Friday, August 3, 2012

Rare Royal Enfield Interceptors: Parts or projects?

Royal Enfield Interceptors up for sale raise questions. (JC Baker Photo)
Royal Enfield Interceptors are powerful and rare motorcycles, treasured by those who own and restore them. These collectors are particular, too, sometimes in ways that are striking to me, the owner of a slow and very common (at least in India) Royal Enfield Bullet.

While some made-in-India parts can be pressed into service to bring Interceptors back to life, many important original parts can only come from the world's shrinking supply of ruined Interceptors being broken up for parts.

The death of collector George M. Collins III and the sale of some motorcycles and parts from his collection raised a series of interesting questions recently on the Interceptor Yahoo discussion board.

What is a fair price for an original condition or restored Interceptor?

Will multiple Interceptors coming to market from the estate of a major collector drive prices down?

Will increasing interest in the legendary Interceptor encourage speculators to drive prices up?

Is it moral to break up an Interceptor because its parts may be worth more than the motorcycle together?

If you come across an Interceptor (or even a pile of parts) being sold by someone who doesn't realize its value, should you alert them?

I was impressed by the thought members gave each of these questions. Not surprisingly, there's something to be said on both sides of each question. Here's a sampling of the discussion:

Fair price?

"Let me introduce you to the classic bike marketplace, UK style... Last Series 2 (Interceptor) I saw sold for $18,000. If we assume a total full restoration is going to be about $7,000 plus labor then you will begin to understand that the price for a secondhand bike has moved on and is moving on very quickly... The idea of snapping up Interceptors for $2,000... is no longer a sensible proposition." Richard

Prices going down?

"We'll see what happens to the Interceptor 'stock index' if and when all the Collins collection becomes available. I'm amazed at how they keep turning up and up." Craig

Prices going up?

"Can't say as I understand the recent spike in Interceptor prices given the current economy, except that it is likely the most recent round of speculators at work. gREgg

Part them out?

"I always like to see more old bikes on the road and would therefore always intuitively keep a pile of bits together as a project but then conversely I do rely on the dealers to break the odd pile of bits up and 'part it out' so that I can buy those elusive missing parts to enable me to build the project." Ben

Alert sellers?

"If you want to... pay more than the asking price that's your business but don't ruin the deals for others, please... I don't mean offend anybody but I do think there should be deals out there especially for younger people who are just getting into the game and don't have a whole lot more to dish out for projects. Money isn't everything." Jessie

"If you do snap up an Interceptor for peanuts from the widow of some recently deceased long time owner then you have to question whether you are doing the right thing." Richard

"Nothing against Mr. Collins or anyone else. But I hate the auction/speculation mentality; please if you own cool stuff, make sure to plan ahead for its destination should you die... Hopefully Mr. Collins' parts and bikes will further the Enfield cause. May he rest in peace." Todd


  1. bakerjc8/03/2012 name again on the internet. (jcbaker). I'm like famous.
    I wish there was a more visible community of RE people in the NE US, there would have been less stock in the auction that went on. I had no idea who this guy was and what he had, wish I had met him. I'm sure there would have been more than a few beers, ryes, scotches consumed.
    To say that we, as "collectors" need to plan for our demise with first thoughts on our "collections"? Really? I need to get onto that Yahoo (are they still around?) board and cause some introspection.
    It's all unfortunate. That's life.
    Enjoy the unfortunate. It's what keeps it interesting.

  2. Anonymous8/04/2012

    Whilst I agree that some of the younger elements starting on the "Old Bike " Syndrome do not have a lots of cash to speculate and purches much needed part then also the same applies to old guys such as myself (72).
    Most of us have very limited incomes from pension etc and are thus limited in what we can afford.
    I personaly sympathise with both of these groups

  3. Bottom line is that these motorcycles are collectors items, whether we use them as a rideable classic or as a shining trophy or both. The market dictates prices as it should as interest waxes and wanes. We expect the value of these wonderful motorcycles to go up over time and yet squirm when it is seen to happen. The only Interceptor I truly care about is the one that I own, I do not have any emotion towards any other machine be it for sale as a whole or in parts. Over the years of searching the internet for fair value motorcycles I still think Interceptors are generally reasonably priced. Here in Australia, a very good Interceptor (not showroom) will sell for 12k depending on market conditions. This Interceptor went for a very fair price of 5.9k, if an Australian buyer had bought it the total cost would have been around 8.5k. I was prepared to participate in the auction mentioned in the article, and rang the auctioneer, the reserve prices I thought were too expensive for unknown quantities. However, some of the emotional claptrap that I saw posted was absurd particularly about taking advantage of people. People sell stuff for all sorts of reasons and some ask prices that are above market expectations and some below. If you buy a motorcycle to for the pure reason of owning a classic machine and enjoying it for all that it is then if you manage to pick up a "bargain" then you haven't ripped anyone off, it is not as if you intend to put it on ebay tomorrow to take advantage of your "bargain". My understanding is that Hitchcocks purchased most of the Interceptors on sale at the auction and would have presumably paid the reserve (or close to it), I bet they are thinking they got a "bargain" and will no doubt do well out of parting out the various items the picked up. It is what keeps us all on the road. I can not justify buying another motorcycle and using it for parts, however I am happy to buy off retailers if they have parts I need. This is the market of the classic motorcyclist, and over time parts will be made as opposed to sourced from parted out machines. We are probably in that transition phase now.

    Interceptors are go!!!

    Cheers Charles


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