Clock ticking for imports: Stocks of 1980s and 1990s exotica hit by price hikes

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A leading seller of rare and collectable two-wheeled specials has told MCN that the UK’s pool of 80s and 90s dream bikes is being squeezed, thanks to increased appetite in the US and rising purchase prices in Japan.

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“I think we’ve got 11 Honda RC30s in stock and I don’t think I’ll be able to buy any more [from Japan],” says Ciarán Perrin of Extreme Trading in Norwich, who import and sell rare motorcycles from across the globe. “Once I sell my last Honda NR750, I won’t be able to replace it,” he added.

The market change is said to be the result of prices doubling in Japan in the last 12 months, meaning it no longer makes business sense for importers like Ciarán to bring bikes over to sell.

Yamaha FZR750 Exup OW01

He explains: “If I want to buy an RC30 or an NR750 in Japan by the time I’ve landed it they’re the same price as you can buy one in the UK.

“I’ve still got to do work to it when it arrives, too. However nice it is, you’ve probably got to stick another 1500 quid into it – maybe £5000 depending on what needs doing.”

On top of this, American collectors are now also snaffling up UK bikes, thanks to more relaxed import regulations once a vehicle reaches 25-years-old.

“We are still buying the odd bike from Japan if we can find it, but basically it’s kind of finished at the moment,” Perrin continued. “I know two dealers who have sold bikes to America, and once they’ve left the UK they won’t be coming back.”

Interest in collectable bikes climbs during Covid

First published 19 Fabruary 2022 by Dan Sutherland

Early Honda FireBlades are in high demand

If you’ve ever lusted after a homologation special, or dreamed of owning a tidy two-stroke, time could be running out – with sellers of rare and collectable machines noting an increased appetite during the Covid-19 pandemic.

With a series of lockdowns limiting some people’s expenditure and driving others into trawling the classifieds as a source of housebound entertainment, riders who once lusted after OW-01s, RC30s, RGVs, TZRs and more are now taking the plunge – seeing bikes of this era as a worthy investment opportunity.

“A lot of guys sitting at home, getting paid with nothing to spend their money on and an awful lot of time to look at a computer definitely fuels the buying,” says Ciarán Perrin, who runs Extreme Trading and sells bikes of this vintage across the globe.

Two -stroke prices are strong, from 125s to superbikes

“We’re in a time with low interest rates. If you stuck £5000 in your bank account, after 12 months, I think you’d have just about enough money for a McDonalds. If you’re into bikes, it’s a very safe investment and you can have a machine that you love.”

Procuring everything from low-mileage Yamaha R7s, to ultrarare Moto Guzzi-powered Magni Australias, Perrin says one of his current best sellers is the sporty gem that is the Aprilia RS250. “The big seller at the moment is two-strokes,” adds Perrin. “All models of TZR, KR-1, KR-1S, RGV – that sort of late 80s and 90s twostroke – and, of course, the Aprilia RS250. As soon as we restore one, we sell one.”

Adam Payne runs Start It Up Motorcycle & Performance, in Norwich, and began noting an increased interest in rare machines early on in the pandemic, selling an RD350 and a low-mileage CBR900RR FireBlade in the first few weeks of the first lockdown back in March 2020.

An Aprilia RS250 is a strong buy right now


“I noticed within a month that the sales of modern classics were increased,” Payne tells MCN. “With interest rates being so low, you might as well put it into something you enjoy and on high days and holidays, you can take it out and other people can too.”

Perrin went on to say additional VAT costs, thrown up by Brexit, and virus restrictions have dented sales in the early part of 2021, but believes the market will be bouncing back stronger.

“I think it will come back with a vengeance,” he explained. “I think by summer we’ll all be going ‘we’ve run out of stock.’ The underlying thing for me – who sources a lot from Japan – is there’s nothing left. It’s virtually all gone!”