Best Classic Motorcycles to Invest in 2023 Part 1

The best classic motorcycles to invest in 2023 Part 1 covers only the Ducati brand, as there are too many to fit into one article. The British bikes of yesteryear are mostly dying on their feet and the Japanese and Italian classic motorcycles of the 1970s onwards are blazing a trail. We wrote an article Price Drivers of Italian and Japanese Classic Motorcycles predicting this back in 2015 and now that prediction has become the reality of the market and that article explains why. The focus is on safe bets as trying to predict, with only a few exceptions, is speculation. We are investment brokers, not speculation brokers. We’re often being asked about every single bike after 2000, but classics are classics. The latest we really go is the Ducati Desmosedici, except for in exceptional circumstances. Many of the machines we’re recommending are well known classics, but we know they have a lot of pressure under the prices. We are only recommending buying the top 8% which are investment grade, anything less will languish at eBay prices. Being taken in by shiny examples in well lit showrooms does not mean you are looking at an investment grade example, as this article about Two Ducati 916 SPS Foggy Replicas Examination clearly demonstrates. There is a lot more than shiny paint work that defines a classic motorcycle as an investment grade example. Although many are taken in by pretty shiny things, as values increase so fiercely, classic motorcycle investment is about authenticity and originality. No one is going to buy a Ferrari F40 with mismatched bodywork and parts from different cars from differing years.

1973 Ducati GT750 sparkle red mid corner LHS 1
A great handling classic motorcycle even on cold tyres and loose clippings.

1974 Ducati 750SS green frame

Of course this is a very well-known and well preforming classic Italian motorcycle, but it is seriously under-valued. The 1974 Ducati 750SS green frame is heading towards, and well into, seven figures over the next decade. These are the Ferrari 250 GTO of classic motorcycles and records were broken in 2022 for an exceptional example when it sold off-market. It’s now a matter of time before records are broken at a public auction for an investment grade example and that will really start to move prices on. This article Buying a 1974 Ducati 750SS Green Frame clearly tells you more about these incredible classic motorcycles, but buyer beware! Green frames are often faked or one machine split into two identical motorcycles using the original frame for one and the original engine for the other. One is exported to one country and the other to another country and one becomes two. People are building replicas using the cheaper Ducati 750 GT frame and modifying the GT heads to convert them to Desmodromic valve operation. The 750SS was built for only one year in 1974 and is covered in unique parts. Without these unique parts the machine has little value to collectors, as it will be almost impossible to acquire those elusive parts. There are several hundred green frame owners all looking for the same parts and they only really made enough of those parts for the production run of 401 machines when they were being built. It’s great if the bike is on the registries, but it could be that the bike on the registry was split into two. This does not mean the registries are of no help, quite the contrary, but there’s a lot more due diligence to do. These are a machine that really demand a qualified buyer to source one, it’s not something that can be undertaken with a book and internet links. There are many, many broken-hearted owners who are regretting the DIY approach. It’s better to pay a lot more than you thought for an investment grade example than trying to find bargains. There are no bargains out there, people know what they have got and trying to root out a bargain will mean you either miss the boat and prices will increase or you will buy the wrong bike.

Buying a 1974 Ducati 750SS green frame
This is what an investment grade green frame looks like.

Ducati 750 Sport

The round case Ducati 750 Sport is a diamond of a motorcycle, like the entire round case range. You can read our Ducati 750 Sport Road Test here about how this motorcycle will make you feel like James Bond and, like the green frame, is a work of art in its own right. Like green frames, there are many converted GTs and for the very rare Z Stripe you will need professional help in acquiring a genuine investment grade example. The Z Stripe is quite like a green frame and so many are fakes. All of these machines require a great deal of work, especially as there are so few people who can work on these motorcycles. The time to do the work on these round case Ducatis is right now, as it is only going to become more expensive than it already is. Ignore machines owned by club members, as some kind of guarantee that they’re genuine, or worked on by an unknown expert who no one knows about. Get expert help and by an investment grade example which has had all of the work done already. Whatever the owner tells you about the bike they’re trying to sell you, find out for yourself or employ someone who really does know. Investment grade examples are expensive, but they are seriously under-valued and will become madly expensive. The green frame will ensure that values of the Ducati 750 Sport will increase severely and the bike is so rideable that they deliver pure joy as well as great profits. In spite of green frame values, the 750 Sport is destined to substantially increase in value over the coming years because it is a work of art and an incredible motorcycle in its own right.

1974 Ducati 750 Sport mid corner

Ducati 750GT

The round case Ducati 750GT is one of the best “sit up straight” road motorcycles ever built, as you can read in this Ducati 750 GT Road Test here. The entire Ducati round case series will clearly offer incredible returns on investment and great joy of ownership. They are reliable once set up correctly and immense fun to ride, so they will offer so much in so many ways to prospective owners. Like the green frame and the 750 Sport, now is the time to do the work they undoubtedly need, regardless of how pretty they look in the showroom. These are like 1920s Bugatti bevel drives in so many ways. There will never be a time again when motorcycle engines are made like this, as Ducati made losses on every single motorcycle they made until 1985 when the bevel drives ceased production. They were a masterpiece of engineering and the entire round case series motors alone took one and a half days to build when new in the factory. Visually the motor itself is a work of art and I can’t think of many motors that inspire such guile when not running. Brough, Vincent, Crocker and some Harley engines are incredibly beautiful but none, other than the Crocker, deliver such outstanding performance. It’s worth noting that Crockers are now well in excess of US$1,000,000 which hints at where certain round case machines are heading in the coming years. Clearly the 750GT will become very, very expensive indeed and prices have a long way to go. Early examples are already becoming more expensive than later ones, although they’re all great classic Italian motorcycles. Finding an investment grade 750GT round case is more than challenging, there’s a lot of rubbish in the market but very few decent examples and they all need sorting out due to age. Prices of the 750GT are destined to sky rocket and now is a great time to embark on 750GT ownership and to enjoy riding the wheels off them.

The Motorcycel as Art outsude Quirky Bird
Motorcycling style for everyone from Ducati.

1975 Ducati 750 and 900SS

The 1975 Ducati 750 and 900SS was the first year of production for the square case motor, which replaced the round case series. Ducati built 246 900SS and 249 750SSwhich, if you want one of each, makes them rarer than a green frame. These are first year of production of a race winning series of motors which are exceptionally rare and they offer investors the ingredients of a pure classic. They are also stunning looking machines sharing the same frame as a green frame and covered in unique components. The 1975 had the fibreglass Imola style tank, like the green frame, and they were only produced for one year….like the green frame. Although prices are strong, they’re less than half the price of a green frame….for now. It’s a matter of time until all green frame owners will feel the need for a 1975 square case. Ultimately, they will pretty much match the green frame for price, so they are offering fantastic value to owners right now. The square case took half a day to build when new in the factory, a vast improvement over the round case, but they still had to sell every motorcycle at a loss. There is no doubt that the 1975 Ducati 750 and 900SS are offering an incredible store of value and a great deal of fun to own and ride.

1975 Ducati 900SS
1975 Ducati 900SS is pure art and a unique classic motorcycle.

1976 Ducati 900SS and 750SS

Between 1976 and 1977 Ducati only made about 1300 of the 750 and 900SS square case. Although they changed the frame, switched to left hand gear change and homologated these machines, there were several hundred unhomolgated examples the Bologna factory put out in these two years. Early chassis numbers command quite a premium and there is confusion about what defines them, although experts do understand them. These unhomologated and homologated examples are basically the same motor as the 1975 model and after 1978 Ducati tamed the motors and also made them less fragile. If set up correctly and not abused, they offer joyful and reliable ownership, they were only fragile when they were new, because people abused them. These 1976 and 77 models are destined to chase hard on the heels of the 1975 750SS and 900SS and will seriously increase in value. Finding a 1976 or 1977 Ducati 900SS or 750SS is a serious challenge. So many were raced or ridden so hard that they destroyed the original motor and just added another from another motorcycle sourced through the vast network of breakers yards of that era. Finding parts for these machines is seriously challenging, especially the 32mm carbs, Lafranconi silencers, oil vapour catch tank and airboxes they were originally sold with is almost impossible. Machines with these parts are so rare that they command enormous premiums. New, or extremely low mileage, examples are extremely rare and command enormous premiums. When buying such examples, getting them checked professionally to ensure that they are not a restored example disguised as an unrestored example is a wise move. Genuine examples are exceptionally rare and are truly museum pieces. 

1976 Ducati 900SS
1976 Ducati 900SS an iconic Italian classic motorcycle.

Ducati 750SS and 900SS 1978 to 1982

The Ducati 750 and 900SS 1978 to 1982 really do offer great value and are iconic Italian classic motorcycles.  These are stunning classic Italian motorcycles and vary wildly in price according to the year of manufacture and a few other factors. Like all of these classic motorcycles, only investment grade examples will deliver returns and machines which require work are destined to empty your pockets, it’s better to go for one that is investment grade already. This is pretty much true for all classic motorcycles, as restoration costs often outstrip present day values of an investment grade example. Be wary of shiny looking bikes that sound and look great but underneath are atrocious examples, such as this 1976 Ducati 900SS Restoration we had to undertake. These are machines which need a great deal of experience to deal with, which is why prices vary so wildly. There are no bargains with these magical Ducatis and there are many machines which shine to deceive, get expert help when buying.

1976 Ducati 900SS RHS
The 1976 Ducati 900SS is an icon of motorcycling

Early Mike Hailwood Replicas

Early Mike Hailwood Replicas are touted as the next green frame, but this only applies to the first one hundred and fifty or so. The series ones after the first hundred and fifty do command a premium over the rest of the series, but they did make over 6,000 Hailwood Reps in total. These first one hundred and fifty are very much like prototypes with unique parts which set them apart. It is believed that Ducati were only going to make about 200 units to celebrate Hailwood’s incredible win at the TT, but the bike proved so popular that Ducati added it to their range right through until 1986. These early examples had a unique seat unit, seat, petrol tank and hand painted pinstriping all over the bodywork. Many experts believe that these early examples will prove to be another green frame, prices are certainly much higher than for later examples. They certainly offer great value and will increase in value substantially. 

Early 1979 Ducati MHR RHS
Early Mike Hailwood Replica

Ducati 916 SP and 996 SPS

These have been performing so well for many reasons as we explained in the article Investing in a Ducati 916 SP or 996 SPS back in 2019. Since that article prices have increased substantially and for good reason, as explained and they are now starting to take off. They do nearly always require quite a bit of work, due to age, as you can read about in Ducati 916 All Need Work Due to Age we wrote in 2021. In many of our blogs we have predicted 916 SP and 996 SPS price rises extremely accurately and highly recommend buying them now with the work done to stay ahead of the curve. Genuine 916 SP and 996 SPS are going to become very, very expensive indeed, but like so many classic motorcycles of this age, the work needs doing and now is the time to do it. Over time, the cost of this work will only increase substantially and once it’s done and regularly maintained the bike will be fine for the next thirty or forty years.

The art of the motorcycle
Ducati 996 SPS Factory Replica Series 1

Ducati 851 SP and 888 SP series

Although much rarer than the 916 Sp and 996 SPS series, these are yet to catch them up on price, but they will certainly do so in the coming years. Some of the more unicorn versions of these are already hitting six figures, which gives an indication of where prices for this series of machines will go. We pointed out what great value an 851 or 888 SP can offer in the article we wrote Investing in the Ducati 851 and 888 SP Series back in 2020. Since then demand has risen and is becoming stronger as each week passes. Finding investment grade examples is much harder than finding investment grade 916 SPs, although that is seriously challenging. These bikes had a long period when they held little value and had very tough lives. They were expensive to service so they were ridden with scant regard for maintenance and abused. They are also that bit older than the 916 series so they’re all that bit more tired. Frame paint has nearly always failed and requires re-painting, which is expensive, or someone has done the diss-service of powder coating the frame, which will need removing. 

Ducati 851 SP3 RHS
Ducati 851 SP3.

Buy an investment grade Ducati

If you want to buy an investment grade Ducati, contact The Motorcycle Broker, you can email us on [email protected] or call 01364 649027 or 07971 497615. 

Paul Jayson

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