Everyone likes a bargain. Stories of Vincent twins pulled from barns or unearthed Indian Fours are common entertainment for some, but not those who realize there’s still smart deals to be made. Predicting the next hot classic isn’t an easy thing to do, but never forget the importance of name recognition. Each of these machines were recent purchases at the Las Vegas winter auctions where they were tagged as being on the upswing. The list can change often but once classic, always classic. Click on the linked photos to enlarge, scroll down for more, and drop a line to tell us how we're doing: firstname.lastname@example.org
Kawasaki 500cc Mach III
The link to Kawasaki’s legendary 750cc Mach IV and four-stroke Z1 isn’t the only reason the smaller 500 is gaining ground as a collectible. The 250/350cc Mach I and II triples are also highly desirable; each credited for helping Kawasaki’s establish its role as a performance leader. Heritage and lore surround the Mach III, and as those campfire stories grow in smoky uncontrolled fury, so does the air-cooled triple’s value.
Bimota SB3 Instantly recognized as high-end Italian exotica, Bimota caters to the owner willing to pay for uncompromising speed using the era’s best engines. Fitted with Suzuki’s 8v GS1000 DOHC four the SB3 was a more powerful, less flashy version of the 750cc Suzuki SB2 released in 1977. According to book author Giorgio Sarti, Bimota’s decision to tone down the program saw the company forsake its traditional red and white for a more subtle light gray shown here (<left, Motorrad photo). More than that, the SB3 marked Bimota’s progress as a producer, even though 75% of the SB3s produced were manufactured from kits. Those sixty-odd factory built machines will command the highest dollars, but trusted documentation is a tricky business for sure.
Too few US enthusiasts understand what was accomplished with Peter Williams’ IOM F750 win in 1973, but credit that glory and the team's catchy John Player motif for the distinctive JPS replica of 1974. Boldly racer-like with its streamlined twin-headlight nose, a matching one-piece tank/seat cover was dropped over the standard MK II Commando 850 chassis.
Hot list: Three Classics to Watch
Norton Commando John Player Replica Gaining steam and with no ceiling in sight, factory performance parallel twins from BSA, Triumph, Norton and Royal Enfield have become investment purchases. We've seen a healthy jump in what buyers are willing to pay for solid Featherbed Atlas, but we're not counting works models such as the Commando Production Racer ('Yellow Peril") and certainly not the firm’s highly respected racing singles. That’s important to know, because for many years Triumph’s popularity in the USA caused a soft market for the otherwise respected Norton brand, with clean 750 Commandos selling for half the price of a tidy twin-carb 650 Bonneville. The Triumph still holds an edge, but the gap has closed.
With a claimed 87-horsepower at 8,250rpm the DOHC GS1000 was among the best sporting motorcycles available. Tipping the scales at 440-lb dry the SB3 shattered normal standards of speed and ability, yet remained well controlled thanks to its rigid frame and top components from Marzocchi and Brembo. A hammer price of $16,250 (including premium) may strike some as high, but not when compared against hi-po rivals like the 900 Z1, Ducati 750 SS or Bimota’s own moneybag SB2. Most agree the Suzuki/Bimota 1000 is a better motorcycle that can be had for less. How much less and for how long? That’s the question.
Sold in good number (especially early, prior to releasing the 903cc four) many H1s were abused and scrapped but an increasing number of ‘original’ survivors (most being modified machines returned to stock specs) are showing up. Not long ago a decent H1 could be had for $4500. This one sold at Las Vegas in 2014 for $8000 with premiums. That’s nearly double. People often ask the secret of predicting desirability and I'll admit it's a guess. Still, nothing beats a good story and the 500 Mach III has one.
Clip-ons and rear sets give the required racer pose, but that JPS style wasn’t always worth the extra bother in everyday riding conditions. Availability lasted only one-year. Bonhams believes between 200 and 300 JPS Commandos were made, with 120 coming to US soil. $16.000 for an original JPS Commando with less than 10.000 miles strikes as a figure soon to be surpassed, given the model’s historical presence and style. Long dormant in collectible circles, the JPS is moving up. Nolan Woodbury.
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Kick start only, three 29mm Mikunis feed an engine capable of producing one-horsepower for every eleven pounds of motorcycle. The double cradle frame with twin reinforced top tubes wasn’t strong enough to control the engine’s prodigious peak and the 180mm drums were dated. Later versions used a single 296mm disc up front. Top speed: 120-mph.