Japanese Classic Motorcycle Prices Must Increase

Japanese classic motorcycle prices must increase as the writing is on the wall. Now is a really great time to buy a Japanese classic motorcycle because prices will have to increase for numerous reasons, as I will explain. We have been studying the classic motorcycle market for nearly twenty years and we understand the markers for each model that appear before classic motorcycle price increases appear in the market. That is how we prompted our customers towards the value the Ducati 916 SP was offering back in 2019. We wrote the article Investing in a Ducati 916 SP prior to the price increases because the markers were similar to those for Japanese classic motorcycles now. Although there have been some world records for Japanese classic motorcycles, prices have been fairly static and must rise for very good reason, they are unsustainably low now. Many will howl that they are expensive now, but a new Honda Fireblade is around £24,000. When you consider that a new motorcycle is built quickly on a production line and a classic motorcycle is stripped by hand, completely restored, assembled by hand, test ridden, shaken down and then fettled for ages, then it’s easy to understand why classic motorcycles are excellent tangible assets.

Honda CBX1000
The Honda CBX1000 is long over due a serious price increase.

World record prices

There have already been world record prices for Japanese classic motorcycles over the past few years. The Honda CB750 Sandcast prototype which sold in early 2018 for £161,000 is a marker for where sandcast prices will head in the future. There was the world record price for a Honda RC30 in May 2022 at Silverstone Auctions, now Iconic Auctions. There was the really poor restoration of a 1973 Kawasaki Z900 at Mecums Auctions early this year of US$55,000. What is striking about this sale is that it was apparently two car buyers bidding against each other who had little knowledge of motorcycles. It’s clear they thought they were bidding on a 1972 model, as the 1973 has a lower value and is more common than the 1972 but look similar. We wrote about more evidence of classic car money pouring into classic motorcycles back in 2019. Usually classic car owners are much more sophisticated than classic motorcycle buyers, although this is changing, but in this case the two bidders really did not know what they were buying. There have been numerous records for Japanese racing motorcycles sold off market over the last decade, with many prices running into the many millions of pounds sterling. All of this is a head of steam building up under Japanese classic motorcycles which will drive prices upwards very soon.

Prototype sandcast LHS
Honda Sandcast prototype sets world record price

Japanese classic motorcycles require a lot of work

Japanese classic motorcycles require a lot of work due to age, most are overhead camshaft engines with nylon cam chain tensioners you can read more about this in our article about Honda CBX1000 cam chain tensioners and cylinder heads from last year. After forty or fifty years the nylon is now brittle, hard and falling to pieces as the cam chain slides over it. The Honda CBX1000 is a great case in point now and I’ve written an article specifically about them, but I do recommend joining The Inside Line to read the full length article, as this is a less detailed article as a heads up. When changing the cam chain tensioner the entire engine needs to be stripped and there is quite a lot to look out for on the CBX1000 as it really is quite a complex motor. They are certainly not the type of engine you can strip in your shed with no prior experience of them. Nearly all Japanese classic motorcycles require the cylinder heads skimming after stripping, again due to age. CBX1000s require special attention when skimming the head as a straight skim will wreck the head. Forty or fifty years of heat cycles and ageing aluminium usually causes some distortion when the head is removed at this point in time. When you take into account the amount of engine work required to these machines today, paint, plating, wheel building, wiring and the cost of parts, it is really clear that these machines are extremely undervalued. 

Honda CBX1000 Motor and head laid out
There’s a lot of parts in a Honda CBX1000 motor.

Cost of classic motorcycle parts

The cost of classic motorcycle parts have increased in the extreme over the last ten years. Less parts are being manufactured for these machines and hard to find parts have to be bought at the cost the owner wants to sell them. There are very few high quality replica parts available for Japanese classic motorcycles and cheap ones will cause damage, as they are cheap for a reason. It costs a lot to make high quality parts in small numbers, we know because we make them. Conversely, a high price does not always guarantee high quality as there are some unscrupulous parts traders, especially in the UK. Buying used parts is usually very costly and those parts always require restoring, as they are used, which is further cost and time. When seeking used parts for a Japanese classic motorcycle there will be plenty of other people restoring the same bike and looking for the same part. Which ever way you look at it, Japanese classic motorcycle restoration is a very costly business.

Honda CBX1000 looking down camshafts
Buying camshafts for a Honda CBX1000 would be ridiculously costly if you can find them.

Powder coat can save money

Powder coat can save money, instead of painting the frame, but it will cost you dearly in the long run. Cheap powder coat is extremely detrimental to the integrity of the frame long term. If powder coating is to be done correctly then it costs the same as painting a frame. However, it still has disadvantages over proper paint and it also devalues the resale price of the classic motorcycle. You can try and shave costs here and there, but it will only devalue the motorcycle or end up costing more in the long run. Doing a job properly always costs a certain amount and when you cut corners you cut quality. People only pay top dollar for high quality classic motorcycles, not for future problems with badly restored machines. The cost of restoring Japanese classic motorcycles is so much higher than the cost of a beautifully restored investment grade example that prices must increase. There is a lot of classic car money pouring into the classic motorcycle market because it offers such great value compared to the cars.

Honda CBX1000 engine out
Paint my cost more, but it’s much more authentic and much, much cheaper in the long run than older coat.

Japanese classic motorcycles are rare

Japanese classic motorcycles are rare and were never made in massive numbers. Plenty were crashed, stolen, broken for parts and made into choppers, which removed them from the classic motorcycle market. Finding investment grade classic Japanese motorcycles is seriously challenging and they are being snapped up by very strong hands who are prepared to wait for prices to seriously increase before they’ll consider letting them go. It is false economy to try and make a shabby classic into an investment grade example, because it never works and they never deliver the desirability. Classic car investors are sophisticated and experienced in the market, they have learned that trying to sniff out bargains always costs more than paying for quality. It’s always cheaper to pay what it costs to secure an investment grade classic Japanese motorcycle, bargains are bargains for a reason which prevents them from being bargains. Now is the time to invest in a Japanese classic motorcycle as Japanese classic motorcycles must increase. If you want to acquire an investment grade Japanese classic motorcycle, contact The Motorcycle Broker or fill out the form below so we can discuss which machines are of interest to you.

    Paul Jayson

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