Monday, June 01, 2009


Rick Parkington from Classic Bike recently wrote with his notes regarding the changing 'scene' for old motorcycles; it's worth sharing.

Hi Paul,
Did you get your Rex-Acme yet? I reluctantly gave Ewan McGregor his TT8 back, he seemed pleased with it. He was also very taken with my grubby old '35 Inter. I tell you, change is in the air; over here there seems to be an attitude shift, kids are as likely to give an old vehicle a thumbs up as catcalls. I feared that
with bikes now principally the preserve of the over-40s, kids would view them like caravans and golf trolleys - but apparently not. Additionally there is much more interest in unrestored bikes and charm seems to score over concours shine, may be wishful thinking on my part but I had an interesting conversation with a friend my age at Stafford. He was keen on an unrestored New Imperial 500 ohv at £5000.
A very established collector friend scoffed at the price but Rob had the money and liked the bike. I didn't find out whether he bought it - but the point was the 'established collector' was ridiculed 15 years ago for paying 'stupid money' for a basket case SS100. Needless to say he has since sold it for a huge profit. Things change. The collector will have seen a not particularly special thirties bike, factored in the cost of painting, plating etc and decided that the price wasn't justified. But, Rob wouldn't want to restore it so these costs are immaterial and if, as I suspect, unrestored bikes are the future, that New Imp will have a value because of its condition, regardless of the provenance of the marque or model. I never really lusted after a cammy Norton but I bought mine simply because of its condition. When Ewan rode it he said, "If you ever find another one of this condition and everything I mean..let me know"
I rest my case!

Jim Moore at the mag [Classic Bike] was banging on about the series A Vinnie that sold for £250,000 and how it was a disgrace that old bikes are removed so far from the reach of ordinary enthusiasts... but I had a thought about that too. First as I pointed out to him, they only made 80-odd series As so they are out of reach anyway but there's more. Absurdly valuable old bikes give the whole movement some kudos in the eyes of society. The neighbours of the guy working on his Francis Barnett in a tiny council house shed whisper 'I heard that some of these old bikes are worth a fortune' and the guy gets a bit more respect. It has a knock on effect that makes everybody feel involved although at different levels, isn't that why fake designer labels sell? Maybe it's not exactly the same as the celebs wear but it's in the same ball park...
I reckon if old bikes have celebrity style kudos with the general public it can only help make them interesting to young people and keep the whole thing going. It will be different to the steam-fair and swap-meet world of the past, but if the choice is between that and all this stuff going to the scrap yard it's no contest!
Thought for the day, all the best,


(the photos were taken at the Coupe Moto Legende in Dijon, May 30/31, 2009, and show a broad age spectrum in attendance... hope for the future?)


Mike said...

This is exactly my concern regarding the normal guy in the street not being able to afford a classic bike (even if it's clapped-out).
Bike restoration has taken off in a big way now, so who knows?

Anonymous said...

I've got an old motorbike sitting my yard. All original! Original paint faded and flaking off, original tires rotted off the rims, the seat is tattered, chrome is pitted, rubber bits perished. I'll take 15,000 pounds for it. It's called a BSA Bantam. I saw on the telly that old bikes are good for collecting. Who wants to collect this one?


Doug said...

Hey I can relate on the "Youth" thing since i recently bought a 1969 Honda CL90 and after getting it road-worthy-not restored, i was fine tuning the carb and my 17 year old daughter's friend chased me down and had to comment how cool the bike was around 2 blocks she followed me and she was grinning ear to ear and i could see that even me being 48 and enjoying the heck out of this neat little bike..age didn't matter in the admiration towards older bikes
Thanks, Doug

R.Dress said...

Hi Paul,

I'm a young guy and I've always loved vintage machines. Vintage anything really. A cuff link camera, type writer, or a blender they deserve to be used, cared for, and recognized. Why? My fear, (being American) is that if we only focus on what's cool now, we miss an important dialogue with the past. (which is one of the main reasons why I visit your blog.) So yes money plays a roll but really it's the open minded attitude of the individual (the "Youth") who will ultimately shape the future of these relics. And from what I've concluded, the future is in good hands. What plagues me when considering the purchase of a machine over 30 years old, is not the money, it's how much do I know, who do I know, and can I get parts for it.
Many thanks

Anonymous said...

where does the money go next? and does the working class /middle class stiff have a chance ?well the big ticket items are well out of reach , the cafe racer lie is getting out of reach , so where does the little well informed money go , and lets not fool ourselfs , its all about a dollar bill , buy small sell big is what every body wants , i,m thinking bikes that were painted red and were raced city to city in the 50,s nudge nudge wink wink , say no more , although a re continental or a mach one would be a great second buy dave anonymos

The Creeper said...

My attention span's not what it used to be... but I;m not sure I understood the comments that went before. What I do know is that it these bikes aren't all expensive by any means, my current 6 time veteran Melee bike cost $3000, my previous one cost $1200... and others on this ride cost even less. So about anyone can afford to do the old bike hobby as long as you really want to, are willing to learn, get greasy and do your own work. Fun stuff!