The price is right (or is it?)

Some­times we wish the price of scoot­ers and spares was ex­actly same as it was in the past, but were they ac­tu­ally any cheaper back then?

Scootering - - Contents - Words: Stu Owen

Ev­ery­thing was cheaper back in the day, wasn’t it? Was it re­ally though?

Not many peo­ple can have failed to no­tice the un­re­stored TV200 that re­cently fetched the stag­ger­ing sum of £14,700 at auc­tion. It’s not un­com­mon these days to see other ex­am­ples of both the TV200 and SX200 fetch prices up­wards of £10,000 in what seems a vastly over­in­flated scooter mar­ket. Even the lesser mod­els of both the Lam­bretta and Vespa seem to be fol­low­ing suit, be­ing put up for sale with a price tag that would have been un­be­liev­able just a few years ago. There is no doubt that the rar­ity of such ex­am­ples plays an im­por­tant part in this equa­tion. Sup­ply and de­mand have al­ways dic­tated the price of any­thing at auc­tion, and at the mo­ment… there are more buy­ers than sell­ers in the pre­mium scooter mar­ket!

Hav­ing seen what was go­ing on it be­came the topic of con­ver­sa­tion in the of­fice, and we won­dered just ex­actly how much prices have risen over the years. Not just scoot­ers them­selves but also the ac­ces­sories, spares and just about any­thing else con­nected with them. Though some re­sults were as­tound­ing in the amount they had in­creased some were not and in com­par­i­son to other items we found a few sur­prises along the way…

Scoot­ers

As it was the TV200 that sparked the whole de­bate off in the first in­stance, what bet­ter place to start. When it was in­tro­duced in 1963 a brand new TV200 cost £199 (in old money) re­mem­ber­ing that there used to be 240 pence to ev­ery pound. By 1965, to­wards the end of pro­duc­tion, a TV200 was priced at £215 which was in line with in­fla­tion. So if you com­pare that with the price tag of the TV200 re­cently sold for £14,700 that’s an in­crease of £14,485. In per­cent­age terms that’s a stag­ger­ing rise of around 6737%.

Next in the Lam­bretta line up is the SX200 which again fetches big sums these days. Tak­ing an ex­am­ple that re­cently fetched £10,500 com­pared to the orig­i­nal ask­ing price of £219 an in­crease of £10,281 or 4700% so nowhere near as much as the TV200 but still an eye-wa­ter­ing amount. How­ever, there are other fac­tors to re­mem­ber. Ac­cord­ing to of­fi­cial fig­ures, the av­er­age wage back in 1965/66 was £19 per week com­pared to £530 per week present day, a rise of 2700%. The cur­rent econ­omy is ben­e­fit­ing from low in­ter­est rates and low in­fla­tion com­pared to the past where not only were in­ter­est rates higher but there other fac­tors such as de­val­u­a­tion of the pound in 1967 and crip­pling in­fla­tion.

So what does all this ac­tu­ally mean if you take £219 as the av­er­age cost of ei­ther the TV or SX200 back then com­pared to now? Us­ing the his­toric in­fla­tion cal­cu­la­tor that amount would be £4227 present day so The SX200 has ac­tu­ally gone up by around 150% and the TV200 247%, if you look at it that way it now doesn’t sound so bad. There is an­other way of look­ing at it; dur­ing the later part of the 1990s and the early 2000s, ex­am­ples of both ma­chines were fetch­ing around £3000 so were cheap in com­par­i­son to when they came out, if us­ing the his­tor­i­cal in­fla­tion method of cal­cu­lat­ing the price.

Look­ing at the Vespa, that throws up an even more in­ter­est­ing set of fig­ures de­pend­ing on how you look at it. When the GS was the flag­ship model in 1955, brand new it cost £145. By 1967 some 12 years later the SS180 was £218, a rise of £73 or 49%. So if we go all the way back to 1955 and use the his­toric in­fla­tion cal­cu­la­tor then to­day the GS would be £3800. If you look at the fig­ure good ex­am­ples are fetch­ing these days, around the £5500 area, then it is only a rise of 44% less than that be­tween the GS and SS180 when they were on sale new.

Spares and ac­ces­sories

Tyres have al­ways been an es­sen­tial part of the scooter – we couldn’t use one with­out them. Back in 1970 the gen­eral cost of a nor­mal 350:10 tyre was £3.50. These days it’s around £30 pounds for any­thing de­cent. That’s a rise of 757%. But us­ing the in­fla­tion cal­cu­la­tor, a £3.50 tyre in 1970 would be £55 to­day, so a tyre is ac­tu­ally far cheaper now than it was al­most 50 years ago! What about fuel, an­other ne­ces­sity the scooter re­quires to run? In 1966 a gal­lon of petrol was around 26p com­pared to to­day where the av­er­age is £5.20 a rise of 1900%. That may sound quite fright­en­ing but in­fla­tion wise the 1966 price of 26p gal­lon works out to £4.79 present day so it is not that much dif­fer­ent at all.

Search­ing for ac­ces­sories that were used back in the 1960s and are still avail­able to­day there were two that spring to mind. Firstly the big bore club­man ex­haust that has sold in its thou­sands over the years. In 1967, Arthur Fran­cis of Wat­ford, as it was known back then, sold them for £3.12.6 which would equate now to £66.77. Com­pare that to £81.60 which is what they are cur­rently sold for by AF Rayspeed. Though they are more ex­pen­sive now it’s not by a great deal. In com­plete con­trast though is the Amal MK 1 car­bu­ret­tor. New in 1967 they were £8.19.6 which works out at £165.30. You can cur­rently buy the ex­act same spec­i­fi­ca­tion one for £115.57 – so much cheaper to buy in the present day.

Hav­ing looked at a lot of other prod­ucts that were ei­ther iden­ti­cal or sim­i­lar back then to what is avail­able now, the fig­ures all threw up dif­fer­ent re­sults. Whereas some were cheaper in the past than now like the big bore ex­haust, oth­ers were more ex­pen­sive in the old days like the Amal MK 1. It must be re­mem­bered that a com­pany man­u­fac­tur­ing scooter prod­ucts in the 1960s would pro­duce thou­sands com­pared to now where the mar­ket is much smaller, that fig­ure be­ing just a few hun­dred. That would mean back then mass pro­duc­tion made a prod­uct cheaper to pro­duce. Also, it was a highly com­pet­i­tive mar­ket with pos­si­bly sev­eral deal­ers in just one town, mak­ing com­pe­ti­tion more in­tense – an­other fac­tor driv­ing the price of a prod­uct down.

The TS1 ex­am­ple

No one can doubt just how good the TS1200 cylin­der kit was when it was first in­tro­duced just over 30 years ago now. The 225cc ver­sion first went on sale for

£265 and is now avail­able for £433.50. Us­ing the cal­cu­la­tor that means an in­crease of 63% but ad­justed for in­fla­tion the orig­i­nal cost would sur­pris­ingly work out at £740. Why, you may ask. Well, the orig­i­nal batch of kits would have had big tool­ing costs fac­tored into their price. Also, man­u­fac­tur­ing meth­ods are much more de­vel­oped and cost ef­fec­tive now than they were back in 1987, so the man­u­fac­tur­ing cost if far lower. It’s still down to the com­pany that sells them to pass these re­duc­tions on and it just goes to show how fair AF Rayspeed has been to its cus­tomers over the years by pass­ing them on. The TS1 ap­pears to be bet­ter value now than it ever has been!

Com­par­isons to other prod­ucts

Com­pared to other items or com­modi­ties, prices have in­creased far less dra­mat­i­cally within the scooter in­dus­try than else­where. A pack of 20 cig­a­rettes for in­stance, which were around 12p in 1966 and a pint a beer at the same time 10p, have in­creased far more than any­one ever thought they would. Even ad­justed for in­fla­tion, both would only work out at around £1.80 in the present day. I don’t think we need to go any fur­ther and com­pare to what price they ac­tu­ally are now to re­alise how much they have gone up. You could say that the pack of cig­a­rettes has gone up by an un­be­liev­able 8400% which makes the Lam­bretta TV200 look fairly af­ford­able in com­par­i­son. Just in case any­one is still wor­ried that the price of the TV200 is ex­tremely high you could com­pare it to a Fer­rari 250 GTO which was avail­able to buy new at the same but has risen in some in­stances by al­most 300,000%. So per­haps things are not as bad as they seem after all.

Just to an­noy us a lit­tle bit

So we may moan from time to time that scoot­ers and the prod­ucts for them are very costly. If you look at the Vespa which has been avail­able for a pe­riod of more than 70 years, the lat­est Vespa GTS is well in line with any other model that was new dur­ing a cer­tain date in the past. Look­ing at it that way then, ev­ery­thing seems that bit more log­i­cal and any price com­par­i­son of any make of scooter or re­lated prod­uct from any spe­cific pe­riod of time com­pared to now seems fair.

The prob­lem lies in the sec­ond-hand mar­ket and though the high prices paid cur­rently may seem ex­ces­sive, some­times it has worked the other way. There were pe­ri­ods in the 1970s where the Lam­bretta, what­ever model, was al­most worth­less. How many times have we heard of peo­ple buy­ing one for just a few pounds? This even ap­plies to older Vespa mod­els, with the new ones at the time seem­ingly given away for less than a week’s wage. No one was moan­ing back then – far from it – many were pick­ing up a bar­gain; get­ting a scooter for a frac­tion of its orig­i­nal cost.

That sce­nario can be quickly flipped on its head though where some­one has picked up a cheap scooter and sold it for a profit a few years later for a cou­ple of hun­dred pounds. If, in­stead of sell­ing, they had held on to it for a much longer du­ra­tion then pos­si­bly thou­sands of pounds of profit could have been made. I’m sure many of us have been in that po­si­tion at one time or an­other and as the say­ing goes ‘hind­sight is a won­der­ful thing’. Re­gard­less of how much vin­tage scoot­ers fetch, the mar­ket will al­ways bal­ance it­self out, the same can be said of rare ac­ces­sories. Some­thing is only worth what some­one is will­ing to pay and that may be a huge amount one year, but far less a cou­ple of years later.

That’s the risk you take with any­thing sec­ond-hand and should al­ways be con­sid­ered when mak­ing an of­fer or bid. So while to­day we are dis­cussing the price of a TV200 at £14,700, next year it may be con­sid­er­ably lower. But on the other hand, it could be even higher. Un­til the time comes we'll never know, any­one got a sec­ond-hand crys­tal ball they want to sell?

Top & above: Orig­i­nal ex­am­ples of both the TV200 and the SX200 shown here can eas­ily fetch five-fig­ure sums these days, con­sid­er­ably more when they first be­came avail­able in the 1960s.

Above left: The Vespa GS, though good ex­am­ples sell for thou­sands of pounds cur­rently in com­par­i­son they were not that much cheaper in the 1950s when the fig­ures are ad­justed for in­fla­tion. Above right: The Vespa T5 was ground-break­ing at the time of its launch. Like all Vespa mod­els over the last 70 years, it has al­ways been fairly evenly priced. Right: While the cur­rent eco­nomic cli­mate has low in­ter­est rates and in­fla­tion it hasn’t al­ways been that way. In the mid-1960s in­fla­tion was out of con­trol in Bri­tain, forc­ing the price of a new Lam­bretta up on a reg­u­lar ba­sis.

The TS1 on sale now for more than 30 years. Be­lieve it or not it’s a much bet­ter deal on your wal­let now than it was back in 1987.

Above left: Scooter­ing magazine, on sale since 1985. With the cor­rected RPI fig­ures it’s rel­a­tively in line to­day with the price it came out at orig­i­nally. Given the fact that it has a stack more pages and is now full colour, it’s still a real bar­gain! Above right: Petrol, fags and milk… which do you think has gone up the most?

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