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Vintage Japanese Bikes Turn Into Great Investment

1979 Honda CBX 1000

An article posted earlier today discusses the huge profits realized by those savvy enough to invest in certain vintage Japanese motorcycles, such as early model Honda CB750s and CBX 1000s, as well as early Kawasaki Z1s or Suzuki GT750s.

The most valuable bikes feature all original parts, just as is the case with automobile collecting. In the linked article, an expert thinks original clean Honda CBXs are currently worth £25,000 ($31,300), “but I’m confident they will go to £100,000 pounds ($125,250) soon.” A pre-production 1969 Honda CB750 sold last year for £161,000 ($201,500).

The article indicates that non-Japanese brands have seen a surge in prices, as well. The article is worth a read … but try not to shed a tear over all of those old bikes you should have held on to.


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75 Comments

  1. Anonymous says:

    In 96′ I picked up an 81′ CBX for 500 bucks.
    Got her on the road for another 12 hundred including a full Supertrapp system.
    Music to the ears for sure.
    I would lay in bed a night wondering which one of the 6 carbs was going to go out of sync.
    You haven’t lived until you’ve tried to line those puppies up onto the engine boots.

  2. Gham says:

    I bought the wrong classic but at least it’s probably worth a couple hundred bucks more than what I paid for it 13 years ago!

  3. Bubba Blue says:

    It isn’t really an “Investment.” If it’s a valuable one, it’s because it’s like new. Someone put it away when almost new, cared for it, and never used it. Otherwise, you’d have to chance upon one available somewhere to buy it, which you couldn’t do easily. It still wouldn’t be a good investment compared to Apple shares or real estate in California.

  4. Provologna says:

    You have not lived till riding a razor-sharp tuned, otherwise stock OEM black w/gold/white stripe ’80 CBX, with ’79 cams (’80 cams 5-10hp less), S&W progressive dual-spring shocks (blue and black springs), re-valved forks, fork brace, Pirelli Phantom tires, Denco 6-1 header w/OEM airbox (velocity stacks cut torque in half), and Honda factory sport kit (lower bars, shorter control cables/hoses, rear sets). Pretty sure ’80 also came with bronze swingarm bearings while ’79 was cursed with almost criminally bad nylon type.

    Blipping the throttle on that bike was a memorable sensual experience.

  5. Anonymous says:

    Old vehicles aren’t financial investments in the conventional sense of the term; they are speculative assets. Rising market prices are more of a bonus for existing owners who are getting a return on their object in other ways. Any financial return on a 30+ year old motorcycle, however valued, would have been offset by the amount spent on maintenance, storage, and insurance/security.

  6. Tank says:

    Motorcycles and music from the 70s will always be special to those of us that got to experience them back then. They make me feel young again.

  7. Grover says:

    When the collector “virus” hits your favorite classic, whether it be a car or motorcycle…there goes your hobby. Greedy collectors will pay big money hoping that the price will increase so they can make a fat profit. Have you saw what has happened to the 356 Porsches lately? Completely inaccessible to the average guy. Don’t get me started on the Muscle car market.

  8. Rhinestone Kawboy says:

    $31,300 for a used CBX. No way in hell from me. I wouldn’t mind having one, but no way at that price.

  9. Ghostryder says:

    I have bought and sold vintage bikes for the last 12 years as a hobby since my retirement.
    Mostly Japanese but sometimes a BMW or a British Twin.
    I’ve witnessed the decline in prices in the last few years for most vintage bikes, regardless of the make.
    My take on this is the collectors are getting up in the years and are selling, not buying.
    I still manage to make a decent profit on every bike I’ve purchased(over 50 motorcycles) except for one, a clapped out BSA.
    There are a few young guys out there who still like the vintage look and the cafe market is pretty strong.
    Meantime, I look everyday for that forgotten classic, hidden away in the corner of someone’s garage waiting to be resurrected.

    • Mike says:

      I agree about values going down and the age of buyers going up. I had a Ducati bevelhead for sale and it seemed everyone that was interested in it was older than me (I’m 66) That meant they were on fixed incomes, had arthritis (oh, that clutch lever pulls hard!) and just wanted to lowball me. I think there are very few younger collectors that are going to pay high prices. I ended up selling 2 bevelheads to people in the area so at least I could see/hear about them from time to time.

  10. rg500g says:

    Old sport bikes are like over the hill divas – they can hit the high note every now and then but oh, the maintenance in between. I bought a clapped out Suzuki RG500 gamma to learn about 2 strokes and spent 20 years fettling this and that until I could do no more without replacing the frame, then I sold it and shed no tears. It was certainly a thrill, you were sweating fouled plugs in traffic until you got to a good, twisty country road where it could do its thing. I found that a ’71 BSA Lightning could make you similarly incontinent at the apex (for different reasons) but I didn’t have to keep a set of fresh gapped plugs on me during the ride. Its maintenance was a doddle compared to the gamma, but rather than worry about plug fouling you worried about the idle changing over the course of a ride as the Amals heat soaked. The end result was similar to the gamma experience – it stalls at a stoplight and you can’t kick it over again. Oh, the symphony of car horns behind you as you figure out how you can push the bike to the curb and kick it over 20 times…

    • Anonymous says:

      Had the same experience with a 73 Kawasaki 750 triple. Plug fouling piece of crap that couldn’t handle for shyte. It’s at the top of the three worst bikes I’ve ever owned.

    • My2cents says:

      I spent considerable time on a RG 250 which is stock tune never fouled a plug and went like stink, cornered like on rails, and drew a small crowd of envious onlookers.

  11. Moto-Kafe says:

    Go to Mid-Ohio Vintage Days and/or Barber’s Vintage Festival to witness if Vintage Bike nostalga is on the decline or if prices are dropping………or a Mecum Bike Auction. There may be less people interested in Vintage Bikes, but still plenty of folks around with deep pockets who will shell out the coins to own one.

    • mickey says:

      Vintage Japanese bikes are the new 57 Chevys of our parents or older brothers. You can’t go to a car show without seeing dozens of them. You’d think Chevy could have stayed in business forever just selling 57 Chevys.

      These days you go to a bike show and there are a gazillion restored Japanese bikes from the 70’s.

      I will say I was working at a Honda shop when the CBX’s came out and I had a red 79 Demo for awhile. What exotica. Handling? Horsepower? Who cares it was beautiful and sounded great! Not every motorcycle has to weigh, run and handle like a MotoGP bike.

  12. Dino says:

    No centerstand, and look at those tank seams..

    Kidding of course! Man, just the look of those pipes, and how outrageous it was for the time! Any vintage bike should run fine, once you get the carbs sorted out, and run gas with no Ethanol… Even the “regular” gas with 10 percent is enough to wreck all those rings and seals in the fuel system, unless you used a modern conversion kit.
    Run them, and enjoy them!!

  13. Anonymous says:

    Some people think ‘aero wings’ on bikes are something new. Look at the back of this thing!

  14. motorhead says:

    This is an extremely limited market for just a few bikes. These collectible motorcycle models are like the vintage race cars: sure, these few models still command a high price to a couple serious collectors, but anything else is plunging in value. Kids aren’t buying into it, and I can’t blame them.

    • carl says:

      I agree most this stuff sells because like myself I actually remember those models coming out and maybe at the time couldn’t afford to buy it. Now I can but just like the muscle cars when the baby boomers fade away the value will plunge because the generations behind them have no clue. I know 3 family members, male in their 30’s who don’t even have a drivers license. No desire or need for a car???? Unreal

      • Mikey says:

        I agree, to them a v six Camry will rule balls.
        Arguably the last American muscle car is the v6 six speed Honda Accord coup.

        • Dino says:

          Accidentally hit the report post, instead of reply..

        • Dino says:

          To most younger folks, maybe a V6 is a muscle car.. they can be fun. But if you look around just a little, Dodge still makes some unreal muscle cars (Charger Demon, Hellcat, even hot v8 versions of other models). Don’t forget the Mustang, Corvette, etc… suprising how much muscle you can still buy, brand new, with a warranty and meets emissions.
          Just seems to be much less interest from the young’uns in vintage bikes and cars.

          • Dave says:

            It’s fun to romanticize muscle cars but the truth is, they were pretty slow by today’s standards. When I was young, a car that ran 0-60 in 6 sec. was fast. Anything 5sec. or less was exotic. My brother’s eco-boost 4-cyl F150 goes 0-60 in 6 sec.

  15. GP says:

    After a short trip into the vintage dirt bike world, I quickly found that vintage machines are much better off left as a fond memory. Real time/life re-familiarization tarnished my memories, and it cannot be undone.

    • John A. Kuzmenko says:

      I’d be interested in reading about your experience with that.

      For myself, I was buying my first $100 POS Special when this CBX was a brand-new motorcycle.
      I remember thinking the CBX having a ridiculously wide engine, and remember reading in motorcycle magazines a few years later (after the CBX had been discontinued) that there were employees of Honda Motor Co. back in Japan who argued that the CBX engine was not a motorcycle engine but an automobile engine, meaning they felt it had no place on a street-going motorcycle.
      No wonder it was a sales flop.

      • MGNorge says:

        My brother had two CBX’s. There was a quality of that motor, silky smooth and sounding like a Porsche 911 much of the time while riding. To me the CBX was a tribute to the sixes Honda raced in the mid-sixties. Fantastic!

      • GP says:

        I always pined for a Can-Am TN’T. When I was young, my friend had a 250 TN’T, and that thing was incredible, compared to my DT250.
        Now, some 40 plus years later, my brother found a clean example of a 1974 Can-Am 175 TN’T, and he picked it up for me. I wanted to love it, and I was infatuated with it – for about 2 months. I registered it for the road, and put some work into making it as good as I could, but the difficulty in finding parts made it difficult. I soon discovered that the cobby-ness of the controls, the lack of any real braking, and the super short suspension travel made it all but useless as a real-world dual sport bike. I was happy to give it back to my brother, but sad that my memories and dreams had been forever tarnished.

        • John A. Kuzmenko says:

          Yes, Stone Age suspension is exactly what I don’t miss about vintage bikes.
          My Yamaha TW200 is close enough to that.

        • mickey says:

          When I was a kid I wanted a BMW. My dad rode Indians, then Harleys but I loved the looks of BMWs. Started on an Aermachi, then switched to Hondas and Yamahas. When I was 26 I had saved up $ 2000 for a new motorcycle. A new 1976 R 90s was $3999. I was going to put $2k down and finance the other $2K. So I went up to buy and took it for a test ride.What a dissapointment. I hated that thing. Was like riding a carrousel, up and down up and down as the suspension and shaft drive combined to make in town travel miserable. It clunked badly when shifting, shuddered at slow speed and hated running below 4000 rpms. I was crushed. I wanted one for so long and the dissapointment was nearly unbearable. I ended up buying a new 77 KZ1000 Kawasaki for $1877 out the door. Paid cash and had gas money left over. What a great motorcycle. The point is, sometimes we build up things in our heads that expectations can never meet.

    • Nomadak says:

      Truth in them words!

  16. Harry says:

    I hope the person that stole mine , has two broke legs and a clutch leaver through back side??
    which took place in Paridise Pa. out side of Lancaster, Pa.

  17. 2smoker says:

    I have ’73 and ’85 Yamaha 2-smokers. Old bikes are fun to ride and fun to wrench on. It’s mostly a novelty compared to modern bikes. I’m not sure about investment. That kinda takes the fun out of it for me.

  18. TP says:

    The CBX is the most exhilarating bike I ever rode. I wouldn’t get too excited about collectibility. I restored 6 UJMs. It’s fun and I bought myself an education. The return on investment was the fun I had doing that, along with riding the bikes and the friends I made, not the money from selling them.

  19. DucDynasty says:

    As W.C. Fields might say….”Old bikes are like elephants. I like to look at them but I wouldn’t want to own one”.
    My buddies and I always say you can’t really go back. Most all modern bikes are so much better that the 1960’s and 70’s bikes.
    Still fun to see them.

    • RBS says:

      I don’t know…I still have a 1975 Honda CB400F in my garage, with my other bikes. Are my newer bikes “better” than it is? In some ways. None of them can touch how much fun my CB400F is to ride on a weekend, though. And it sure looks pretty in my garage! I’d say that it might the the bike that is *most* worth having, not the least.

      • Anonymous says:

        But it is not as exciting to ride as the new Z400.

        • todd says:

          Probably just as “exciting” but likely more fun.

        • RBS says:

          You think that a twin cylinder bike for beginners is going to be more exciting than a screaming four cylinder cafe-style bike?

          Maybe you haven’t been riding long enough to understand about different types of motorcycles? That’s like saying that the latest CB1100EX (four) will be as exciting as the CBX, because they are both in the same displacement category and the CB1100EX is newer and makes a bit more horsepower.

      • RBS says:

        A twin cylinder beginners bike and a four cylinder cafe-style bike don’t compare as far as how fun they are to ride. Even from different eras.

        The Honda CB1100EX (four) that Honda currently sells is completely modern, and makes more horsepower than the CBX, but it’s not even in the same realm for excitement as the CBX.

        • Anonymous says:

          Agree with you about the CB1100EX. No excitement there. But the CB1000R is far more exciting than both.

        • Anonymous says:

          You’re crazy if you think a ’75 CB400F is anywhere near as good as the new Z400.

          • RBS says:

            It’s not a matter of whether it is “as good.” I guess you didn’t understand my example.

            The Z400 may have about the same horsepower as the CB400F, or maybe even a couple more. But it’s a common two cylinder beginners bike. The CB400F is a classic collectable bike. It has a screaming four cylinder engine and it corners as if on rails. The latter will be way more fun to ride, to own, and even to look at. The CB400F will valuate as long as you have it. The Z400 is for beginners, and will devaluate like crazy from the moment you take it home till eternity.

            Same with the CB1100EX vs. the CBX. The CB1100EX is a fine modern bike. It probably makes more horsepower than the CBX and has more bells and whistles. But anybody who is knowledgeable about motorcycles would rather have the latter.

          • Mike says:

            The newer bike will always be quantitatively better than a 40 to 50 year old bike. But there is a reason why people collect certain legendary classic bikes. It’s because they brought something to the table that no bike since has. A Z400 is a nice bike. Is anyone anywhere going to consider it a collectable one day?

        • Dave says:

          Nostalgia is not a universal excitement. To any younger rider, these bikes are just old and antiquated. There isn’t a single thing that a 50 year old CB400 can do better than a new z400 except stoke old men’s memories. Ditto the old CBX vs. the new CB1000EX.

          • Mike says:

            Pull up somewhere with a lot of people and see which bike people crowd around to have a look at. Hint: it won’t be the CB1100EX. And it won’t just be “old men.”

            Similarly, you can pull up with a shiny new Corvette and hardly anyone will notice. Pull up with a Ferrari Daytona (from the ’60’s) and you will draw a crowd. Kids too.

            It’s true, young, inexperienced riders only tend to like shiny new bikes. But lots of newbies become knowledgeable in time, and they can figure out, for instance, how special a six-cylinder sport bike is vs. a common four.

          • Dave says:

            Couldn’t care less about who does or doesn’t want to look at my bike or whether or not it’ll be collectible one day, because I bought it to use it, not to attract attention.

            If someone gave me that 60’s Ferrari, I’d sell it, buy the new Tesla 3 and pay off my house.

          • Anonymous says:

            “Pull up somewhere with a lot of people and see which bike people crowd around to have a look at.”

            A lot of people like looking at old stuff. Me too. Doesn’t mean we want to own it.

        • fred says:

          I have owned both an ’82 CBX and a ’77 CB400F. Both bikes were beautiful, and sounded great. Especially the CB/X, as it still has the best-sounding exhaust I’ve ever heard. The truth is that modern bikes are (or at least can be) far better. The brakes on both were unimpressive. The CBX’s brakes faded after 1 hard stop from 100+, and were worthless in hard riding. The 400F’s brakes were fair, but marginal. Skinny forks, flexi-frames, weak shocks/suspension, hard tires, heavy weights, etc.

          I loved them both, but the 400F died after crashing in a corner that a Z400 would take with ease. The CBX was sold to a collector when I needed money.

          To each their own. I’m glad that I owned them, and that some people have chosen to be caretakers. Each had a wonderful place in history.

  20. dt-175 says:

    whatsa carb clean on a CBX cost these days?

    • Mark says:

      Just had my CBX carbs cleaned/rebuilt by a specialist in AZ. $900. My 79 was running great with original untouched carbs, but I put the bike in storage for two-years during a relocation and despite doing everything “by the book” (drain carbs, Sta-bil, etc.) they leaked pretty badly at the end. There are just a ton of o-rings and seals to leak when you have six of these things ganged together. Haven’t installed them yet, but they look brand new.

      Getting them on/off is tricky as you have to tilt the engine forward in the chassis to get enough access and throttle/choke cables are in a very awkward spot for hookup. 40-yo carb boots don’t do one any favors either. But it is doable and there are specialists who can put these carbs in new condition, albeit for a price.

      • dt-175 says:

        so it was 900 just for the clean and you still pulled/installed them yourself? how many more hours does the book say THAT takes?

        • Mark says:

          Don’t know what the book calls for, but it’s probably a few hours. You have to remove the exhaust, disconnect a few things, loosen carb bands, and remove several engine mounting bolts to lower/tilt engine with a floor jack. From there, it’s the usual throttle/choke cable stuff and some manhandling of the carb bank on/off the boots. If you’re not a mechanic, it might be hard to find an “old-schooler” to do it – this is not something the 19-yo grease monkey at the local Honda dealer should be tackling.

          The carbs are definitely a consideration if you want to own one of these. Some folks worry about 24 shim-adjusted valves, but a valve check on a CBX (especially a 79 or 80) is much easier than a modern 4-cyl sportbike and if you do have to re-shim, they’re shim OVER bucket so you don’t need to pull cams. You do need a special tool.

    • Ralph W. says:

      Do it yourself. That’s why I like carbs. There is nothing that can go wrong with them that I can’t fix myself.

    • todd says:

      I had an old Yamaha four that had been sitting since the early nineties, outside under a tarp with gas still in it. I took the carbs off, soaked them in a tub of $12 carb cleaner, blew it out with compressed air and ran the bike flawlessly for the next 32,000 miles.

      • Jeremy says:

        “There is nothing that can go wrong with them that I can’t fix myself.”

        That is true. And I’m pretty good at it since I have to fix the damn things all the time.

        Honestly, there is nothing I can’t fix on a fuel injection system either. I’ve just never had to yet which is why I prefer them over carbs. But to be fair to your point, if something goes wrong with FI, you’re most likely going to have to replace something expensive. A carb can be fixed on the spot 9 times out of 10.

        • Ralph W. says:

          What sort of crappy bikes do you ride, Jeremy. The only carb problem I’ve had in years was because of a tank full of bad fuel (probably dosed with ethanol) which rotted all of the rubbers from the tank cap seal to the carb.

  21. Tommy D says:

    I believe that nostalgia is a moving target with the age of the demographic looking for it constantly moving up. This effect raises the age of desired past objects to approximately 40-50 years ago from the current date. In example I’m 57 and the CBX hits me with nostalgia of something I wish I had when I was too young and broke.

    You now see sports cars of the 70’s becoming objects of desire (Google the price of a restored Datsun 240z) and same with the bikes. This has moved on from the 50’s nostalgia that was big in the 2000’s. Harley’s with 50’s color schemes sold really well. What is funny is that 40 years ago today for younger buys is hard core Harley choppers you see at Born Free shows and blacked out bikes that were the rage in the late 70’s…. We now see 70’s styled bikes are in the showrooms from most manufacturers. Guess what I own a 18 CB1000R. A classic modern. The Kawi 900RS is another heart tugging design aimed at my demographic.

  22. Anonymous says:

    Bring it back with modern suspension and brakes and a couple other improvements, and I will stand in line to pay full price Honda. Just keep that big impractical 6 out front and in the breeze. best looking UJM ever.

  23. Test 1 says:

    Truly a vivid experience in motorcycle riding. Spiral head bolt 1979 in red would be the select version.

  24. Bart says:

    To hear one with a pipe go by at full chat in a tight canyon is that raw essence, never forget it!

    • Tom K. says:

      Yup – heard one with a pipe go screaming out of Duke’s Drive In (Bridgeview, IL) maybe a decade ago, it was like I was in the stands at Indy – truly beautiful noise. I remember reading at the time that the bike didn’t live up to Honda’s intention of taking the then-current superbike crown away from whoever the reigning champ at the time was (Yamaha XS1100? Suzuki GS1000?), because the inside cylinders couldn’t get enough cooling, and they’d run hot and pre-ignite or something. It also got panned for being such a pain to synch the carbs properly, but that may just have been magazine enthusiast “noise”. I sure did enjoy the sight of all those headers, same as the picture in this article. Yep, if a 70’s Japanese bike is going to be collectable at six figures, this is likely it. Although, a Suzuki GS1150…

  25. iwc3714 says:

    Shhhhhhh. You’re ruining it for me. I’ve starting to look for vintage Japanese bikes like the Honda CBX. How can I afford them, if you start mentioning that they are becoming valuable? hahahaa

  26. My2cents says:

    I also remember the first CBX that I was exposed to in late 1978, I was stunned by every piece and sound of that machine, this was Honda’s moment of glory. I waited 11 years to find a good used one and still have it today. Modern tires improved the handling immensely and it is ultra comfortable to ride on all day. The sound of that motor is simply intoxicating and it’s still a visual feast for the eyes. Even though they talk of elevated pricing it would be difficult to let go. It’s not always about the money, sometimes it’s about the lust.

  27. Anonymous says:

    The CBX remains a desirable motorcycle. For the price of admission to increase to the absurd, a few people with more money than common cents will have to have one hell of an emotional attachment to it. I remain a fan of all years but with a fonder remembrance of the ’82 simply because I like touring and the color scheme for that years was simply stunning.

    A bike as an investment in anything other than yourself is foolish.

    • Brian says:

      Interesting, and an unfortunate advertisement to drive up costs for those of us who actually enjoy the restore and ride aspect of motorcycling vs the portfolio approach. I have seen the prices of my beloved RDs and RZs skyrocket and am glad I bought early. My last RZ I bought in pieces because I wasn’t going to pay more for a used bike than I did for a new one, but stupid me should have bought every $3500 RZ I could find because now they are north of $5000. RC30s have gone way beyond the reach of most mortals as well. Likewise ELRs and Katanas. As for CBXs, I am lucky enough to prefer the pro-links, which lack the “museum/boutique” appeal of the 79 and 80 models. Funny because so many of these bikes were available at deep discounts when new and for many years after their release (add SR500s, GBs, CXs and all the turbos to that list) i do think there is an end to this trip though, as seen in 2 trends that are saddening:

      1. Young people don’t collect things and
      2. Young people aren’t riding.

      My kids have only a passing interest in my stable, but I made sure they are aware of current market values should I pass. Hopefully, when I’m gone there will be enough people aware and interested and able to spend because I want to own and fix and ride, not sell.

  28. 5229 says:

    Ahh.. the mighty CBX. For the naysayers I guess you had to be there. Bought my 1979 CBX back in August 1978. That night I rode that mighty Six cylinder Honda home from my local dealer in upstate NY was one of coolest experience’s in my life. I couldn’t believe it, this bike is so cool. Makes me happy to see the collectors value of that fine machine. By the way a CBX had a retail price of $3995 back in ’78. Very expensive for that time.
    Look at the Honda 250cc Six cylinder RC166 GP roadracing bike from the 60’s and look at the CBX. Notice the similarities? Pretty darn cool to say the least.

  29. Anonymous says:

    I remember standing in a motorcycle show and looking wishfully at the CBX1000 when it was first released. It was one of the most exciting bikes available at the time, but I couldn’t afford it. Do I still want one? No. Compared to what is available now it is no longer an exciting bike. By today’s standards you would say the engine is nice but not great and the handling is dismal. I’d rather ride Honda’s latest, the CB1000R which has a great engine and great handling.

    But it’s like getting a call from the woman who was the most desirable girl in high school. You think, “Wow, this is great!” You meet up and find out she is now in her 50s, overweight, and has a body that has been ravaged by excessive consumption of alcohol and tobacco. She is still the same person, but the excitement is gone. Then she tells you she was married to a billionaire and inherited his fortune when he died. Suddenly you are very interested again.

  30. gpokluda says:

    Many years ago I had a neighbor who had two large out-buildings. One was full of CBXs and the other full of Corvairs. He joked they were his retirement. Guess it wasn’t really a joke.

  31. MGNorge says:

    The CBX still gets my juices flowing. Slow by today’s fastest examples its raw essence just does it for me.

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