Bortz on Bikes
Words & Photos: John Gunnell
Joe Bortz, of Chicago, Ill., has made a name for himself—as well as millions of dollars—by investing in 1950 - 1970s factory dream cars and prototypes. What a lot of people don’t know is that one of Bortz’s later obsessions is the motorcycle marketplace. He has collected about 30 bikes which he thinks will be worth millions of dollars sometime in the future.
In 1984, this writer was sought out by Bortz at the first of the dispersal auctions held at the Harrah’s Auto Collection in Reno. I had written a number of articles about dream cars and Bortz invited me to dinner to discuss his plan to invest in such vehicles. At that time, dream cars were not worth a lot of money and hardly anyone collected them. In fact, many of the cars that Bortz ultimately saved were thought to be destroyed back then.
“My take is that motorcycles (as collectibles) are like certain cars used to be years ago,” Bortz told me on Jan. 4, 2015. “Car collectors moved from brass cars, to Classic cars, to 1950s cars and then to muscle cars. This didn’t happen quickly. either. They’re slow-moving targets until a certain type of car comes into focus as the latest genre to collect.
“In my opinion, with motorcycles the interest used to be in prewar bikes like Indians, popular early American models like Harley-Davidson Knuckleheads and British bikes. Now, the genre is changing to postwar models, especially motorcycles made in Italy.”
Bortz feels that Italian bikes are the Ferraris and Lamborghinis of the motorcycle marketplace. “I say Italian motorcycles are going to be, in the future, the high end of the market,” said Bortz. “The majority of bikes in the Bortz Auto Collection are Italian jobs like Bellinis, Ducatis and Moto Guzzis.”
Bortz appreciates what he calls the “pinch design” and the “sexy lines” of Italian superbikes. “And some of them, like the little 900 SS, have an exhaust note like you’ve never heard before,” Bortz added “I think the whole market is on the upswing and the Italian bikes are in the lead as far as values go.”
Bortz also like some of the Japanese superbikes, especially those made when the Japanese manufacturers were experimenting with turbocharging. He also likes to invest in multi-cylinder bikes such a three-cylinder and six-cylinder editions. “As a collector, I always like to have things tied up in packages,” Bortz explained. “So, if I can have a grouping of six-cylinder bikes or a grouping of turbo bikes, that adds value.”
Bortz also warns that some of his fast bikes are dangerous. “When you’ve got the fastest thing on the road and it’s only got two wheels, you’re taking a chance against danger,” he said. “But with that in mind, I’d recommend very late 1960s to ‘90s superbikes to anyone who wants to invest in classic motorcycles.”