Collectible classic motorcycles: 'Why two wheels can carry you to pleasure and profit'

While mainstream financiers still fear the affects of the global recession, the classic cars markets have been increasingly revving up. And it isn't only four-wheeled 'rolling works of art' which are proving themselves as assets - two-wheeled collectibles are in hot pursuit...

Actually, many mainstream investors will be aware of the investibility of classic motors. For instance, did you know that Asset Management companies are now investing in collectibles on behalf of their clients? (That's according to a report by the London Times newspaper.)

Classic cars and motorcycles will surely be among these 'alternative assets'. After all, owning a classic car is a lifestyle as much as an investment. What's more, the markets for these vintage machines are continuing to enjoy unprecedented success.

Our 2010 news coverage was dominated by the likes of RM Auctions, one of the United States' biggest classic car auction houses. Big events like RM's annual Monterey auction were particularly successful, grossing $67m in total sales with Ferraris and other top marques.


The markets give you a choice of classics old and new - recent sales include the 1936 Brough Superior 982cc (top) and 1999 MV Agusta 750cc (the latter was raced by World Champions, Giacomo Agostini and Phil Read, whose signatures adorn the bodywork)

But the markets for two-wheeled 'rolling works of art' have been catching up. Classic motorcycles are enjoying plenty of success - most recently in Paris, earlier this month, at auctions held by Bonhams and Artcurial.

Considering that Artcurial's sale included a 1948 Vincent 500 Grey Flash with sidecar driven and engineered by 500cc motorcycle World Champion Jack Surtees, it's easy to see why the auctions generated such a buzz.

In the end, Surtees's Vincent rolled to €44,628. And Bonhams wasn't to be outdone. Offered among its highlights was a stunning vintage 1936 Brough Superior 982cc SS80 Special. The Special lived up to its name, selling for €44,850.

Looking forward to the rest of this year: the great thing about the classic motorbike markets is that they're driven by unwavering passion. And, while "old classics" appreciate in value thanks to the laws of supply and demand, "new classics" are also emerging...

One such example appeared at Bonhams: a MV Agusta 750cc F4 'Serie Oro' from 1999, designed by Massimo Tamburini (creator of the Ducati 916). The bike is regarded as an MV legend and is exceptionally rare. In the end, it brought €36,800.


Steve McQueen
Steve McQueen pictured riding his Husqvarna in 1971

Why did these classic motorcycles sell for so much? Well, each of them - whether they're dated to 1936 or 1999, or with or without celebrity provenance - correspond to my top three basic rules for investing in classic motorcycles:

  1. There must be a limited supply of the motorcycle
  2. The current demand for it must not be based on short-term speculation - ie the motorbike should have a history of popularity (like the F4 'Serie Oro') or an established legacy (like Jack Surtees's 1948 Vincent)
  3. There must be a growing demand for the motorcycle over the long-term.

Of course, my top three points miss out a crucial factor: the sheer joy of owning a vintage piece of engineering, and the enjoyment of both riding and maintaining it. After all, these really are two-wheeled pieces of history.

Needless to say, rare motorcycles are among of my big collecting tips for 2011. We're only in February, yet the markets are already looking really active. Better still, these markets are underpinned by passion and a proven history of bringing profit to collectors.

With big upcoming sales including Bonhams' May auction of Hollywood legend Steve McQueen's 1971 Husqvarna 400 motorcycle, there could be no better time for you to don a pair of riding gloves and a helmet.

We'll be reporting on all the latest developments in the collectible motorcycle markets, so watch this space. Or you can learn more about investing in vintage motors by reading our special investment pages. Alternatively, our experts can be contacted at:

+44 (0) 117 933 9500

All the best, until next week




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