Thursday, December 23, 2010

A wise investment

A little endowment thingy has recently matured (I think that's the right terminology) and a whole load of dosh has suddenly been deposited in my bank account. Others may call it peanuts but to this hermit recluse it's enough to cover a couple of years' living expenses. However, it raises the question 'what to do with the wedge?'.

We could of course chuck it at the maison and finish off the bathroom, fit a new kitchen and maybe make a start on doing up the lounge - er, I mean indoor shed. But.., if we then sold up (we still don't know what we're gonna do house-wise!) I doubt if we'd recover the costs of those improvements. Or..., we could invest in resurfacing the lane that leads to 'the barn' down Beaulieu-sur-Dordogne way, thus gaining proper access and enabling builders' lorries to reach the dilapidated cottage and barn (er..., we still don't know what we're gonna do house-wise!). Or..., we could stash it in a UK bank or building society but, like everybody else, we've lost all faith and belief in bankers and financiers (and besides, the interest rates are a joke). Or..., we could chuck it on horse number seven in the 2.45 at Uttoxeter or put it all on red at the local casino.

I assume we're not alone in this quandry. Presumably there are loads of other Baby-Boomers of my generation currently receiving buckets of money as their endowments mature. However, unlike us, most of them have kids and I presume many will be helping their grown-up offspring get onto the housing ladder or helping out with paying off their little brats' credit card debts. Or maybe they're planning round the world cruises or that holiday they've always promised themselves. Or maybe they're investing in Brazil (I understand this to be the latest financial craze).

As an avid fan of bikes and cars, I've noticed quite a few recent articles about people (presumably Baby Boomers) investing in classic vehicles. Ten years ago you could pick up a Vincent motorcycle for about ten grand. Today they're going for about forty or fifty. Cars like 'E' type Jags have similarly increased in value. It's all about supply and demand. Good 'uns are hard to find and demand is high due to Baby Boomers with dosh looking for somewhere safe (and enjoyable) to put it.

Such vehicles are way beyond my means. Besides, I actually think values have now peaked (I say this every year then watch gobsmacked as prices continue to rise). And..., if you chuck fifty grand at a Vinnie or 'E' type and hang onto it for, say, ten years, who's going to buy it and at what price? In ten years time we Baby Boomers will be too old to drive the damned things so we won't be looking to buy, certainly not at sixty or seventy grand, so prices could plummet. And I doubt very much if the next generation will then drool over these motoring icons with the same misty eyes. So you'd be lucky to get back your investment. Hence me saying values have peaked (if I give advice about anything financial, do the opposite).

The trick is to spot tomorrow's Vinnie or 'E' type. Obvious contenders are the Yamaha 'Fizzy' and mk.1 Golf GTi. Both are cult vehicles held in high esteem by the post-Boomer generation (prices are already rocketing). However, as far as I'm concerned, investing in a car doesn't make sense due to storage problems. So forget cars. And I'm buggered if I can get excited about owning a damned 50cc Fizzy. So forget that too.

As mentioned in an earlier blog posting, I've been giving a lot of thought recently to what affordable, modernish motorcycle would make a sound investment. Came to the conclusion that the Honda VFR750 seemed a good bet (widely regarded as the best engineered and greatest all-rounder of all time). Even went as far as putting my Beemer up for sale so I'd be in a position to buy if the right one came along. Typically, the right one came along but before I'd sold the Beemer. So I didn't get it. No worries, there'll be others.

But all this was before the endowment thingy knocked the moths out of my wallet. My imaginary budget leapt from 2.5 grand to somewhere around five (could have been far higher but, for the first time ever, I'm trying desperately hard to be Captain Sensible). Spent hours, nay days, deliberating while dogwalking and waiting for spuds to boil when cooking. Investment contenders now included the iconic Ducati 916 and Urban Tiger Honda Fireblade. Then the phone rang. To cut a long story short (this is short?!), chap wanted to buy my Beemer. But, bereft of afforementioned moths, I no longer had to sell in order to invest in a future classic bike. Besides, I reckon the Beemer is actually a future classic. So maybe I'll keep it and invest in something else as well just for fun. But what?

Ruled out all Ducatis (too temperamental and I reckon millions of others are already investing in the blighters, thus pushing up prices). Ruled out the Urban Tiger (people already investing in good 'uns). Eventually ruled out the Honda Blackbird (not yet a collector's item but soon will be) because it's a licence loser. Then ruled out the VFR750 Honda 'cos I discovered that the later VFR800i (pre-VTEC model) was equally well built, a better performer (better mid-range grunt) and still retained the adorable gear-driven cams (this is how extensively I'd been researching). So.., the VFR800i it is then. Ticks all the right boxes.

But..., having done hours of research, I discovered that the process of registering a UK bike in France is a potential minefield. For a start, the lights have to be changed so they dip right. Then the speedo has to be changed so it reads in kilometres not miles. And if the bike's rated at more than 106bhp, the engine has to be detuned (the VFR apparently produces 108bhp - or 98, or 106, according to different websites). Some chaps have had no problem importing while others have been foiled by this 106bhp ruling. Seems to be the luck of the draw which 'prefecture' representative you deal with. Bit of a risk but could be worth it. The alternative is to search for a French registered VFR800i instead. Nah, all French bikes are about 30% pricier than UK ones, and generally with far higher mileages.

At that point I gave up and decided to stick with my Beemer. But..., as is often the way, I then spotted the bike that had my name written all over it: a year 2001 VFR800i, only 1200 miles, in mint condition, UK registered but an import, with kilometre speedo and right dip headlight, up for grabs at under four grand. Sent off a cheque yesterday. But what if it fails this 106bhp registration hurdle? Well, I'll just stick her indoors as an objet d'art.



  1. Congratulations !!! A great story and I love the meanderings of a man's mind that leads him to buy a new bike, or new fishing rod, or new computer.........

    Actually, when my financial advisor told me my pension was so pathetic that there was no point in waiting until I'm 60 to draw it, I might as well have it now, I spent a fair chunk of the tax-free lump sum on a second Harley. (I just happened to be walking the dog on a morning when my other half normally walks the dog and bumped into a neighbour who happened to be selling his Harley and happened to mention it to me the day after the financial advisor happened to say......)

    The rest of it buys me a day off work per week, that's how much my years of pension contributions are worth. When I finally pack up work I'll have to live on the equivalent of one day's pay. Good eh? But at least I will have had soooo much fun on my motorcycle while I can remember how to do it.

  2. Good for you Jean. Two Harleys - wowee! Enjoy 'em. Live now, starve later! Actually, I think you'll find that changing your lifestyle to living on the equivalent of one day's pay per week isn't as difficult as you might imagine. Thousands, nay millions, of others will probably be doing exactly the same.

  3. Brilliant move. I've been itching for another bike for ages but wouldn't have a clue what to get these days, give me a clue.

  4. Ah, Country B. Excellent thought. Need a tighter brief though. Budget? Purpose? - presumably a week-end potter-abouter rather than an investment thingy? Knowing you as I do, perhaps a Honda F2 400-4 fits the bill - 50% classic and 50% runaround - a brilliant machine and a wise investment too. Or..., maybe a good 750 Triumph Bonneville T140 - if you find a good 'un (and I'll willingly help you) it's a superb machine that ticks all the right boxes.

  5. Country B - just remembered: there's a really good, low mileage, Honda VFR750 currently up for sale at Hedgehogs (a small dealership down Devon way?) for around 2300 quidlettes - just two owners, the last being a cop. Could be exactly what you're looking for.

  6. Do you mean to say that my bike of a lifetime (Honda 400/4) is what I should have held on to? Saw one a month or so ago, thought it was the one I used to have but couldn't remember the registration, always regret selling it as it was an ideal 'ladies bike'!

    Will look at the Honda VFR750, might be a bit big for a short arse.

  7. Country B - Just thought of the perfect bike for you: the BMW F650. Look it up. Popular with the gals and the vertically challenged. I particularly like the early Funduro version but they're all good. There you go, problem solved.