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The RJM Classic Motorcycles Buyers' Guide.

Did you hear the one about the guy who paid an oceanic price to a well-known dealer for a genuine 441 Shooting Star only to find that it was a B25 with a 441 motor in it.

. . . Or the one about the guy who paid serious money to a well-known dealer for a very tidy looking A7 Shooting Star and only cottoned on to the fact it had issues when he realised it had four head gaskets.

. . . Or how about the guy who paid top money to a well-known dealer for an heirloom of an A10 Super Rocket and accepted a modest discount as the dealer couldn't get it to start on the day.

I could go on but the fact is there are a whole lot of very pretty bikes out there with serious mechanical problems. In the first case above I advised the the guy to insist on his money back, even though the firm had a no-refunds policy. Interestingly, I managed to change their mind.

In the cases of the remaining two, extensive engine work and a written report should have helped them get some compensation if they had pursued it.

Personally I am not involved in buying and selling so all I can give a prospective owner is advice and all you get is my opinion.

What follows are my "Golden Rules" for purchasing a bike:

  • Don't buy anything in a fit of rose-tinted retro-vision. Research, research, research. Know what you are looking for, know what it should cost, know what the weak points are and know what the spares situation is like.
  • Join the owners' club before buying the bike.
  • Don't assume that buying from a dealer gives you any safeguards or guarantees that it has been professionally restored.
  • Unless you are an expert, don't buy a non-runner and remember basket cases are only good as spares donors.
  • Finally, before you ask, I wouldn't bid on a bike in an on-line auction in a fit. To be fair I did learn recently of a guy who actually came out on top of one of those deals, he was the first I had heard of, only because the vendor had even less of a clue than the buyer.

The fact is, Classic Motorcycling is probably the best fun you can have with your clothes on and unlike modern biking there is no galloping depreciation. But, choose the wrong bike and you could find it hitting you deeper in the pocket before you get in the saddle than you had bargained for. You can always phone me or pop in for advice, which it is your right to totally ignore.

Text and graphics copyright (c) 2008 RJM Classic Motorcycles.