European motorcycles are characterized by their unique styling, great handling, and a classic, unique riding experience.
Any list of motorcycles is subjective, but they are invaluable to some new motorcycle buyers - if it's on the list, then it's a well-known, proven classic brand.
Triumph motorcycles first opened to the public in 1902. Their most famous motorcycle has to be the Bonneville. Named after the world record Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah, USA, the Bonneville name is still in the Triumph lineup today.
The original Bonneville was first made available to the public in 1959. Early prices were roughly $14,000. However, the scarcity of early machines ensured that their prices were stable (no massive jumps or drops) and increasing.
Ducati's fortunes made great strides in 1978 when it won the Isle of Man F1 TT. Mike Hailwood Replica (based on the TT winning machine) made sales of over 7,000 and saved the company from defeat. The Ducati 851 kept the company going. This machine combined the famous Desmodromic tile actuation system with water cooling and computer-controlled fuel injection. But the 888 (an upgraded version of the 851) put Ducati back on top of the European Superbike standings.
The 888 won two World Superbike Championships (with American rider Doug Polen in 1991/2) and was the predecessor of the highly acclaimed 916. The 888 featured a tubular frame made of Chromoly (SAE 4130) and combined with Ohlins (rear) and Showa (fork) suspensions to give excellent handling characteristics. 1993 888 A very good selling price was around $4500, which made them a very popular classic motorcycle.
The classic Triton outside Ace Cafe in London. The main competitor to the early Triumph Bonneville was the Norton, at least as far as handling was concerned. Motorcycle riders of the time (the 1960s) wanted the power and performance of the Triumph Bonneville engine and the superior handling of the Norton featherbed frame - combining the two to produce the famous Triton.
Tritons could be found outside most cafes in the UK for much of the 1960s and quickly became the bike of the cafe race.
The price of Triton's depends heavily on their condition, history, and build quality. For the inexperienced buyer, it is recommended that the condition of the bike be checked before the purchase.
Vincent Black Shadow
The Vincent Black Shadow is considered to be the first superbike, a development of the Rapide. The 'C' series was first introduced in 1948. The 998-cc 50-degree V-Twin engine in the Black Shadow produced 55 horsepower and was capable of propelling the 455-pound machine to 125 miles. Interestingly, more than a year after the Black Shadow was deployed, Yamaha built the cantilevered rear suspension system.
The 1949 Series 'C' Black Shadow cost about $43,000. However, the rarity of these motorcycles tends to push up the price.
Not all classic motorcycles have big engines or amazing performance. In terms of sales numbers, the D1 Bantam was one of the most successful motorcycles ever sold in Europe. Although there are no official figures for the production of the D1 Bantam, BSA is known to have produced over 50,000 units by 1951.
The D1 Bantam was first opened to the public in 1948. It's design was based on the German DKW 125 two-stroke. The BSA factory had acquired the design as part of the Second World War reparations. The machine was designed by German engineer Hermann Weber. A 1948 D1 in good condition is worth about $3500.
The Laverda Jota is a three-cylinder, four-stroke chain-driven twin overhead camshaft. The Jota was introduced in 1976, and the 981-cc Jota was shown as a prototype of the bike at the 1971 Milan Motorcycle Show. The original design had an overhead camshaft and was the company's 750cc twin-cylinder engine.
British importer Slater Brothers was instrumental in helping Jota with production and worked closely with the factory to enter the Jota in several motorcycle race victories. The three-cylinder engine had a unique sound due to its crankshaft design (two pistons, one up and one down).
Unfortunately, this design also produced considerable vibration (a problem solved by rubber mounts in 1982).
Moto Guzzi Le Mans Team
Every manufacturer has a group of loyal supporters, and Moto Guzzi is no exception. One of the company's best-known motorcycles is Guzzi Le Mans. The Le Mans 850cc race bike was first opened to the public in 1975. For Guzzi enthusiasts, Le Mans had all the characteristics of a classic manufacturer and was competitive with the Japanese motorcycles of the time.
The shaft-driven V-Twin had some drawbacks (fast clutch, torque response from the crankshaft, tendency to rear wheel lock if descent changes were not synchronized with engine speed), but was popular among street riders and racers. Today, clubs all over the world support the brand, including the Moto Guzzi World Club. An early example (1976) was valued at about $7,000.
MV Agusta 750 Sport
Loosely developed from the company's Grand Prix drivers, the 750S is a DOHC (double overhead camshaft) inline four-cylinder four-stroke shaft main reduction.
The actual engine capacity was 790 cc. However, the original engine was a 600cc engine developed for street use by Mike Hailwood and the John Surtees 500 GP winning driver.
Considered by many to be one of the best-looking classics ever built, it attracts classic collectors everywhere, which makes for a relatively high price tag of around $45,000.
Designed by Max Friz, the BMW R series is known worldwide for its solid German engineering and quality. Used primarily as a touring motorcycle, this boxer-engine (horizontally opposed flat twin-axle) drive machine is BMW's best-selling motorcycle, with over 100,000 units sold. GS stands for Gelände/Straße, which is German for terrain/road, indicating the dual purpose of the bike.
The GS series has been a very successful long-distance off-road racer in events such as the Paris Dakar Rally.
Early (1980) GS's cost about $4,000, making them a reasonably priced classic.
The Norton Commando (named after the elite British soldier) was designed by a team of Norton engineers, namely Bob Trigg, Dr. Stefan G Bauer, Bernard Hooper, and John Favill. The 745cc tilting parallel motorcycle was first shown to the public at the Earls Court Motorcycle Show in 1945. The large twin-cylinder engine was known for its tendency to vibrate. The Commando 1967 was valued at approximately $7,200.