5 sweet classic bikes to watch at the Barber Vintage Festival

The Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum was built with one goal in mind, to become the world’s “best and largest” motorcycle collection, and nowadays the museum houses over 1400 motorcycles, a race track, offices for Mercedes and Porsche, and the world’s largest Lotus collection. Not to mention it hosts the holy grail of vintage motorcycle events, the Barber Vintage Festival.

On October 6th, Bonhams is hosting a classic motorcycle auction in conjunction with the annual celebration, and there is no lack of tasty two-wheeled treats patiently awaiting new owners. From a “green frame” Ducati 750ss to a Honda Z50 Mini Trail, here is a list of our top five picks at the Bonhams Barber sale, along with some of their comparable past sales.

1972 Suzuki GT750 “Water Buffalo”

1972 Suzuki GT750 “Water Buffalo”
1972 Suzuki GT750 “Water Buffalo” Bonhams

Pre-sale estimate: $3000-$4000

Lot 209

Suzuki revealed its water-cooled tourer to the public in 1971. At the time, a 750-cc water-cooled two-stroke was an engineering marvel. Riders praised it for its smooth high-speed riding, and it quickly drew a following. Today, the pink 1972 (the only year to have the double-sided, twin-leading-shoe front brake and painted radiator covers) is the most desirable and expensive model.

Bonhams has an estimate of only $3000-$4000 for the GT750, which strikes us as low given past sales. This 1972 GT750 sale at Las Vegas 2018 went for $8800, so we expect a sale price north of $8,000. Our data shows an average value for this bike in #2-condition (Excellent) at $11,000.

1969 Honda Z50 Mini Trail

1969 Honda Z50 Mini Trail minibike
1969 Honda Z50 Mini Trail Bonhams

Pre-sale estimate: $3500-$4500

Lot 188

More commonly referred to as a monkey bike due to the knees-out, elbows-out riding position, the Honda Z50 has been one of the hotter collector motorcycles in the last few years. The nostalgia factor of racing around like a kid simply cannot be compared to the experience of many other bikes. The 1969 model gained street-legal head- and taillights that earlier models lacked. Our records indicate that the monkey bike here is a 1968 model, but it doesn’t make a significant difference as far as value.

Bonhams has an estimate of $3,500-$4,500 on this lot. At the Vegas 2018 auction, a set of three 1969 models sold for $17,600 and at Vegas 2017 a 1968 model sold for $4750. We see the monkey bike on offer selling for the upper end of the estimate.  

1970 Husqvarna 400 Cross (owned and ridden by Steve McQueen in the film On Any Sunday)

1970 Husqvarna 400 Cross owned and ridden by Steve McQueen in the film On Any Sunday
1970 Husqvarna 400 Cross Bonhams

Pre-sale estimate: $75,000 – $100,000

Lot 170

On Any Sunday is a staple when it comes to motorcycle films. It was so good it broke attendance records when it hit theaters in 1971 and was nominated for an Oscar for Best Documentary. McQueen rode this Husqvarna during the ending scene of the movie where Malcolm Smith, Steve McQueen, and Mert Lawwill drift around the beaches of San Diego while the sun slowly sets.

Combine Steve McQueen’s aura with one of the best motorcycle films made and you have a recipe for a motorcycle that will sell for big money. Bonhams estimates $75,000-$100,000—up to a 1000-percent premium paid over a normal restored Husqvarna 400 Cross. Good examples typically bring $8000 and $10,000. Mecum auctions 2018 Las Vegas sale helped one find a new owner for a tidy $6050. Despite the premium, we think the estimate is still low considering the sale of another of McQueen’s Husqvarna 400 Cross motorcycles in 2011 at Bonhams Quail auction for $144,500. The Sports Illustrated cover bike, too, was bid to $137,000 at MidAmerica’s Las Vegas 2012 auction.

1984 Buell RW750 production racer

1984 Buell RW750 production racer
1984 Buell RW750 production racer Bonhams

Pre-sale estimate: $90,000 to $120,000

Lot 181

The story of Buell is one filled with highs and lows. It started in 1983 with the RW750 built for AMA Formula 1 racing and ended in 2009 with Harley-Davidson, majority owner of Buell, laying on the kibosh after 137,000 motorcycles were produced. Bonhams’ bike on offer is the second of two racing RW750s that were made before the class shut down. Erik Buell took a square-four two-stroke motorcycle from defunct Welsh race shop Barton, modified it to the point of becoming a new motorcycle, slapped the Buell name on it, and began selling them for $17,000.

Coincidence or not, RW750 number 1, the prototype, was offered at the Mecum Las Vegas sale in January 2018. It didn’t sell for a high bid of $110,000 and it’s the only auction sale of an RW750 that we know of. Values for motorcycles like this are hard to pinpoint, but Bonhams thinks this one will bring $90,000 to $120,000.

1974 Ducati 750 SS

1974 Ducati 750SS
1974 Ducati 750 SS Bonhams

Pre-sale estimate: $130,000-$200,000

Lot 158

No list of collectible motorcycles is complete without a 1974 Ducati 750SS, and it’s rarity makes it one of the most expensive examples of the marque out there. With only 401 bikes produced in 1974 (and most called upon for racing duties), they don’t come up for sale often and are highly sought after. This 750SS is an older restoration that has been stored in an Australian museum for 38 years.

The most recent public auction sale of a 1974 750SS was a largely original example sold at Pebble Beach 2016 that had one owner for its first 39 years, fetching $176,000. Bonhams’ estimate of $130,000-$200,000 on the lot at Barber seems to reflect the market growth for European motorcycles have been experiencing over the last two years. An #2-condition (Excellent) 1974 Ducati 750SS averages $120,000.

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