You know, this restoring old dirtbikes is a helluva fun thing, but man is it expensive!
When I first got into the whole vintage thing, it blew me away as I bought up big on old magazines and assorted memorobilia, snaffled a few basket cases to do up, and attended my first ever vintage MX events.
This is back in 1998 or so, mind you, so I was hardly in the vanguard of the scene. But it was still relatively early in the piece and most people didn't have a clue that there was such a thing.
The advantage to this of course was that stuff was cheap. eBay had only just appeared and was a good source of parts, but by and large finding bits required a lot of scouring websites, wreckers and Just Bikes.
Still, they were cheap parts, and a lot of things like plastics could still be had NOS.
My first restos were a TT500C, TY175, and a YZ125F, but this was before I got into VMX. I'd bought these bikes during the early 90s just because, and had restored them to a point and then onsold them. They cost next to nothing. The TT was an ex-forestry bike, picked up in fair condition for about $300. I think I spent about $1200 cleaning it up, polishing and painting what I could, and buying brand new plastics from Yamaha. I sold it for $1400.
Once I discovered the VMX thing, I bought a whole bunch of bikes - YZ125X, RM250B, another 500 Yammie, RM125S and so on. I began buying parts, and probably spent about $3000 on parts for these bikes. But none of them ever saw the light of day - I sold them all off to finance an HL500 that I got the opportunity to own. Right there I suffered my first big loss. But it wasn't earth shattering - maybe $2000 all up.
Fast forward to 2005 and I found me a nice little TM125 for $500. In the meantime I'd owned a bunch of great bikes that I'd bought in one piece, all the hard work already done. They were my race bikes, and when I sold them I lost very little. But the TM was to be my next big resto project and this one was fun. I just bought everything off eBay that I could in some sort of frenzied bargain hunt. By the time I'd finished, I had a very nice looking TM125 sitting in the garage. Brand new everything, fully rebuilt engine, Circle F pipe, etc etc. But... it cost me over $5000. Then when the chance presented itself for me to buy a long time lust object, a YZ250G, I sold the TM to help pay for it. That was REALLY dumb. I think it went for about $1800. I guess I could've asked more, but how much more would a TM125 with no particular claim to fame be able to sell for?
Still, I paid no heed to that wallet numbing hit, or my wife's increasing state of agitation over the steady drain of funds. I'd owned an IT175G once upon a time and always wanted another one. At about this time one turned up on OzVMX and I grabbed it for about $300 I think. The plan - a quick and dirty tidy up rather than a fullblown concourse queen. I wanted to go vinduroing. Well, I won't labour the point, but as usual, eBay and me just don't really go together. Or rather, we shouldn't. Cos again I bought far too many bits for it, and also completely rebuilt the engine from the ground up.
This time, the end result is a tidy bike but nothing special. If you looked at it, you'd think "not bad". If you wanted to buy it, you'd probably be willing to part with around $1800 for it. Maybe. But the cost of parts is steadily going up. Whereas restoring my first few bikes cost next to nothing, these days it's a bit of a sellers market. Mt IT is now a very good bike, but it's cost me a shade over $3000 to get here. What the? I look at people like Doc who wheel out immaculate works replica RH250s that they built from an old TS185 for $450 and shake my head. How the Hell do they do that?
And now, I am starting to feel ill about the YZ250G project. I've had a lot of help from forum members on this one, and scored some nice deals on parts. But... it cost me too much initially, and to get it to where I want it needs a LOT of parts and work. My guesstimate on the final build price to create a pretty pedestrian racebike? Around $6000.
You know what? It's fun, but there's a definite trend. The price of restoring ancient dirtbikes is steadily going through the roof, and I for one can't justify it any longer. From here on in, I'll only buy bikes that have already been rebuilt. Their owners can do my dirty work and bear the cost of depreciation. Me? I'll be laughing all the way to the track.
The TM125 project. Very nice, but expensive.
My IT175G. Getting close and looking nice.
The next money pit, the YZ250G project. Hiding in the garden shed to keep me from getting all angst-ridden.