The sunny side of the classic world, with the VJMC’S Steve Cooper
How authentic do you want your Japanese classic? What is it that enhances its appeal? I only ask as, following two record-breaking auction sales, I’m beginning to feel a little conflicted as to what makes a classic super-desirable versus what detracts from its appeal. Recently a pre-production Honda CB750/4 sold for £140,000 plus commission, taking the bike to some £161,000 which is a lot of dosh by anyone’s standards. The bike looked a tad careworn, the candy paint had faded somewhat and it was hardly in its first flush of youth yet more than one would-be buyer saw beyond the ‘patina’ and decided that, for them at least, beauty was in the eye of the beholder etc. We’ll not get into the sordid round of discussions regarding value, worth or cost. However, just let’s remember that if this was only an early, postsandcast, 1969 K0 (yes I know there isn’t really a K0) in similar condition being sold against a 100-point-perfect resto it would have been an altogether different story. Suddenly decades-old patina would have been totally out-trumped by glitzy paint and fresh paint. At the same sale a Honda Z50A Monkey bike that once belonged to John Lennon sold for £57,000. If you compare the rarity of that pre-production CB750/4 against the Z50A how do the maths stack up? Is the ground-breaking four ‘only’ worth almost three times more than the yard bike once owned by a Beatle? Does celebrity ownership really add so much value to a mass-produced item? Personally I doubt someone would pay huge sums for a lawn mower owned by the same mop-top. All of which kind of argues that buying motorcycles as investments and potential top-ups to your pension pot could be something of a financial roller-coaster. No one can predict the future and few of us are ever going to be able to obtain machines like these here that have an overt history or provenance. Buying a bike as an investment is probably only a short-term game at best. Buy early frame numbered Z1s and yes, they are likely to go up… for a while. But, if we accept that most of their appeal is to the people who owned them back in the day or wanted to at some point, that demographic is going be too old to ride bikes of that mass and physical size. Yes, a few will inevitably have them as indoor ornaments but surely there’s going to be a glut at some point? Perhaps, just perhaps, it’s better to enjoy the bikes we have and can afford rather than beat ourselves up over stuff we can’t?