Bang from the past: nostalgia for the 1970s drives moped sales
1970s mopeds are rapidly rising in value as nostalgic enthusiasts now in their 50s and 60s search for the machines that gave them their first taste of freedom as teenagers.
Popular models such as the Yamaha FS1-E, or ‘Fizzy’, have risen in price to as much as £10,000, whereas a decade ago the same two-wheeler could be picked up for £1,500. In the mid-1970s it had an original price tag of around £230.
Hot in hot pursuit are other moped favourites, such as the Suzuki AP50, which now retails for thousands of pounds – whereas a few years ago you could pick one up for just a few hundred.
Mopeds were big business for teenagers in the 1970s, as a 1971 law prohibited them from riding motorcycles with a displacement of up to 250cc until they were 17 years old.
The so-called ‘Sixteen Act’ restricted 16-year-olds from driving vehicles no larger than 50cc. In practice that meant no motorcycles – but the two-stroke mopeds of the time were legal to ride.
In response to this law, moped manufacturers began making ‘sport mopeds’ – fashionable and fast vehicles especially for the British market, often resembling full-fledged motorcycles.
These mopeds, like the famous Yamaha ‘Fizzy’ and its rival Suzuki AP50, were socially and culturally important, as they gave their owners – often for the first time – a sense of freedom.
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The moped boom of the 1970s ended in 1977, when the government introduced new laws restricting mopeds to a weight of 250 kg and a top speed of 30 mph.
Jeremy Curzon, motorcycle specialist at Cheffins auction house in Cambridge, says: ‘After years in the wild, these 1970s mopeds are now highly collectable. They cost quite a bit of money – but you’re paying for a freedom machine.’
In April last year, Chefffins sold a modified Fizzy for just over £4,000, and another was sold in 2021 for £10,350. Curzon says: ‘Ten years ago a Fizzy would only have sold for around £1,500, but they’ve been gaining popularity in recent years with prices running into the thousands. However, no one could have imagined that one of these sixteen-year specials could generate five-figure sums.”
He adds: ‘The Fizzy was probably the most iconic and beloved of them all, and to this day holds a very special place in the hearts of those who were teenagers in the mid to late 1970s, including myself. It’s great to see these bikes now getting the attention they deserve at auctions and we’re seeing prices rise as nostalgic buyers look to pick up the bikes of their youth.”
Mopeds are cheaper to run than a car, but for most owners their appeal lies in the sense of freedom they offer the rider. Nick Devonport is president of the ‘Buzzing Club’ – officially known as the National Autocycle and Cyclemotor Club.
“The retro cycling craze is still insane because people hark back to a childhood when they felt they were hurtling with the wind in their hair – when in reality they were often just struggling up a hill and being overtaken by every other vehicle,” he says .
“It has created a market where the price of Japanese mopeds is now sky-high, but values are still expected to remain solid.”
Adds Davenport: ‘Still, there are plenty of other 1970s contemporaries worth investing in costing from around £500 that can still go up in price – and give riders just as much pleasure.
“These could potentially be even better investments too, as the starting price to buy them is usually much lower.”
Wind up: A classic 1975 Yamaha FS1-E, above, known as a Fizzy can sell for £10,000
Nick points to the French Mobylette that started in 1949 and was made until 1997. Another is the 1954 Slovenian 50cc Tomos, which is still on sale for £1,100.
When purchasing, Nick suggests contacting an enthusiast club for free impartial practical advice and tips on what to look out for – including previous ownership registration details and making sure it has authentic parts to retain value.
Victor Hurst is the member secretary of the enthusiast group British Two Stroke Club.
He believes this wave of interest could also have a knock-on effect going back to even older British mopeds – copied and often improved by more reliable and faster Yamaha and Suzuki imports.
These include the 98cc James Comet from 1948 to 1964 and the 98cc Excelsior Consort from 1953 to the mid-1960s.
Says Hurst, “I have a 1954 Comet with two speeds that you shift with levers on the steering wheel—but a few years later they switched to the foot pedals, as adopted by Japanese manufacturers.
‘You can still buy one for £1,200, although you couldn’t give them away about a decade ago. Looking at the rising price of the Fizzy and Suzuki AP50, the British bikes have huge potential.”
How to find out if your old bike is valuable
If you have a moped from the 1970s and want to know its value, take some pictures and contact a professional auction house. You might also consider trying an enthusiast club such as The National Autocycle and Cyclemotor Club at thebuzzingclub.net.
An auctioneer or club will ask a few questions and then advise how much the moped could be worth. The highest prices are charged for mopeds with a low mileage, but also for mopeds with all original parts – even if the vehicle is no longer running.
The fastest mopeds of the time are now also among the most sought after, says Jeremy Curzon of auctioneer Cheffins. It’s all about originality. It’s fine if it’s in chunks, as long as it’s the original bits.’
However, many old mopeds are far from being in new condition.
Some have been subjected to the ravages of time and their original teenage owners – ‘killed’ in the parlance of the moped community. Other mopeds fell prey to another trend of the time: modifying them to go faster.
1970s moped owners commonly tinkered with their machines and swapped parts in an effort to get a few more miles per hour out of their prized possession. “In the past, people modified and tuned them to make them go faster,” Curzon explains.
“It was about being able to boast that your moped once overtook a Jaguar E-type.
“They were beaten to death and many ended up as scrap, so there is now a finite supply.”
Next month, auction house Cheffins is selling what Curzon describes as “a quartet of the best sixteen-year-old mopeds from the mid-1970s, all from a dedicated collector now hanging up his flared trousers.”
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