Rich baby boomers are buying the models they coveted in their youth
Classic cars regularly race ahead when it comes to luxury investments, but they could soon be overtaken by vehicles on two wheels.
Vintage motorbikes are fast becoming the collectible of choice for petrolheads, driven by overseas investors and baby boomers picking up brands from their youth.
Paul Jayson, a dealer who runs the Motorcycle Broker website, says that some vintage Honda, Ducati, Kawasaki and Yamaha models have increased in value by up to 340 per cent since 2010. The latest Knight Frank Luxury Investment Index shows that classic cars returned 161 per cent over five years.
Mr Jayson says that a Honda CBX1000 would have sold for £5,000 in 2010, but is now worth £15,000, while a Ducati 996SPS would have cost £5,000 in 2010, but could fetch £22,000 today.
“In the 1970s you could ride a Yamaha FS1E at age 16,” Mr Jayson says. “The ‘Fizzy’ was a 50cc motorcycle with pedals that did 50mph, and if you didn’t have one when you were 16 then you would die a virgin.
“Car insurance was pretty expensive, so from age 17 many went for two wheels. Until 1983, you only had to pass one test to ride a motorbike, so it was more attractive than driving a car.
“Then suddenly the baby boomers grew up, had kids and moved to cars. Now that the kids are moving out, that generation is either buying the bikes they rode or the ones they had pictures of on their bedroom wall. Plus you can fit a dozen bikes in the garage for the space of one classic car.”
The boom is helped by interest from buyers taking advantage of the low pound, while China has begun relaxing rules on importing foreign classic bikes, opening up a major market.
What makes a bike collectible?
The most valuable bikes have cultural or historical significance, or are a particular rare design or model. There are perennial classic brands such as Velocette, Vincent or Brough. The Brough Superior, manufactured from 1919 to 1940, was dubbed the Rolls-Royce of motorcycles.
Mr Jayson highlights the Honda CB750 Phil Read Replica, named after the racer, as a particularly sought-after collector’s item, with only 150 in existence. He recently sold one, which cost £1,895 in the 1970s, for £14,000.
In April, a 1938 Brough Superior 750cc BS4 sold at auction for £331,900, a world record. The most valuable models typically have original parts and documentation to support their authenticity.
How to buy a vintage motorcycle
Classic bikes can be bought online, but you need to be sure that the vehicle is genuine. Specialist dealers will let you inspect bikes, and often provide guarantees and after-sales service. If you buy at auction, you can usually see the bike and examine the paperwork. However, once that hammer is down, it is yours and there is no cooling-off period.
Cheffins regularly auctions vintage motorbikes that sell for more than £250,000. Jeremy Curzon, its vintage-motorcycle specialist, says: “The highest values are always achieved by those machines that were the fastest and most exclusive in their day. Originality is also key at this level and an untouched machine will command more than a meticulously restored example.”
Prices for vintage motorbikes start at £2,000, but you have to account for maintenance, storage, and insurance.
You can get specialist storage from £1 a day, but most collectors use their own garages — although some have been known to make space in the lounge.
If a vehicle is more than 40 years old there is no vehicle excise duty, and vehicles from before 1960 do not need an MOT. Classic bikes are classed as a “wasting asset” by HMRC, so there is no capital gains tax to pay on profits.
The cost of classic-bike cover varies depending on the bike’s age and value. A 1925 Brough Superior SS100 worth £250,000 would cost £444.13 a year, while a 1960s café racer valued at £6,000 would cost only £82.23, according to Hagerty, the specialist insurer.
As you are dealing with an older vehicle, repairs can become costly. Lee Goggin, a collector who co-founded the online directory findawealthmanager.com, says: “I recently paid £900 for an exhaust pipe for the [Honda] Gold Wing. In the late 1970s, I think it would have cost about £73.”
As well as the tax efficiency, this is an investment that you can enjoy. Experts say that Japanese and Italian engines are better than British and go farther before maintenance is needed.
Mr Curzon says: “Some bikes aren’t the easiest to ride and should be saved for special events. However, the majority are perfectly capable of going on the road, which is why people buy them.”