5 affordable and unique motorcycles ride off into the sunset
The twice-yearly Autumn Stafford sale in England is known for having some of the most unique and collectable vintage motorcycles every year. Where else could you buy a silver hip flask known as the most important piece of Time Trial history, a Brough Sand Racer project that was the first to ever be offered at auction, and a number of other very valuable motorcycles? However, the sale featured more than just expensive motorcycles and memorabilia.
Thanks in large part to the Adrien Reed collection that was being auctioned, there were many affordable engines, parts piles, or project motorcycles that had sat for years, untouched, and were missing nearly everything that would be needed to get them on the road one day. The piles of bits sat patiently waiting for a restoration, and a lot of these motorcycles will hopefully get their day now; Bonhams sold 92 percent of lots for a total of £3,479,800 ($4,564,151).
If you aren’t into project motorcycles but love a good deal, there were many affordable but still collectible motorcycles. Let’s look at some of the best buys, unique lots, and the prices they commanded:
Pre-sale estimate: £3000-£4000 ($3915 – $5221)
Sale price: £ 3680 ($4819)
The 500-cc Matchless G80 is essentially the same motorcycle as the AJS Model 18, and the only distinctions are the badges and a few minor items. The G80 was produced from 1946 to 1949, and in 1949 rear suspension was added that accounted for the G80S model name change.
This example of a beautiful, older restoration Matchless G80 is the hardtail version, and there is no question that it was a good buy. It is ready to ride or put in a living room, and it sold for only $4824. Considering this 1947 Matchless G80 project sold at Mecum Las Vegas 2018 for $4400. The UK tends to have values for these bikes even higher than the U.S. due to lower supply and a higher demand.
Pre-sale estimate: £4000 – £6000 ($5221 – $7831)
Sale price: £ 5750 ($7530)
Most all classic BMWs are up in value over the last few years, and the /2 motorcycles and their higher-compression S versions are leading the pack due to their undeniably beautiful looks, reliability, low production numbers, and general usability.
BMW made the R60 as a whole (known as the R60/2 from 1960 onwards) from 1956 to 1969. Although the R60 is known for its Earles forks, they were extremely outdated nearing the end of production and BMW needed a solution to compete with the Japanese sport motorcycles coming onto the U.S. scene. Their solution for the U.S. market? Telescopic forks. Gone were the iconic Earles forks for the 1968 and 1969 models, and the motorcycle became known as the R60US.
The /2 Earles-fork versions sell for approximately 20 percent more than the U.S. telescopic versions despite the U.S. versions being far more rare. The key maintenance item to look out for on these motorcycles is if the oil slingers in the engines have been cleaned or not. That requires the cases to be split and the crank pulled at a cost of $1500-plus, and it should be done by 40,000 miles. This one has 34,440 miles. Do you risk it?
This motorcycle was a good buy for the buyer in general because they will get endless fun out of a motorcycle that will likely appreciate, and this one has all of the right pieces that are either restored or original and in great condition. We see restored R60/2 models sell for around $14,000 on average, with this Steib sidecar equipped one selling for an astounding $55,000 at Mecum’s Vegas 2018 auction.
Good buy or not, these motorcycles are an absolute joy to ride. I have an R60/2 and R69S in my collection, and amongst all other motorcycles these are the ones that I ride the most. They cruise at 60 MPH all day, start every time, and are simply a joy to ride.
To note, the estate that sold this lot moved a few valuable BMWs amongst other motorcycles at the Stafford sale, but they all appear to suffer from a lack of a cleaning. For instance, this R90S could have used a cleaning to show what it looked like under the dirt. The R60/2 wasn’t as bad, but a polishing can go a long way, and that might have helped the buyer get a slightly better deal here.
Pre-sale estimate: £2500 – £ 3500 ($3263 – $4568)
Sale Price: No sale
This isn’t a classic V-twin pre-war motorcycle. It’s not an exotic Italian sport motorcycle, either. Rather, it is an uncommon, American-built two-wheel-drive motorcycle that can float on water, hold spare gas or water in the wheels, and take the rider absolutely anywhere.
You can buy a brand new one today that looks very similar to the 1969 model offered at Stafford because Rokons are still produced to this day in New Hampshire. These motorcycles are a significant symbol of American manufacturing and outdoor history, with most of these ended up being used by hunters due to their rugged and simple nature.
Values vary significantly with these, but we see the ‘60s and ‘70s model years often selling around $2500-$3500. This #4 condition one sold for $2275, and this one in #3 condition sold on eBay last year for $3650. Unfortunately the one at Stafford was a no sale, but Bonhams had an estimate of $3300-$4600.
Pre-sale estimate: £1600 – £2200 ($2088 – $2871)
Sale Price: £2530 ($3313)
‘70s motorcycles glory moment seems to have passed and the ‘80s, especially the late sport motorcycles, are having their time in the classic market spotlight now. Another segment that is as hot as it has ever been is the adventure motorcycle market, and this is causing manufacturers to bring new motorcycles to the states that they had never considered doing for 30 years, one such example is Honda’s new Africa Twin. This means that the UK and Europe have received some cool adventure motorcycles that the we never got, and this 1989 Yamaha XTZ750 Super Tenere is one of those.
The XTZ750 was sold from 1989 to 1996, and it was built as a big, bold desert racing motorcycle based off of the success of the XT600 and new technology such as five-valve heads. Most of them got beat up, and the adventure segment wasn’t very big back then, so this motorcycle is a rare find in good condition.
A late ‘80s adventure motorcycle in a market poised for growth that has classic styling, is uncommon in good condition, and has its roots in the Dakar rally? That sounds like a recipe for fun and a good buy, and expect the market to keep creeping up; Honda Transalps, a comparable U.S. motorcycle, are doing well Stateside. These XTZ750s are available for import now due to their 25-year-old status, and they do pop up every once in a while. We don’t have any comparable domestic sales, and these aren’t that common in Europe either, but we wouldn’t be surprised to see an asking price north of $5000 in the U.S.
Pre-sale estimate: £60,000-£80,000 ($78,315 – $104,420)
Sale Price: £63,250 ($82,839)
No, it isn’t affordable, but it is still is a quarter of the price of the Brough Sand Racer in pieces. It doesn’t get more unique than this, and as such this ‘37 Böhmerland sold very well. This motorcycle’s claim to fame that it has the longest wheelbase—10.5 feet—of any production motorcycle in history. This “long touring” model was designed to fit four people, and it featured some of the most advanced parts for its time including being the first motorcycle to used cast alloy wheels. Böhmerland produced motorcycles out of the company’s Czechoslovakian factory from 1924 to the outbreak of World War II in early 1939.
The exact motorcycle at Stafford this year, engine number 307, sold at a Bonhams collection auction in 2010 for £36,150 ($47,394). Assuming the seller was British, the sale achieved a nice 75-percent profit.
Considering the fully restored 1938 Böhmerland Langtouren from the Grom motorcycle museum in Slovenia being sold on eBay in June of 2015 for $45,600, the motorcycle sold very well at Stafford this year. But a second sale will need to happen to show a true market movement.