Ducati Paul Smart 1000 LE sells in Las Vegas

As a long-time motorcyclist and classic bike enthusiast, I love all classic bikes, but if I had to pick one to look at for the rest of my life, it would probably be the Ducati Paul Smart 1000 LE.

This beautiful bike was unveiled to commemorate Smart’s famous victory in the 1972 Imola 200 event, riding a 750 Desmo that would go on to become the 750SS. Before the event, Smart admitted to being dismissive of Ducati, regarding the brand as a manufacturer of out of date single-cylinder machines. All that would change.

At the time of the Imola 200, he was racing in the US but not earning enough to live on. When his wife called and said Ducati wanted him to ride for the factory in the Imola 200, it was a no brainer to jump on a plane to Italy. The story of the weekend is excellent and well worth reading: Smart eventually won the race and got to keep his bike. The victory was a key moment in Ducati’s transformation into a high performance brand for the modern era and kicked off a long association between Smart and Ducati.

About the Ducati Paul Smart 1000 LE

First offered to the market in 2005, the Paul Smart LE was based on Ducati’s trusty air-cooled 1000DS twin. Designed by the famous Pierre Terblanche, the bikes were incredibly stylish and completely unique. However, the styling was not for everyone and the bikes lasted for just a few years until production ceased in 2010.

Just 2000 Paul Smart Ducatis were built and they are now highly desirable. My friend Chris had one, which I coveted deeply. He rode all over Europe and back to Ducati factory. He describes it as a physically painful but emotionally rewarding experience! Good examples currently fetch up to twenty thousand pounds and have therefore sailed beyond my financial reach, but if prices ever begin to fall again, I will have to find a way to get one.

Bonhams offered this 2006 Ducati Paul Smart 1000 LE at its Las Vegas sale in January 2020. Frame no. ZDM1WABP16B001646 was offered in its original crate as an unused and highly desirable Limited Edition model. The wide estimate of £19-25,000 suggests some uncertainty on behalf of the vendors but no doubt this was always going to sell for over £20k. In the end, the unused Paul Smart sold for £21,256 including the buyer’s premium, closer to the low estimate than the high.

The value of this bike could be said to be in its unused condition, but if we think of it as buying a highly desirable brand-new Ducati Limited Edition ready to be used and enjoyed for just £21,000, that is a very good buy. Whether one uses it or keeps it in the crate, it will remain a joy to behold. I think I would use it and keep it in the living room.

Pre-War British motorcycle valuation: 1939 Ariel Red Hunter

I gave some pre-sale valuation feedback on an interesting bike over the weekend: a 1939 Ariel VH500 Red Hunter. Raced with some success in the 1950s/60s, the bike had been modified to make it lighter using well manufactured alloy parts and the engine had also been modified to lift compression and deliver a bit more power. The bike was presented in very good order: unrestored with wonderful patina.

About Ariel Motorcycles

Ariel is an interesting manufacturer from a valuation point of view. Founded in 1870, the company grew from cycle manufacturing to unveiling its first motorised cycles in 1902 and went on to produce some very innovative motorbikes. The Ariel design team included two legends of British motorcycle history: Edward Turner and Valentine Page. Both progressed to greater things and their work for Ariel has gone down in history.

Ariel was run by Jack Sangster and his success with Turner’s 1930 Ariel Square Four and the later VH500 Red Hunter allowed him to buy the Triumph motorcycle company in 1936. He later sold both companies to BSA (the Birmingham Small Arms company) and took a seat on the BSA board. He eventually took over full chairmanship of the BSA group.

While BSA continued to manufacture Ariel motorcycles through the 1950s and 60s, the bikes were fairly drab in comparison to the pre-war machines. Most of the Red Hunters seen for sale nowadays are 1950s BSA examples and, while they do command a reasonable value, they are nothing like as stylish as the pre-war Ariels.

A 1939 VH500 Ariel Red Hunter is pretty unique: most would have been manufactured shortly before war broke out. We can safely say that production in 1939 was low, so this is a rare survivor. It is difficult to find many examples of 1939 VH500s online – let alone bikes that are actually for sale or have sold.

Ariel motorcycle valuation and investment

Pre-war bikes are sought after by collectors. A VH500 with well documented and pretty successful historic race history is a rare thing and that counts for a great deal when it comes to desirability. TT bikes of this era are extremely desirable and that classic bike cachet of ‘a dangerous time but living for the moment’ will certainly have an impact on the value of other race machines from the period. The Ariel brand also enjoys a vibrant following, supported by Draganfly and the Ariel Club Slovakia and cult followings like this can often throw up quite a lot of interest.

Looking at sales, there is some evidence to suggest that the brand is currently undervalued versus other pre-war manufacturers. Auction prices for an apparently original and complete light restoration base starting circa £5k in Sept 2015 up to £9k for a very nice example located in France a few years later. Not huge numbers for pre-war runners.

Old race stories and unfakeable patina often appeals to collectors, so I stuck my neck out a bit and put my low estimate circa £9k. The history and archive appeal to me says it might top out well ahead of that but that is a little bit of guesssswork bassed on previous sales and we don’t know how coronavirus will put people off paying record prices for an uncertain investment opportunity. A lot of these bikes change hands behind closed doors and true data is hard to come by.

If I was sending this bike to auction with fully documented race history and period photos etc, I would be keeping my fingers crossed for a winning bid somewhere around £10.5 – 12k. It is important to play up the history to bring out the serious race bike collectors and people who see Ariel as one of the opportunities for long term investment. I am probably in that group somewhere.

Library photo from Wikipedia shared under CC licence

Rare Yamaha XJ650 Seca insurance valuation

This morning’s workload included an insurance valuation for a rare 1982 Yamaha XJ650RJ – a 650 Seca. Made for one year only, the 650 Seca is a good example of the sort of bike that many former classic car collectors who have recently come to the two-wheeled arena are looking for.

The 650 is in top condition. The model was built in comparatively low volume and enjoys what might be termed a cult following: “if you know, you know”. Unrestored examples are thin on the ground – this one was imported from America – and bikes still in their original paint are few and far between.

Classic Bike Values: Patina versus Restoration

Collectables are only original once: restoration destroys the patina of age. Patina cannot be recreated and it is really where the true value of antiques and collectables lies. Patina usually comes at the cost of condition, except where an item has been used sparingly and lovingly cared for by previous owners, resulting in the gentle patina of true appreciation. The rarified glow of almost-new condition is why low mileage, low owner cars and bikes achieve the highest selling prices.

This particular 1982 Yamaha XJ 650 RJ Seca was a fine example of a very rare motorcycle. Presented in immaculate condition with very low mileage for the year of 27,262 miles warranted by a full service history, the majority of the paint is original. While the XJ 650 RJ was originally sold only in Europe, America is the best place to buy these machines as the specification is close to our own and the dry climate has kept them in good condition.

The XJ 650 is one of those classics which has aged well. Enthusiasts appreciate the four-cylinder air-cooled engine (rather than the more common twin cylinder used on the XS650), the comfortable riding position and the evergreen classic styling. When presented in spotless condition, it is easy to see why they are desirable and tend to stay in collections for a very long time.

As surviving examples remain tied up in collections, market activity is low and data is hard to come by. Yamaha XJ650 Seca Turbo models do come up for sale, but they tend to carry optimistic dealer prices. That said, their sales at auction are indicative of general trends for bikes of this era.

Considering the rising market for affordable, rideable classics of this era, the huge interest in classic Japanese machines in original, unrestored condition, the low supply of bikes of this calibre and specification and the superb condition of this bike and the difficulty one would have in replacing it like for like, recent market data suggests that insurance valuations for bikes like this are certainly around the £3k mark, and perhaps 50% or more on top for seriously low mileage machines.

Are you and your classic motorbike covered as much as you should be? Get an agreed insurance valuation for your classic motorcycle. Contact me with any questions.

Motorcycle Probate Valuations: Zundapp KS601

It’s been a busy start to 2020, with a caseload including several requests for probate valuations on old motorcycles. I’m always sad to hear of another old biker leaving the club, but anyone into classic bikes will be all too aware of the fact that most enthusiasts are getting on in years. It will also be noted that there aren’t many wives or children to be seen at bike meets and exhibitions. Leaving a collection of old bikes behind for the family to dispose of can therefore be like leaving a spaceship in the garage: where do people start to put a value on something that may be entirely alien to them?

About classic motorcycles in probate

Probate is the process of administering the estate of a deceased person. It revolves around organising their belongings including money, assets and other posessions, valuing them for inheritance tax purposes, paying all taxes and debts and then distributing the items as inheritance. If there is a will to work from, then the executor will be in charge of probate. Executors carry out their duties once a Grant of Probate has been issued.

Having dealt with probate cases and valuations for many years, the process it is not always pretty. Family wounds can be reopened when the money starts to rise, but there is also the issue of unscrupulous solicitors using the affairs of the deceased to clock up remarkable bills and also handing probate valuations to local associates – auctioneers or car dealers – intent on bringing the dead person’s property into their business at a knock down price and selling it on for far more.

While most solicitors are entirely honest – and I am privileged to work with many great law firms – I have served on several cases where the legal conduct was appalling. Anyone who is going to appoint a solicitor to handle their will and look after probate valuations should know just hope awful it can be for the survivors when the letters and emails start flying around at £100 a time but no progress is made, or dodgy dealers start knocking at the door asking to see the classic cars or bikes left behind by the recently deceased “for a quick cash offer”.

My classic motorcycle probate valuation service is very straightforward and reasonably priced. I have no ulterior motives regarding sale of assets, I don’t ask complicated questions that the bereaved families may have no way of answering and I do a lot of research to support the most sensible price based on the conditions of probate. Email some pictures and details of the bike, pay a small fee of £55 and I will send a signed letter of valuation that is accepted by all official bodies including HMRC.

Recent probate valuations include a 1963 Lambretta Li 150, a rare Zundapp KS601 Sport from the 1950s and a Yamaha FS1-E. There are a lot of old motorcycles sitting unused in garages and sooner or later they may have to be valued. Drop me a line if you need my assistance.

Main image shared under commons licence ©E.Zorilla on Flickr

Desirable Classic Bike ephemera

A rare 18K gold automatic calendar chronograph wristwatch presented to Mike Hailwood has just sold for £56,500 at Bonhams’ classic bike sale, held as part of the Classic Motorcycle Mechanics Show at Staffordshire County Showground.

Regarded as one of the most sought after Heuer chronograph models, the reference 1158 Carrera was introduced in 1969 and enjoyed a production run of nearly 10 years being discontinued around 1978. The watch gained significant popularity when Jack Heuer awarded an 1158 Carrera to each driver of Ferrari’s Formula One team.  

The team included Mike Hailwood, and this one was offered by Heuer to Hailwood in 1973 for his outstanding performance. It bears a personal engraving to the caseback which likely refers to Hailwood’s heroic actions during the 1973 South African Grand Prix, where he went to pull Clay Regazzoni from his burning car after the two had collided on the second lap of the race.

Bonhams say: The 1158CHN Carrera is an iconic reference within the world of watch collecting where it is nicknamed the ‘Montre de Pilote’ or ‘Driver’s Watch’. Fewer than 500 pieces are thought to have been produced. As Hailwood was a British driver, the inside of the case back bares an unusual British hallmark.

Jack Heuer said about the 18K gold Carrera 1158, which was his favourite model: ‘These watches have a deep emotional meaning for me, as we have lost drivers to racing accidents’.

Previous sales of Carrera models have realised circa £12,000, such as this one at Sothebys in 2018. The incredible premium fetched by this watch over what was a very good example shows the value of the personal Heuer provenance and Hailwood association. The continued attraction of the right classic bike ephemera remains an important consideration for insurance, divorce and probate valuations.

Watch Details:

Model: Carrera
Reference: 1158
Date: Circa 1971
Movement: 17-jewel Cal.12 automatic
Dial: Brushed champagne, applied gilt baton hour markers with black accents, black outer 1/5th second divisions, raised outer tachymetre scale, black subsidiary dials at 3 and 9 for 30 minute and 12 hour recording, date aperture at 6, gilt baton hands with black accents and luminous inserts, black centre chronograph hand
Case: Brushed and polished tonneau form, screw down back, crown at 9, twin fluted chronograph pushers at 2 and 4, engraving to case back ‘To Mike Hailwood for a successful 1973 Jack Heuer’, case back inside with UK 18K gold import hallmark for 1971, No.249215
Strap: Brown calf skin
Buckle/Clasp: Gilt associated
Signed: Case, dial & movement
Size: 38mm