Pretty much every old bike is considered a classic these days, whether a workaday 1950s BSA Bantam or a 1990s Honda FireBlade, but they weren’t always considered so.
Take the early ‘70s Ducati 750SS for example. Built in small numbers they were exotic, desirable and expensive when new, and you now need the best part of £100k to buy a genuine concours example. For all that, by the late ‘70s they could be bought relatively cheaply, and it took years before the Ducati brand became super cool and the original 750SS became highly collectible.
Or consider Honda’s RC30 of the late 1980s. A fabulous game-changing road bike and a race winner almost straight out of the crate, but once the later RC45 appeared, the RC30 effectively became obsolete and dropped in value.
Much the same could be said of the early ‘90s Ducati 916 and its later derivatives. Or, moving to the present, the fastest production motorcycle of all time; the limited-production Kawasaki Ninja H2R. A one-owner, as-new 2015 H2R just sold at auction for £30,475, which with auction house fees and commissions deducted equates to almost 30% depreciation over three years. The outrageous, track-only Kawa (around 300 built) will doubtless become an appreciating classic sometime soon, but on the basis of that recent sale it’s not there yet.
However, a very few bikes have bucked the norm. They were all unaffordable to a greater or lesser extent when new, but aside from the odd temporary blip they’ve always held their value and will almost certainly continue to appreciate. They’re the instant classics.
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1971-74 MV Agusta 750S
By the late 1960s MV Agusta’s flagship road bike was a lacklustre 600cc tourer nicknamed ‘the Black Pig’. To better reflect the Italian maker’s dominance in GP racing the 750S was duly launched. It had jaw-dropping good looks and a high-spec four-cylinder, 743cc motor with sand-cast crankcases, gear-driven double overhead cams, four carbs and four exhausts. With 76bhp its claimed 140mph top speed was somewhat optimistic, and it cost about three times as much as a Honda CB750/4, but boy was it desirable, and that desirability has never waned.
Price when new:
£70,000 – £100,000
1992-93 Honda NR750
A development of Honda’s late ‘70s/early ‘80s NR500 four-stroke GP racers and the factory NR750 endurance racer of 1987, the road-going NR750 (RC40) employed its racing predecessors’ unique engine design. With oval pistons and cylinder bores, eight conrods, 16 spark plugs, 32 valves and revving to 15,000rpm, its 123bhp 748cc V4 motor was in effect a V8. Costing about five times as much as a FireBlade back in the day, exotic didn’t and still doesn’t begin to describe it.
200 (eight officially imported into UK)
Price when new:
£60,000 – £70,000
2008-09 Ducati Desmosedici RR
The first road-legal MotoGP bike, the Desmosedici RR is essentially a 2006-season GP6 factory racer that notched-up pole positions, fastest laps and victories throughout that year. Although some engine alterations were made to improve reliability on the road, the RR’s exotic 989cc V4 desmo motor still put out some 200bhp. Ducati sold all the RRs they could make, and while values did temporarily dip a bit, mainly due to speculators seeking a swift profit, it soon recovered and then some.
1,500 (possibly more)
Price when new:
2015-16 Honda RC213V-S
Following a hat-trick of MotoGP world championship victories, Honda unleashed the road-legal version of its all-conquering RC213V racer. Powered by a 157bhp 1,000cc V4, the RCV213-S is as close to a pukka MotoGP bike as it was possible for Honda to make. The road-going S version doesn’t have the factory racer’s seamless gearbox or pneumatic valves, but the optional, track-only £8,000 HRC Sports Kit includes many special parts and boosts power to 212bhp, alas the kit does not include Marc Marquez’s riding skills.
Price when new:
One offered in July 2018 for £220,000 (inc. HRC kit)
2018 Brough Superior SS100
Trading on the legend of George Brough’s pre-WW2 Superior SS100 model, the born-again Brough concern announced its plan to build a contemporary SS100 in 2013, although deliveries of production bikes didn’t start until Jan 2018. Designed and hand-built in Toulouse, France, it’s powered by a sophisticated 997cc, eight-valve V-twin producing 100 to 130bhp, depending on spec, while other cutting-edge parts include a machined titanium frame, monoshock suspension front and rear, a cast aluminium swing arm that pivots in the engine’s crankcases and Beringer brakes. The epitome of the bespoke, rare, collectible motorcycle.
Number to be built:
300 max (20 delivered to UK to date)
£60,000 (no pre-owned examples have yet come to market in UK)