Coming from a family of keen motorcycle enthusiasts and riders I have been around bikes since I was knee high to a grasshopper. Later when in my early twenties I was to own motorcycle shops myself, so many collectible motorcycles passed through my hands for the next 30 years that I ran my shops.
This is not a story about how great it would be to have them all now, but an appreciation for having owned them, ridden then, then sold them for others to enjoy when the next toy came along. So....no tears ....... I regret nothing!
The truth is, it takes a lot of time and money to keep many of these wonderful early model flagships in pristine condition, so as soon as the novelty wore off cleaning became a chore for me and I moved on.
All the collectible motorcycles in my list have one criteria. They are all great fun to ride!
Some bikes that we found in farm sheds and backyards were so rare and unusual that they never saw the showroom floor at all. They wound up in my brother-in law's collection of unusual machines which included an Adler twin two stroke road bike with unit construction. The complete gearbox could be rebuilt without taking the motor and gearbox unit out of the bike. He also had no less than two Sunbeams an exotic 1930s Blue Star BSA which was already rare as hens teeth by 1970. Brian loves his bikes and his knowledge of them is encyclopedic.
I was fortunate enough to know the Australian Engineer Phil Irving who designed the Vincent HRD which is one of the most important and collectable motorcycles in the world today. I had some rare Vincent parts in stock, but never got to own a Vincent Black Shadow or an HRD.
I have however ridden both models thanks to two of my customers who restored them, then proudly presented their finished projects to ride. We had supplied a lot of parts and expertise to forward both these machines completion, and it was a big deal to my brother-in-law and me to ride the Vincents.
I had the honor of spending hours chatting with Phil while supplying him with parts for his engineering experiments and inventions when he graced us with his presence. I remember him as a kindly and enlightened individual with a rare gift for engineering innovation.
Vincents are now worth as much as a good apartment in a large city. If you can buy one, just do it!
Of all the vehicles that used the wonderful JAP motor, the Brough Superior SS100 was probably the most impressive. Built between 1919 to 1938 the Brough could be distinguished from other motorcycles by it's all chrome fuel tank and enormous JAP motor. If you can find one, just buy it, one day it will be worth more than your home.
My father had an SS100 when I was a kid, and it was massively powerful in it's day. The JAP motor is a gem. Any parts that are missing will need to be made by hand.
Honda CBX 6 sport
Honda CBX 1000
The air-cooled six cylinder one litre Honda is one of the best looking sixes you will ever see in a motorcycle. Small and compact crankcases belay the strength of these motors. The Motorcycle it was built around was a wonderfully comfortable machine to ride.
The reason you can see so much of the magnifiscent motor is that it forms part of the frame, so the front of the bike is clean and very sexy to see from this angle, especially when it is wheel-standing. Spectacular!
I have owned two of these, the second one with air suspension and extensive engine modifications married to a Staintune exhaust system which cost as much as the bike did, but with the mods gave me usable torque with a pretty flat power curve that started early in the rev range and climbed all the way to the top.
The performance was outstanding at the time, and handling was good for such a big machine, although not outstanding. The important thing to me was the way it rode. Glassy smooth, heaps of revs, and a smooth as silk drive made it a hoot for weekends away on good roads. The engine weight is low to the road allowing the big six to fall in to corners like a 350.
Benelli 900 six
Beautiful! The Benelli is so beautiful to look at! I only know of a couple in Australia. The motor is beautiful and looks like the Honda six and has amazing exhausts in the European racing style.
Did I mention Beautiful? If you want one in good condition you will pay a premium, but do not buy a tired one, a rebuild may cost you twice the price of the bike and engine/gearbox parts not easy to buy or fit.
Like the Honda the Benelli is great to ride, but not as tame as the Honda, and typically Italian in looks and behavior. I like it very much, but would not be my choice above the Honda 6.
My Honda Goldwing 4
The 4 cylinder Goldwing by Honda was the first shaft driven bike I could tolerate. I hated the rise and fall the shaft drives caused at lower speeds under hard throttle on other shafties.
Even the wonderful BMW R60/5 drove me nuts with the weird handling results that came with the shafts effect on the frame and thus handling, so although it is collectable and a very good reliable machine, it doesn't pass my fun to ride criteria so is not included here.
The early 4 cylinder Goldwing overcame this problem to a fair degree, and did not have backlash in the differential like some early Yamaha's The Yamaha's had weak diffs, although I liked their early turbo shafties for the way they delivered all that thrust. If used hard the differential was gone in 20,000 klms, and I saw some fail at 5,000 klms.
On the other hand the Goldwing diff was strong and durable
A very large motorcycle with a beautiful motor and gearbox, Kawasaki made a wonderful heavy tourer that could still be thrown about like a 750........... except at higher speeds. A friend of mine loves his and has had it since new. It has covered 573,000 klms so far and is running quietly not burning any oil and still has most of it's huge pulling power. Not drastically fast, but if you like touring grunt, the 1300 has got bags of it.
I will publish this hub now, leaving you to add your favorite collectible motorcycles to this little group.