Two wheels doesn't necessarily mean cheaper.
We don’t write about motorbikes very often here mainly because when your name is CarBuzz, it creates a certain expectation in regards to what's covered. However, we do have a passing interest in all things with wheels and an engine, even lawn mowers. Recently, we were talking about the value for money there is in motorbikes, like how the Ducati Panigale V4 is one of the most powerful street-legal bikes on the road. It’s designed to bring the World Superbike Championship back to Italy, and the road version makes 214 horsepower at 13,000 rpm and weighs 436 lbs wet. It’s a materials and engineering masterpiece that will do 0-60 mph in around 3 seconds and go onto 100 in just over 6 seconds. The base model starts at $21,495, exactly the same as a Honda Civic hatchback. If you want the top of the range race bike for the road, then the V4 R is $40,000 for what is, in essence, a two-wheeled Ferrari.
But, you can pay much, much, more for something with not enough wheels. Motorbikes have their own history, and that means historically significant bikes, one-off customs, and concepts make people go as crazy with their checkbooks as they do with cars. We’ve picked out the bikes we think are most interesting and expensive and compiled them here to satisfy our morbid curiosity.
If you want to own one of the first production motorbikes made, then you’re looking for a Hildebrand and Wolf Müller from 1894. It was also the first vehicle to be called a motorbike (Motorrad in German). They are almost never put up for sale due to their rarity and historical value, and chances are you’ll only ever see one in a museum. One did sell in 2010 for $131,200, but that will likely not happen again.
Family, engineers, mechanics, and friends came together to build the Icon Sheene in honor of the legendary British motorcycle racer, Barry Sheene. Only 52 were set to be built and custom fitted for their new owners. The Icon Sheene features a Garett supercharged 1400 cc engine making 250 horsepower and 133 lb-ft of torque, built right into a frame that was designed with Barry Sheene’s frame builder and outfitted with race spec hardware throughout.
If a normal superbike isn't wild enough, then the MTT Turbine Streetfighter should do the trick. The first models were powered by a Rolls-Royce-Allison Model 250-C18 gas turbine making 320 horsepower. Later, they were sold with an Allison 250-C20B engine that sent 420 horsepower through a two-speed transmission. According to Jay Leno, who owns bike number 002, it’s the best bike for shutting up Harley riders and melts the front bumpers off the cars behind it. Its top speed is a theoretical 227 mph.
NCR is an Italian tuning specialist that set about building the most exclusive motorbike they can. The Milona 16 is based on the limited production road-legal version of the Ducati Desmosedici MotoGP bike. NCR used titanium, carbon fiber, and aircraft-grade aluminum to build an all-new frame and moving parts in order to bring the weight down 71 lbs on a bike that previously only weighed 390 lbs. It’s hard to nail down an exact price to order one, but it’s not even worth looking if you haven’t got a quarter of a million to spare.
In 2012, the Ecosse Titanium Series FE Ti XX was the most expensive bike in the world at $300,000. Ecosse Moto Works is a special edition company based in Southern California, and its Titanium Series FE Ti XX comes on a hand built titanium chassis with a supercharged engine making over 200 horsepower that takes around 12,000 man hours to build. Only 13 were actually made.
The Tomahawk was a concept shown by Dodge at the 2003 North American Auto Show. Its main attraction was that it was built around the Dodge Viper’s 8.3-liter V10 engine. Dodge talked a big game about the Tomahawk, but it suspiciously kept shifting around its claimed speed figures. According to the automaker, the Tomahawk would do 420 mph, but then that was downgraded to 300 mph even though Dodge declined to answer how the numbers were estimated. It was also claimed the Tomahawk would do a speed run on the Bonneville Salt Flats, but to this day it hasn’t happened yet. In 2009, Dodge revised the top speed claim to 400 mph. Frankly, we’ll believe it when we see it, which we won’t for reasons that include drag, rolling resistance, tire limits, and the struggle in finding someone that would be dumb enough to risk being blown off the back of it.
We’re not sure why it’s valued at $550,000, but there you go.
The UK has produced some of the most iconic motorbikes in 2 wheeled history, and the Vincent Black Lightning is, perhaps, the most iconic. It was produced between 1948 and 1952 and the first was ridden by American racer Rollie Free to take the US national motorcycle speed record at Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. That record run also produced one of the most famous photographs in motorcycle history. Only 19 examples are believed to have survived, and in February 2018 one of those recorded the highest-price paid at auction for a motorcycle. It cost an Australian bidder $929,0000.
In 2004, the last reported remaining bike of 4 used in the filming of the 1969 movie "Easy Rider” - ridden by Peter Fonda - sold at auction for $1.35 million. Three of the bikes were stolen and sold for parts before the movie was released, so this is a piece of movie gold. Dan Haggerty, an actor in the movie that also worked on the bikes, was the principal reference in authenticating the chopper. The problem is that he had provided written assurances a few years earlier for another Easy Rider bike.
Peter Fonda, who originally sketched the idea of the bike for the movie himself, said "There’s a big rat stinking someplace in this,” and hoped the auction would be called off. It wasn’t and the bike, real or not, sold for $1,350,000.
BMW has its art cars, and Harley Davidson has its art bike. For the art bike, they partnered with Andy Warhol's associate and cosmic existentialist artist Jack Armstrong. People have paid many millions for an Armstrong painting and this Harley V-rod he applied his art to sold initially for $1 million. It’s been resold since for $3 million but a company called Star Global International Inc claims it has the bike stored in a climate controlled vault and wants $15 million for it.
Armstrong is an avid Harley fan and believes the Cosmic Harley could break the Basquiat painting record sale of $110 million one day as his cosmic existentialism becomes recognized alongside cubism and pop art. For reference, a Harley V-Rod in 2017 cost $17,449. At this point, Cosmic Starship is neither art or a motorcycle as far as we can tell, but just an object people are gambling with by ascribing an arbitrary financial value on in the hope of a profit.
BMS Choppers is based in Florida with clients that include rappers and rock stars, and is responsible for some wild and crazy expensive motorbikes. This one was built by the owner, San Nehme, for himself to be entered into a custom chopper competition in 2007. The 11-foot long chopper took over 3,000 hours to build and, as Nehm estimates, cost between $400,000 and $500,0000 in total to build. The gold plating cost $25,000 alone, and the wheels another $25,000.