Paul Jayson on race bikes.


Ex­cuse the mist in my eyes if you will, but I re­mem­ber the 1980s when TZ750 Yama­has could be picked up at race cir­cuits for £200, TZ350S for £100 and RG500S for about £500… Also, in 1995 Jim Doyle, Randy Mamola’s man­ager sold me 12 sets of Randy’s leathers and two of Kenny Roberts’ for £400 in­clud­ing a let­ter of authen­tic­ity. At that time he of­fered me an im­mac­u­late limo from the 1970s once owned by Barry Sheene for £2000, but I didn’t have £2000 or a lock-up... Old two-stroke race bikes were al­most be­ing given away be­cause the four-stroke prod­die bikes of the 1990s made them seem al­most slow and ill-be­haved. Back then even a ma­chine with proven race his­tory wouldn’t have in­creased the value of such ma­chines. As re­cently as 2008 I sold for­mer team-mate of Barry Sheene, Mike Bald­win’s fully re­stored RG500 for €17,000 along with enough spares for an­other bike. Such mem­o­ra­bilia was old clut­ter, got in the way and was not val­ued as the veil of nos­tal­gia had not yet dropped on these bikes, which was a shame. Even in 2004 one of Sheene’s Yamaha TZ500S sold for just £20,000… How times have changed eh? There has been a mas­sive shift in col­lectible rac­ing mo­tor­cy­cles with his­tory from the 1970s. Big money has moved into this area and Sheene’s old Suzukis are now price­less and proper TZ750 and other TZ Yama­has are se­ri­ously sought after. But the prices for these TZS are noth­ing com­pared to where they are head­ing. I will make a pre­dic­tion that – once one of the King Kenny cham­pi­onship win­ning mo­tor­cy­cles comes on the mar­ket – and I bet one will in the next decade, prices will be un­recog­nis­able. Even older TZ350S are com­mand­ing high prices now. And it’s not just Grand Prix two-strokes any more: in 2014 one of Carl Fog­a­rty’s ti­tle-win­ning 916s was sold for well into six fig­ures… And then go back fur­ther… Moto Guzzi al­lowed sev­eral replica V8s to be built from the orig­i­nal blue­prints and one failed to reach £300,000 in 2016-ish. There are only a cou­ple of the orig­i­nal ma­chines left now. It was only after Mike Hail­wood’s 300cc Honda six-cylin­der racer

was pulled out of a barn at Brook­lands, by An­thony Godin would Honda fi­nally re­lease the blue­prints to Ge­orge Beale to build a crank which then al­lowed Ge­orge to build a hand­ful of repli­cas from fac­tory draw­ings. Those repli­cas sold at, I be­lieve, £500,000. That Hail­wood bike (the only one out­side of Honda’s mu­seum) is now firmly in pri­vate own­er­ship, no-one knows what was paid for it and any­one can only guess at its value. What is cer­tain is that rare clas­sic rac­ers with his­tory have taken off value-wise and the only way is up… Ev­ery­one who grew up in the 1970s wants to know what the power­band is like on a TZ750 or a fac­tory Suzuki RG500. And peo­ple with large amounts of money are pre­pared to pay a lot to find out. I sus­pect they are some­what un­der­whelm­ing and dis­ap­point­ing by to­day’s stan­dards, but it gets their money out of vul­ner­a­ble banks. The sto­ries be­hind these bikes are leg­endary and ev­ery­one loves a good story and the wealthy will pay to be part of that story, be­lieve me… There are also some great bar­gains to be had out there, as Ja­pan made some in­cred­i­ble lit­tle rac­ers up to 400cc in the late 1970s and through to the mid-1980s which are weird, won­der­ful and in­sane and they can still be picked up for very lit­tle. If you have a big pen­sion pot that you want to shift into some­thing prof­itable, then Yamaha TZ 500s, 700s and 750s are still a lit­tle un­der­val­ued as are Du­cati 926 Cor­sas and Isle of Man TT race ma­chines, along with Laverda SFCS. China has now en­tered the clas­sic mo­tor­cy­cle mar­ket prop­erly and you will see great change. Prices will be­come un­recog­nis­able due to such a mas­sive de­mand evolv­ing in the com­ing years. Also many clas­sic car own­ers are start­ing to buy bikes as they have wo­ken up to this mar­ket and this means there will be a lot of money chas­ing very few mo­tor­cy­cles. They are not daft and they will only want ma­chines that are ab­so­lutely spot on. If you are think­ing of in­vest­ing in such ma­chin­ery then know what you are buy­ing, or em­ploy some­one who does. Also be­ware as many of these mo­tor­cy­cles have mag­ne­sium parts and they de­grade dis­grace­fully if they are kept in a damp en­vi­ron­ment. Know your stuff and get it prop­erly au­then­ti­cated. It’s no good say­ing, 10 years down the line, that the bloke you bought it from swore it was one of Barry’s or Kenny’s but he lost the pa­per­work… Val­ues are very hard to say on these ma­chines as orig­i­nal­ity, the spec­i­fi­ca­tion and his­tory af­fect prices enor­mously and there is no green book for race bikes. Just be very, very cau­tious and know what you are do­ing and be­lieve no seller un­til au­then­ti­cated oth­er­wise. The trick is to be dis­pas­sion­ate about what you’re pas­sion­ate about and to ei­ther prove or dis­prove the story as­so­ci­ated with the bike. That’s some trick...

Any Sheene ma­chine would be worth a mint!

Kevin Magee on a TZ: some buy old rac­ers to pa­rade or race...

Imag­ine the price of a pukka Ago racer...

Foggy four-strokes: pricey.

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