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1960s motorcycles – 19 Classics from the Swinging Sixties

1960’s motorcycles made serious strides. Legends like the Norton Commando were born, the world’s first superbikes were bred, the subcategory of dual-sport motorcycles was created and the iconic aesthetic of the ‘chopper motorcycle’ was at its peak.

Many manufacturers had spent the end of the 1950’s and early 1960’s still recovering from World War II, picking up the machines that had been in production pre-war and improving on those designs.

By the height of the 1960s motorcycle manufacturers were starting to think bigger, more creatively and dynamically. 

They created new engine layouts such as Triumph’s three-cylinder, finally cured the plague of vibration issues with Norton’s isolastic suspension system and marketing in the US from the Japanese marques was seeing a lot of investment. 

For the British manufacturers the close of the 1960’s would see a very turbulent time ahead and there would be a serious struggle for survival among the likes of BSA, Norton and Triumph. 

The 1960s motorcycles coming from Japan were continually improving on British designs and creating cheaper, more reliable and faster machines. Japanese domination of the racetrack wasn’t far off either. 

As for Harley Davidson, they were ticking over with their line-up and about to be hit with a chopper surge with the release of Easy Rider. They were also fighting off the Japanese bikes who wanted in on their market.

Here’s 19 classic 1960’s motorcycles that appeared during the decade of love and peace.

Norton Navigator

Norton Navigator
This great condition Norton Navigator is currently for sale at Chris Hall Motorcycles in Doncaster, England for £4,950. If its still available find it here.

The Norton Navigator was an evolution of Norton’s response to a change in British laws announced in 1958, first time riders would have to ride a limited capacity machine for a period of time before gaining a full license to ride any size motorcycle.

The first response to the law changes was in 1958 with the Jubilee which ran a 250 twin designed by Bert Hopwood. In 1960 the engine was punched out to a 350 and renamed the Norton Navigator. 

Other than the engine the motorcycle was made up of recycled parts from across the range from Norton’s parent brand AMC, for example the front forks, wheels and brakes were from Francis-Barnett of Coventry. 

The reason for using a mish mash of parts already in production was to keep costs as low as possible, but the Navigator would be met with a mixed response by the public.

The motorcycle remained in production until 1966, and you can expect to pay between £4,000-£7,000 for one today.

Royal Enfield Interceptor

Royal Enfield produced several of the best 1960s motorcycles
The original Royal Enfield Interceptor. It was reintroduced in 2017 to the Royal Enfield line up.

Royal Enfield introduced the Interceptor strictly to the U.S and Canada markets in the early 1960s. It superseded the Constellation as the marques top of the line motorcycle. 

The Interceptor used an updated and upgraded version of the Constellation engine, a 692cc vertical-twin, with twin carburettors and a 4 speed gearbox. It had weight-saving features such as a lightened and balanced crankshaft. 

The motorcycle had a claimed top speed of over 100mph, with 120mph recorded as a top speed on one run. This made the Interceptor the fastest motorcycle Royal Enfield had produced. 

Production issues led to some flaws with the Constellation, these were addressed with the Interceptor and the result was one of the smoothest twins on the market.

Not the most common classic motorcycle on the market you can expect to pay between $6,000-$9,000 in the U.S and upwards of £7,000 in the U.K for an imported model.

Honda CB77 (Super Hawk)

The Honda CB77 or Super Hawk was Honda’s first Sports bike and set the precedent for the winning combination of pairing speed and reliability that Honda would come to be known for. 

The Super Hawk proved true tough competition for the British 500 twins and even when tuned perfectly they would struggle to match the new Honda’s performance.

28 horsepower stemmed from the 305cc engine with dual carbs, and the Super Hawk would hit top speeds of 100mph. The motorcycle had a weight of 345lbs and dual shock absorber swingarm, that even at speed made for a feeling of a safe ride. 

Honda offered a full race kit for the motorcycle including a megaphone exhaust and bump-stop seat.

Today in the U.K prices for a CB77 start from £2,000 and can go up to £6,000. In the U.S the average price you can expect to pay is around $5,500. 

BSA Rocket Gold Star

BSA Rocket Gold Star is one of the most coveted 1960s motorcycles
This stunning BSA Rocket Gold Star was sold by Bonhams in late 2017 for £24,725

BSA’s Rocket Gold Star was only produced in 1962 and 1963 and only 1584 examples would roll out of the factory. Today though when you type Rocket Gold Star into your favourite search bar you would think there were several thousand machines produced, this is down to the fact the favourite BSA is the one most replicated. 

Eddie Dow was the man behind the machine, a Gold Star specialist and well known British motorcycle dealer, when a customer came to him requesting a Gold Star with an A10 engine he was more than happy to fulfill the request, unofficially creating the legend of the Rocket Gold Star. 

BSA took note, developed the motorcycle further and put into production the new 650 twin, often referred to as the greatest cafe racer of all time the 46 horsepower machine went down exceedingly well with the press and public.

One of the most coveted 1960’s motorcycles, today true original examples sell for above £20,000 and even well done replicas between £10,000-£15,000.

Ducati Scrambler

The original Ducati Scrambler is one of the most popular 1960s motorcycles
The original Ducati Scrambler is one of the most popular motorcycles of the 60s

Another of the stand out 1960’s motorcycles, the original Ducati Scrambler remains a much loved icon to date. Having been revived in 2014 it’s always worth looking back at the roots of the new modern classic.

Like the modern day model, the 1960s Ducati Scramblers weren’t really meant to go off road.

First presented in 1962 in 250cc or 350cc versions, the Ducati Scrambler would go on to use a 125cc and 450cc engine in later versions. 

The Berliner brothers were motorcycle importers based in New York with a fascinating background, they sold lots of bikes and demanded respect from manufacturers. 

The brothers predicted the U.S markets desire for a Scrambler, Ducati listened and got to work. 

European and U.S styling merged cohesively and the Scrambler was a hit in both North America and Europe. 

A Ducati Scrambler is a great entry point into the world of classic 1960’s motorcycles, with parts plentiful and prices ranging from $3,000-$7,000 for examples in various states of repair. 

Norton Atlas

This 1968 Norton Atlas is for sale on Car and Classic for £13,995

Norton had been evolving their Dominator line since its inception, starting out as a 500cc and reaching 650cc in the Dominator 650SS. 

The Bert Hopwood-designed vertical twin started life as a 500cc, the U.S market demanded more power and so it was bored out to 745cc and the Atlas was born in 1964 with 55 horsepower.

The Atlas was the last to use the famed featherbed frame that had been in production for over 10 years.

As with all big twins vibration issues were prevalent with the Atlas and it would be the spark that would lead to Norton creating a new isolastic suspension frame, that would be used in the top of the line Commando from 1967, eliminating vibration issues. 

In production until 1968 the Atlas made its mark and the name has been revived in 2020. Buyers can expect to pay anything from £6,500-£14,000 today for an original Atlas. 

Royal Enfield Continental GT250

Royal Enfield’s Continental GT250 was much like Norton’s Navigator in terms of it being the evolution of a response to the change in British riding laws. 

The company was ahead of the game for the boom of small capacity machines with the Crusader which had a new unit-construction 250cc engine and was released in 1956. The Super 5 followed thereafter and is seen as the prototype for what would become the Continental GT250.

The BSA Gold Star had set the bar for the legendary Cafe Racer aesthetic, so while the Super 5 had the performance, Royal Enfield knew they needed to inject the style and the Continental was born. 

Motorcycling was getting a bad reputation at the time for youth racing bikes and traffic collisions were high, some manufacturers backed off the ‘race’ styling whereas Royal Enfield doubled down and created the GT version. 

Now with 21.5 Horsepower, ‘Ace’ bars and rearset footpegs, standout bodywork and swept back exhaust, the Continental GT250 was every young rider’s dream motorcycle. 

An icon then and revived in recent years an original Continental GT250 today will set a buyer back between $3,000-$6,000. 

Ducati Mach 1

Alistair Mike Rogers won a trophy at the Isle of Man TT in the 250 Production class in 1969 on a Ducati Mach 1 securing the first IOM win for the Italian company. 

Only 2000 Mach 1’s were ever built and many of those were converted for race use so there are not that many about today in working condition. 

The motorcycle was undoubtedly the best 250 available in the mid 1960s. The engine was a 248cc, four-stroke, single cylinder, Desmo SOHC, with a 5 speed gearbox.

Ducati threw all the features at the Mach 1 that was popular among riders, clip-ons, set back footrests, narrow clean profile and narrow saddle. The motorcycle was packed with sports features, great technical performance with impressive acceleration and braking. 

These 1960’s motorcycles are like gold dust on the market today, and you are most likely going to find one in need of extensive work. However, in the U.S when one does come up for sale you can expect to pay just shy of $10,000, in the U.K I have seen prices range from £6,500-£17,500.

Honda CB450

1965 saw Honda’s follow up from the overwhelmingly successful Super Hawk, the CB450 marketed in the UK as the big Black Bomber, elsewhere known as the Dragon or the Hellcat in Canada.

A 444cc twin, DOHC, with valves controlled by torsion bars, the crank was set at 180° following Honda’s unorthodox but effective precedent set on their earlier smaller capacity machines. The CB450 claimed 43HP and a top speed of 102mph. 

Honda was targeting predominantly the US market with their motorcycles aiming at the widest possible demographic, from military, to converting non-riders, racers and those who wanted to keep a squeaky clean image. Sales in the US had grown exponentially with their clever marketing strategies. 

The Black Bomber was Honda’s first ‘big’ motorcycle and while the flagship power and reliability was there, styling was somewhat lacking and for its size the bike was heavy. It wasn’t a sales flop but it was only moderately successful and later replaced by the CB750. 

Prices are quite variable on the first big Honda today with examples selling from £3,000-£8,000 in the UK and in the US some bikes reaching as much as $12,000. 

MV Agusta 600

MV Agusta was having success with Grand Prix racing so it threw everybody a little bone when they decided to build a 4-cylinder road bike. Unfortunately it had every possible deterrent to stop people from racing it. 

The intention was a grand touring motorcycle that would take the best elements from the race winning motorcycles but be repurposed into a more civilised machine. 

Count Agusta specified a 600cc engine be used which removed the motorcycle from race classifications and insisted on a shaft drive which would use more power than a chain drive. 

The engine was 592cc air-cooled DOHC inline four which delivered 50HP and a top speed of just over 99mph. 

The MV Agusta 600 was very much a hand built machine and the craftsmanship shone through. The styling also stood out which was mainly due to Count Agusta dictating that designers follow his every directive. 

Only 127 of the 600’s were ever built; in fact overall production of all MV Agusta’s 4-cylinders was just a little over 1,200 until the original marque closed its doors in 1977.

Kawasaki W1

Kawasaki were hoping to break the US market and wider world, following in the footsteps of Honda’s success. 

The Kawasaki W1 was based on typical British designed bikes such as BSA and Triumph, that the US market had been feverishly purchasing.

1966 saw the Kawasaki W1 introduced and it was a vertical 2-cylinder 624cc engine which was the biggest Japanese engine in any motorcycle for the time. The motorcycle had a Mikuni carburetor which was coupled to a 4-speed transmission.

There would be derivatives of the W1 in the following years but production of the line would cease in 1971 as they were not a huge commercial success. 

The main reason being that the reliability of Japanese motorcycles was still being established and people would rather purchase a British motorcycle than a Japanese copy of a British bike despite the fact that the British motorcycle industry was on the brink of self-destruction.

Significantly hard to come by but one example I could find was advertised at £8,995 or $12,511. 

Norton Commando

Norton Commando
Norton Commando

Half a million Commando’s were sold during the 1960s. To date it remains a popular classic motorcycle to purchase and to ride.

The Norton engine came from the Atlas and it was a 745cc OHV, two valve per-cylinder, air cooled parallel twin that delivered 56hp at 6,500rpm, with an estimated top speed of 115mph. 

What made the Norton Commando so special was the new frame which incorporated Isolatic Suspension of the engine, which was the invention of Dr Stephen Bauer, Norton’s Chief Engineer (and former Rolls Royce engineer). 

The new frame eliminated vibration issues and allowed Norton to squeeze every bit of power out of the engine. Several variant models followed the Commando with one to suit every type of rider. 

The Norton Commando 750 was named Motorcycle News’ “Motorcycle of the Year” 5 years in a row. The popularity continues and in the US you can find Commandos advertised between $5,000-$16,500. In the U.K prices range from £7,000-£14,000.

Triumph Tiger Daytona

Doug Hele (Triumph’s Head of design) was the man behind the Tiger 100 and subsequently the Tiger Daytona which was in production in 1967. The name came from Buddy Elmore’s win in the Daytona 200 race on a Tiger 100. 

In 1967 Triumph would get another win in the Daytona 200 race with Gary Nixon on the new Tiger Daytona. 

The motorcycle was a 490cc air-cooled, parallel twin, with a claimed 41HP and top speed of 105mph, it was paired with a 4 speed gearbox. 

By 1969 the model had been given a disk brake to keep up with technical advancements from other manufacturers, but by 1973, Triumph ended up ceasing all production as a result of industrial action. 

Prices on the market today vary greatly from £5,000-£12,000. 

Triumph Trident

Triumph Trident

One of the finest 1960s motorcycles was the original Triumph Trident 750 which for a month or two was a serious contender for worlds first superbike.

It was the first co-operative venture between Triumph and BSA (who renamed and rebadged the Trident as the Rocket 3). 

Triumph had pushed their Bonneville 650 twin engine as much as they could to its limits and they needed something bigger to keep up with the competition. Bert Hopwood (Engineer) and Doug Hele (Designer) got together and came up with a three-cylinder concept.

The Trident wasn’t shown any support from management and was deemed low priority. That was until a change of management and rumors of Honda working on a performance motorcycle pushed work on the Trident back up to the forefront.

The motor was held vertically by a single down-tube frame and produced 58 horsepower at 7250rpm. It could cover the standard quarter-mile in under 13 seconds and reached a top speed of 117mph.

However, the styling wasn’t quite right initially and led to a mixed response from the public, this was addressed over the various model years. The Trident (Rocket 3) would also be eclipsed by Honda’s CB750 which arrived soon after and claimed the title of the Worlds First Superbike. 

So while Triumph’s, triple-cylinder was revolutionary and bolstered British bikes for big performance machines, from its development to release it seemed the Trident was cursed.

With that said today the Trident is looked upon in a much brighter light and is a highly collectable and rideable classic. 

Average prices for good examples in the US sit around the $8,000 mark while in the U.K £10,000 would get you a pretty nice model. 

Yamaha DT1 Duel Sport

It was 1968 when the Yamaha DT1 250 was introduced. 

Solid, small, inexpensive motorcycles that you could ride to the dirt track, do some off-roading and then ride the roads home again.

Yamaha knew that despite overall motorcycle sales being slightly down at the end of the 1960’s, there was a big market in the US for off-road motorcycles and Yamaha decided to try and cut a piece of the cake for themselves.

The Yamaha DT series didn’t invent the dual-sport, but it was the first practical and inexpensive road bike that could tackle off-road with ease and precision. Parts were cheap and durable, servicing was easy to do, Yamaha had really hit the market with exactly what off-road enthusiasts wanted. 

The Yamaha DT1 250 sparked a whole series of motorcycles in all displacements that were a roaring success for the marque and to date Yamaha still make incredible off-road and dual-sport bikes. 

Suzuki TS Savage

Another 1960s motorcycle introduced into the new duel sport market
Another 1960s motorcycle introduced into the new duel sport market

Suzuki followed suit from Yamaha in 1969 with a 246cc two stroke dual sport motorcycle, in the form of the Suzuki TS 250. 

23HP, five-speed gearbox and a high swept back exhaust donned the new motorcycle. It was built on the back of the TM250 Motocrosser but had a toned down engine to make it street legal.

The machine was nicknamed the Savage in the US.

The Suzuki TS250 Savage stayed in production until 1981 and saw various changes and improvements over the years, it was just one year after its introduction that the motorcycle had big changes to the fenders, the exhaust and heat shield. 

The Suzuki TS range would see various capacities over the years and some countries would see different models from others.

Depending on specific models, prices range from £2,495-£8,000. 

Harley Davidson Baja

Harley Davidson had their finger on the pulse in regards to what was happening in the US market, and the in late 1960’s there was a strong desire for small capacity two stroke machines for off-roading.

Harley knew they needed to step away from their bread and butter of big V-twins and carve a space for themselves within the new trend. 

The Americans owned the Italian Aermacchi factory so they had that factory build a Harley dirt bike. The motorcycle was called the Baja 100 and was developed in 1969 ready for sale by 1970 and remained in production until 1974. 

Customers were dubious so Harley hired the best desert racers in California including Bruce Ogilvie, Terry Clark, Earl Roeseler and had them race the bikes and they quickly dominated the trailbike class. 

When it came to the production bikes however, they were somewhat different to what the racers were riding and not of the same quality or spec. 

Harley’s foray into off-road bikes came at the same time as Yamaha and Suzuki’s entry into that world, it didn’t take long for the public to see that the American (Italian) machine was no match for the Japanese motorcycles. 

The Harley Davidson Baja 100 is a coveted motorcycle, perhaps if nothing else for being one of Harley’s quirkiest bikes, they can be found for up to $7,500.

Kawasaki H1 Mach III

1969 was the year Kawasaki saw a reorganisation as a company and among other valuable developments it was the force that created a 500cc, 60HP, three-cylinder, two stroke motorcycle by the name of the H1 Mach III. 

For a period of time this motorcycle would be the fastest production motorcycle in the world, giving it the appropriate title of “The Widowmaker”

The motorcycle was affordable and came with a surprising amount of power safely putting it in the ‘dangerous category’ for those who had little self-control on the throttle.

Build quality was impressive, outshining British and American counterparts by quite a bit and more importantly, the motorcycle was reliable. It wasn’t long before Honda’s CB750 took the shine off the Kawasaki, but the Mach III had created a following and it was really well liked, it was both exciting and terrifying in equal measure.

By 1972 Kawasaki had the Mach IV out and that was delivering 74HP from it’s 750cc engine. The Mach III continued to be developed with new brakes, reinforced frame, and better suspension etc until 1975/6. By this time the motorcycle had been tamed somewhat but still encouraged hooligan riding at high speeds. 

Today the H1 Mach III is coveted as a Kawasaki classic and rightly so. A wild beast that is bound to put a smile on your face, these motorcycles are currently sitting at an average of $10,000 in the US and £12,000 in the UK. 

Honda CB750

Honda CB750

Of all the 1960s motorcycles, it is probably the big 4 cylinder Honda CB750 that stands out as the bike of the decade.

Known as the worlds first superbike, it was a pioneer of its class, bringing disc brakes and a four-cylinder engine to a production street bike that had previously only been seen on a racing motorcycle.

The CB750 was an instant hit with the press and public, despite projecting just 1,500 sales initially, Honda soon had to increase this to 36,000 on the back of the orders that were coming in.  

Honda went on to sell an estimated half-a-million units of their original ‘K’ model superbike from 1969 to 1978 and Cycle magazine labelled the CB750, “the most sophisticated production motorcycle ever.”

The CB750 paved the way for the Universal Japanese Motorcycle (UJM) and the world was about to become dominated by big, fast, machines from the Asian continent. 

Honda also had several race wins with the new motorcycle and the AMA changed the rules which meant Honda could now re-enter GP racing with their big bikes and compete. 

Prices significantly vary on an original CB750 depending on condition, year, any history that comes with the motorcycle etc. Mainly to be found in the US and in working condition can fetch anything from $7,500 – $45,000.

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