorcycle, built in 1990, came from Japan. “That’s an amazing bike; a beautiful bike for the 1990s,” Hoffman said. “It’s kind of the Black Lightning of its period.”
The bike originally sold for around $12,070 and is now worth more than 568 times as much.
1974 Ducati 750 SS
Valued at 99,433 British Pounds = approximately $141,194
This sports bike has a beauty all its own. The Italian motorcycle, which originally sold for around $2,400, was made in limited numbers to preserve its exclusivity. Even more rare was that in 1974, about 200 of these bikes were made with round engine cases. The following year the manufacturer returned to the traditional square engine case.
1975 BMW 898cc R90S
Valued at 20,125 British Pounds = approximately $28,577
This German luxury touring motorcycle was made with a distinct Daytona Orange and red pinstripe coloring. Walker said the handcrafted line was one of the best bikes you could buy at the time, with an engine that goes from zero to 60 MPH in under five seconds.
“It was one of the first comfortable machines you could sit on all day and still go fast,” said Walker, a motorcycle enthusiast who said he rides a BMW every day. “It was a luxury bike delivering comfort. You could ride that bike across Europe.”
The motorcycle, which originally sold for around $2,980, is now worth around $28,577.