You hang around folks who love vintage cars enough and you’ll inevitably meet vintage motorcycle guy or gal. They mean well, love all things with oil pumps (and some without) but will take every opportunity to espouse the virtues of the under-appreciated vintage motorcycle world.
“You can store a dozen in the space of a single Cadillac!” he or she will exclaim before shifting to extolling the virtues of the fun-per-dollar that few four-wheel contraptions can rival. Allow them to ramble. Contemplate their points. Come to your own conclusions. You now want to buy a motorcycle. I thought so. Good for you. Now what do you buy?
Just like the car world, there are endless options. Since you’re new to the motorcycle world, it can be tough to narrow down what you might like or be interested in without digging through a mountain of research. If the research part is fun for you, go for it. If it’s not, we’re here to offer some guidance. Here are six motorcycles that, based on the cars you like, will likely capture your interest.
If you like: Chevrolet Camaro
Our motorcycle suggestion: Harley-Davidson Sportster
During my formative years, I was pretty convinced Hugger Orange was just two or three signatures on a petition from becoming an official color of the United States. The Camaro is uniquely American, and if a loping big-block 396 under the hood of a ’69 RS/SS gets your ignition timed just right, the Harley Davidson Sportster is right up your alley. The first Sportster pre-dated the Camaro by a decade, but the formula is similar—relatively stripped-down models packing the rider’s choice of two displacement V-twins. While some poo-poo the smaller 883cc engine and say everyone needs the 1000-cc (or later 1200) option, it is very much like the big-block 396 versus small-block 350 Camaro, in that both are fun to drive.
If you like: Land Rover
Our motorcycle suggestion: Royal Enfield
This one isn’t a performance comparison, but rather a heritage comparison. Both Land Rover and Royal Enfield have new cars or bikes on dealer lots that are English by way of India. These two brands are rooted in the simple robust way of building things and lean heavy on classic design. Each has interesting quirks and seems to pull off the intended feel, but to call either an English creation would be a misnomer.
If you like: Ford F1
Our motorcycle suggestion: Harley Davidson Knucklehead
Built to withstand the test of time would be an accurate description of this pairing. The Ford F1 is a truck’s truck, especially the early generations with flathead V-8s. Plenty of style and hardworking to boot. The Knucklehead is not actually a model of bike so much as a nickname for the overhead-valve engine that went into Harley models from 1936–47. If you picture a chopper from the ’60s, it is likely sporting a Knucklehead engine in a modified frame. Easy to build, reliable, hardworking, and plentiful are words to describe either the Ford or the Harley here.
If you like: Spyker C8
Our motorcycle suggestion: Confederate Hellcat
If over-the-top futuristic style and power is your thing, this is the pair to park together. There is a certain air of form over function here, but both still function beautifully. The Spyker is powered by a tuned-up, 400-hp Audi V-8 and is best known for its ludicrously over-designed shifter. The Hellcat packs a thumping S&S-sourced V-twin putting 140 pound-feet of torque to the back tire. Goes like stink and has polarizing styling. Spyker has been in constant production since 2000, but if you are looking for Confederate, you are actually looking for Curtiss. The name change was completed in 2017 and also reflected a change in direction for the company, which now produces bespoke electric bikes.
If you like: Mercedes-Benz 300SL Gullwing
Our motorcycle suggestion: BMW R69S
Fast, elegant, German, grand touring machines, that both look stunning in black. Each machine here has a tubular steel frame at its core, though it is not the focal or defining point of either. The 300SL is known for its racing heritage, as it was born from the racetrack and went on to a successful racing career. The R69S is less of a track machine with just 35 horsepower from its 594cc boxer-twin, but the fit, finish, capability, and reputation is the shared between the two.
If you like: Lamborghini Countach
Our motorcycle suggestion: Ducati 916
You want to buy the poster car tat so many people had in the late-1980s, but you missed the bottom of that upswing in Countach prices? Look over at the Ducati 916. Much like the Bertone-penned angles of the iconic Lamborghini, the 916 is best known as Massimo Tamburini’s finest work. That design was a bit of form over function for the average user, as the riding position is best for riders on the small side, both in waist diameter and overall height, much like the fit for driving the Countach. If a sexy Italian is what you want in your garage, look no further.