Motorcycles represent one of the rare collector vehicle markets in which a daily driver (or rider in this case) can check those three magic boxes: affordable, reliable, and cool. We look at five collector motorcycles you can grab now with an average #3 (Good condition) value of $2500 or less. Odds are they won’t be this cheap forever.
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Always liked the FZR600's of this era. Commonly available under this price range, but hard to find with fairing intact.
The big NX would be a great deal. If you could ever find one. A spectacular motor with torque a tractor would envy.
You should consider the 1980 to 1985 Yamaha XJ650 Maxim, especially the one year only 1981 Midnight Maxim. These were great looking reliable cruisers; 4 cylinder, DOHC 653cc, shaft drive.
Lest we forget the more desirable vintage bikes of the 1970's that can still be had in the price range you stated and even in decent condition. I've got the following, all for way less than the $2,500. 1975 GL1000 ($800 in operational condition), 1975 CB550F (Actually traded a Carnival Rifle valued at around $400 for that one in amazing condition), a 1973 CB350F in near factory original condition that sat for 14 years and needed a LOT to get running (cost there was $1,200 for the bike and about 16 hours of work on the engine out freshen up....side note, it's an 11,000 mile original down to the minty 4 into 4 factory exhaust with mirror finish chrome and paint). Then we move on to to the 1986 GL1200 (cost $1,000 in operational condition) and we round it out with the 2003 Yamaha V Star 1100 Classic with just 5,500 miles. (Cost there...an incredible $1,000 and all it needed was tires, rear brake pads and to clean the carburetors). So...Don't limit your sights on just these 5 folks! There's Tons More worthy bikes if you're handy with a wrench and a savoy negotiator. Zip~
Interesting collection of bikes. I've ridden sibling bikes of most of these (FJ1200, CBR600F1, Trans-Alp, Euro-spec KZ-650, and maybe a test ride on GS-1000 IIRC).
All these bikes are exceptionally solid choices in my experience. The CBR 600F1 would never make it into my garage (not enough torque to be fun on the street, IMO) but the rest would be welcome anytime.
I had a two road motorcycles when I was a younger lad. A 1975 Yamaha RD350 (expansion chambers, drag bars, two yellow accell coils (hot rod trick to prevent plug fouling) and man was that a fun bike, a giant killer. Then I had a GPZ 550, but mine had been customized with a full racing fairing. I loved that bike. I drove it deep into winter (upstate NY) , had a black leather "motorcycle" jacket, black helmet with "Radical" hand painted on it. Ahhhhh. the 80's, then I bought a 1984 Mustang Anniversary model (still have that) , guess I am stuck back there. Wish I had the RD probably more than the GPZ, something about the obnoxious sound those expansion chambers made, bing, bing, bing.......
Back when I was in my mid-20's I had bought a used low miles 1982 Suzuki GS1100L. First day I rode it to work, a motorcycle nut friend of mine informed me that it was the fastest production bike made in 1982. Honestly I didn't care, I loved it for the ride. Fantastically smooth ride, comfortable to ride even with a second person on it with me and yes it was fast. A few years back I saw an ad for a fully restored one for $2200. I should have bought it...
Some great 1/2 litre options in 1981. I considered the GPZ550 but purchased the 1981 RD350 liquid cooled 2-stroke instead. I sold it nearly 25 years later but kept the RD350 licence plate. Makes me smile whenever I see it in my garage.
it is always good to purchase "soon to be" collectibles at the low time in their life value. back in 1973 i loaded up a full half ton of flathead Harley 45 engines, frames, etc several basket cases for $150. still have a running rat from that pile. restoring a WLC now from it. if only i would have had an extra $50 i could of also taken the Indian Scout engine and tranny laying under the bench.......sigh. so folks, you see an opportunity, grab it. if you think wife will object, just remember it is easier to beg forgiveness than get permission.....
I had a GS850G and loved it. It was comfortable, reliable, and if you got the revs up, pretty quick as well. Now that I’m living in the heat of Texas, and not wanting to ride in shorts and flip flops, like some, I believe my motorcycle days are behind me. I find my MGB to be a nice substitute. Not quite the same, but still a lot of fun.
I owned a Suzuki GS 850 G wow living in San Francisco. This was a great super smooth bike that I was able to buy at the time for $800. With slightly lower superbike bars and a 4-to 1 Kirker exhaust, it was a very good looking bike. Also has the reputation of having the most comfortable stock motorcycle seat of of that era. Super wide and firm. I even took it on a ride one time looking for Hot Springs in Mendocino county. Where it was written like a trail bike. The shaft drive was a real benefit. Poor man’s BMW. Which is what I have right now BMWs.
Any Tonti framed Guzzi - 1970's V7 Sport, any of the T's, California's, etc deserve a place on this list. They all last longer and handle as well as any you've shown.
Here is something tangent to this article but, hopefully interesting. We use Suzuki GSXR600 drivetrains in open wheel, budget, entry level formula car racing called Formula 600 and we race in the F500 class in Sports Car Club of America (SCCA) road racing The motorcycle drivetrain was selected due to its low cost, small compact size and light weight. Since we can't buy them new, we buy them from the bike dismantlers because insurance totals a bike if it cost more than 50% of its value. The dismantlers say that all the plastic on a 600 bike costs more than 50% so when a bike's plastic is damaged to 50% or more of the bike, it is totaled, even though the drivetrain is unhurt. When installed in a 900lb (with driver) F600 they reach speeds of 140mph at 15,000 rpm. The exhaust scream is likened to a F1 car which draws a LOT of attention at SCCA road races. If you would like to see race videos of these F600's here is our website - www.theformula600challenge.com and our FB page - https://www.facebook.com/Formula600Challenge/ Enjoy on a BIG screen so that you don't miss anything. And we can rent you a F600 to go racing in.
I bought an '81 GS850G my senior year in high school. It was brand new with some light customization, 4-1 Jardine exhaust, Lockhart tailpiece rack, aftermarket mirrors, foamy grips and a "cruise control". I'd buy that thing back in a heartbeat. Awesome bike, and great for doing wheelies :-).
I had a 1973 Yamaha TX500 that I bought new the summer after I graduated from high school. My mom co-signed for it, thanks mom! I wouldn't mind buying another one, for sentimental reasons. It was a great bike, I became friends with a salesman at the local Yamaha shop. He had the same bike, so he did some modifications to mine as he did to his. It had larger cams installed, Jardine exhaust, different handle bars. My friend bought a 1973 Yamaha 650, but mine was faster with the mods done.
Your first list where I agree with EVERYTHING. That GS850 was a very popular long-haul tourer back in the late 70's/early 80's (a Canadian buddy of mine had one back when I was riding a '79 Triumph Bonneville), and those early UJM Sukuki's are about as unbreakable as you can get in a four cylinder Japanese motorcycle. One warning if you get one: Back then Suzuki was speccing it's bikes like IBM PC-clone manufacturers were speccing their computers. Every year there would be some minor changes as Suzuki found (I assume) a cheaper supplier for some certain parts. Twenty years ago, when I worked at Ducati Richmond, we learned that if we had to hit the Suzuki dealership for parts on a repair job, we needed the full VIN to ensure we got the right parts. We're talking part changes midway thru the model year at times.
CBR600 F2's and F3's are incredibly good bikes. We still see a couple come thru the Honda/Yamaha/Can-Am shop that I recently retired from. If you find one with the Smokin' Joe livery at anything like $2500, GRAB IT! They definitely go for more money than that.
GPZ550's: Incredible bikes for the money. A late riding partner of mine lost his keeping up with a pair of Ducati 916's around the course at the Isle of Man during Mad Sunday. Yes, he was holding with them all the way until he high sided.
FJ1100. One of the first really good sport tourers.
I'm riding my 1979 Yamaha XS1100FS today! It's my seventh XS1100 I've owned. Their cheap to buy, cheap to fix, and run forever. I've put over 100K on two of the bikes, and been across the country on them a few times. Much more dependable than the 2007 BMW R1200RT I used to own, and easier to service than the Kawasaki Concourse 1400 I sold two years ago!
I can imagine I’ll piss off some people here, but other than a few notables, their collector status is temporary. It’s a fad and the result of people following blindly. In some cases, their value will be overestimated and folks will spend way too much money on something that will be worthless once the fad is done. Most Japanese motorcycles were made in abundance, and there are always many more of them out there, much like the Japanese import cars that followed. There are very few noteworthy Japanese collectibles cars, and it will always be that way. They were always around as cheap transportation that got thrown away when used up.
What am I missing? Please prove me wrong. I sincerely want to know what I’m not seeing.
another one that could have made the list, 1995 BMW R100RT, last airhead built by BMW, not all that qucik but can easy make a cross crounty ride in comfort and style
Working as a claims adjuster back in the 80's, I can't tell you how many GPZ's I totalled out that had 15 miles or less on the odometer. It was basically the motorcycle equivalent of a formula 1 car, way too difficult for an inexperienced rider to control.
The GS850G had a "little brother," the GS650G. Four cylinders, four carbs, anti-dive front fork, shaft drive, disc brakes. Rode mine from Seattle to Austin, TX, and back in the middle of the summer, a great touring bike. Finally wore it out and sold it. At the time I worked at a Harley dealership. On Taco Thursday night I'd show up with 200 Harleys in the parking lot - the GS650G got all the attention.
This is actually a pretty nice list of motorcycles — I love the GPz550 pick. Unfortunately it appears that the Hurricane has once again kept the Hawk in the shadows. That’s a shame I definitely would have included the Honda Hawk GT (NT650) in this list. Having owned one as recently as just over two years ago I’m admittedly biased..
Thanks for the memories! My first motorcycle was the Suzuki GS850G. I had the full Vetter fairing with “lowers” and the trunk and saddlebags. Traveled all over the country on that. I didn’t have the
FJ1100 but I did have the ‘86 FJ1200 in the same paint scheme as pictured (even the Corbin seat ad shown). There are slot more bikes that could make the list but I’m stocked about two of mine showing up.
Great bikes - so, now I feel pretty good about my "vintage" 79 Suzuki GS550 (that I bought in 80 - guess I'm vintage too). Only problem is trying to find a replacement gas tank. Anyone out ther that can help? The only ones I found are rusted and worse than mine.
What about the GPZ550's little brother, the GPZ305? If memory serves, this was Kawasaki's first belt-drive motorcycle, using a Gates Aramid-Fiber-Reinforced final drive belt.
It is frustrating to see great bikes and mediocre condition values. The ones shown are better than Condition #3. It would be great to see some real world examples of what the bikes look like and actual transaction prices (rather than an opinion of value). Anything that runs, doesn't leak and looks to be in reasonably decent condition is pulling more that $2,500. An article like this puts unrealistic expectations into a buyer's head and creates low ball offer syndrome.
That’s a good point regarding the images used. However, rest assured that confusion over unrealistic pricing isn’t restricted to buyers only. Fortunately at the end of the day, any given machine for sale is only worth that amount where what the buyer is willing to pay overlaps with what the seller is willing to let it go for. Should such an overlap not occur, then the value is no longer measured in dollars so much as it is desire. Only to be readjusted at a point in time further down the road.
I had a Suzuki GS850G, rode it everywhere, put over 100K miles on it before a drunk guy turned into my path one night. Boy, do I miss that bike! It was smooth as silk to ride. I have even had dreams about it. If I ever got a bike again, it would be one of those. I am surprised to see it on this list, however. I would not have thought Hagerty would talk about something that many consider to be kind of a mundane bike.
I've still have my 1977 Suzuki GS750B, which I bought new. I haven't ridden it since 1995 when the CA-DMV lost the insurance certificate so I never received my tags. Anyway, it was about time that I put it away for awhile. There wasn't a week which had gone by that I didn't break 100 mph.
A little history about the model. Although there wasn't an actual "A" model, the early editions had different carbs and possibly cams, so they couldn't keep up with me. My bike was about equal to the Kawasaki KZ-1000. In 1978, the new GS750 was noticeably slower and even the GS850 was slower than my bike. Probably with the introduction of the GS1100, it had to be the fastest bike at the time and they didn't want to show it up by a lesser bike.