The range of buyers and sellers of vintage Hondas (and any other motorcycle) spans a range of about sixty years. For those of us who were “there” in the 1960s, our reference point is the remembrance of the retail prices of those bikes in the $200-800 range for any new Honda model on the showroom. Bill’s first ride, a 1967 CL90 (which was the bike that survived a 1,500 mile, 3-day journey) cost about $300 in slightly used condition. A new 305 Scrambler or Super Hawk was around $695 at the most.
A 1970 CB750K0, purchased in 1971, while living in Sacramento, CA during a USAF enlistment, was about $1,100. That bike saw its speedometer run up to an indicated 125 mph on a regular basis and made a round trip down to San Diego and back (mostly in the rain) without a hiccup. The last one-owner sand-cast CB750K0 was purchased for $1200, back in 1991, although that was due to a good bit of luck. The bike sold for $6,000 a few months later, which was about “all the money” for one back then.
Bikes bought through the 1990s were cheap and plentiful. About a dozen CB400F models came and went, mostly to overseas buyers for a little more than the original 1975 retail price, unless they were in exceptional condition. The 458cc Yoshimura-built engine that was in the bike that almost killed me (Ontario Motor Speedway 6-hour endurance race) was purchased from a crashed bike for $500 and installed in another bike that had slid under a car for even less dollars.
The 1974 CB125S1 purchase, which was the basis for a 125cc production bike championship machine was $549 out the door. A whole racing season, running in 2 clubs, including the bike purchase, engine build with Yoshimura parts, new 2.50×18 Yokohama racing tires, used leathers, Bell Star helmet, entry fees and everything else totaled about $3,000 for that year’s efforts.
Through the past fifty years of motorcycle ownership and riding, there have been hundreds of stories shared with me about “great finds” ranging from mint condition Mini-Trails to new CBX sixes in the box. On the flip side, waiting just a day while considering whether or not to scrape up the $1800 for a used CR93, caused me to lose out on what is now a $45,000 motorcycle purchase, so there are always those “just missed it” stories out there, as well.
So what are these vintage Hondas “worth” and what is their “value” to today’s buyers? Much of this is subjective and lies in the hearts and minds of the buyers and sellers. Is the value of an unrestored CB175K1 with 4k miles really worth $3k asking on Craigslist recently? What about the “restored” 1970 CT70H models for $4k instead? Which is more useable and which one is now become “collectible” instead. Perhaps both; or perhaps neither. If you were in the market for an early 1970s-era Honda when they were new, you recall what the sales price was and what kind of impression that purchase made on your motorcycle psyche. Looking at the same machines with 45-year older eyes, are they worth the same value at 3-4x the original price? Obviously, if you still had your beat-up original machine and wanted it to look like new again, what is the cost of restoring those bikes to recreate that new appearance; and what is the likelihood of being able to find all the NOS parts to make that project viable in the 21st Century? Do you like project bikes like that? Can you do a restoration to the level of being new again? Would you have to hire someone to make that happen? Is the cost worth the value in the end?
Very few vintage Honda fall into the super rare/super expensive range, but some of the first ones into the country do qualify. The 125cc CB92 Benly Super Sport is a rare find in the US, as only about 1,000 of them were sold here between 1960-62 and many were race-spec bikes, according to Honda’s sales figures. The first versions had alloy fuel tanks, side covers, fenders, plus magnesium brake hubs and backing plates. This was super exotic for the early 1960s and the bikes would run off and leave almost any other 125 to 250cc machine at the time. They sold new for around $500-600, but fully restored ones now go for $12-25k. The last three CB92s which have come and gone from Casa de Honda all sold for around $7000-7500 and all needed at least cosmetic restoration work.
The next “big deal” model was really the 1969 Honda CB750K0, which sold new for $1495. The first 7,414 engines were sand-cast, instead of die-casting and those are the holy grail of vintage Honda collections. Really good originals sell for $10,000 and fully restored ones go up to $20,000 and beyond. The $1200 CB400F Super Sport was released during the fuel crisis era and despite favorable reviews, many were left unsold up into 1978. Today, mint condition versions are $4500-6500. The 1979 CBX Six was another machine that had limited appeal for most motorcyclists, beyond their exotic 24 valve DOHC six cylinder engine. Their current market value somewhat mirrors the CB750K0s, but many have been modified through the years with new frames, suspension, bodywork and other unique parts.
The 89-90 GB500 was a slow seller when they were introduced, due to languid performance factors and high pricing. Still they were made with beautiful detailing and capture that 1950-60s Brit Thumper bike styling without all the nuisances of oil-puddling, constant breakdowns, kickstart only options and right side shifting concerns. Prices were down as lost as $2800 during Honda’s warehouse blowout sales, but now they are topping $6k and some have headed towards $10k.
Going back to the Mini-Trails, Honda built them in the hundreds of thousands for decades. Many were “first motorcycle” experiences for new riders and were ridden without a thought of regular maintenance and often suffered multiple crashes throughout their short lives. Are you ready to pony up $5k for a restored CT70 now?
Almost all of Honda’s twin cylinder models suffered from muffler rot, even early in their lives, which makes finding a mint original model or replacement pipes nearly impossible when 40-50 years have passed. Just how badly do you want to “relive” your youthful moments, now that your weight has doubled and your body aches after more than a 30 minute ride on a vintage machine? Just what is that experience “worth” to you now? The answer is like “beauty” which lies in the eyes of the beholder. If you have the cash, extra space and the strong desire to own a vintage Honda, then prepare to shell out considerably more than you did as a youth for the same experience. Often, once the acquisition has been completed, some of the less than stellar characteristics of that wonder machine become apparent once again. “Oh, that’s why I sold that bike….”
Our brains contain a lot of memories and experiences, many of which have driven our life paths in various directions. The visceral experience of motorcycling is an indelible link to the past and for some the “price” of revisiting those moments is worth the “cost” and let the “value” be damned.