Is there an equivalent long term collectibility or desirability for custom motorcycles like there is for custom cars? Old custom cars seem to come back regularly, a famous creation from twenty or more years ago is found in some barn and it’s restored to its former glory. Whether it’s a custom by George Barris or some other early builder, those cars seem to stand the test of time. The style may not be to anyone’s taste today but it looks good as a custom car from a particular era.
What about motorcycles? The big dollars in early motorcycles come from pristine originals or racers with a pedigree, beyond that there might be a movie bike like Peter Fonda’s Easy Rider, but what else? Were there any early custom builders who built bikes anyone remembers today? There are lots of low volume vintage motorcycles from companies long out of business that are very cool and a lot of collectors want to get their hands on one but where are the old custom bikes? Old choppers from the sixties didn’t age well, the build quality wasn’t very high and no one seems to be digging around looking for them. The few that turn up are usually basket cases and no one cares to spend the time getting them back into shape. Early cafe racers do seem to be a better choice, Tritons and Norvins still looks right and nice ones still get people excited.
Today’s custom bikes are churned out by shops all over the place but take a close look at the next one you see and think about how it will fare in twenty or thirty years. Will it still be cool? I have a hunch the ten foot long chrome and billet show bikes may not do so well, but I could be wrong, if today’s buyer is young enough, he might look back with fondness on the chopper he had “back in the day.”
But today’s customs may have a better chance in some ways because there are some exceptional creations out there, especially the ones that were first. Jesse James’ radial engine motorcycle will still be as impractical and cool in thirty years as today. Some bikes by Roland Sands could do well, especially the rideable ones like No Regrets or RSD Grunt. The KRV5 Tracker should hold up nicely even if it isn’t a rider. Jesse Rooke has a few, too.
I think the better the custom fills the role of motorcycle, the better the long term chances someone will find it desirable in thirty years. If it isn’t a rider, the bike has to be so well built and engineered that people will marvel at the thought behind it. By those standards, though, an awful lot of today’s custom bikes will be forgotten once the paint begins to fade and the chrome begins to tarnish. What do you guys think?