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Over the course of many motorcycle restorations, I have come to the conclusion that factory original motorcycle parts (or OEM parts) are worth every penny to the restorer.
This has absolutely nothing to do with performance since most of us know that aftermarket parts can add significant performance gains.
My point or commentary here is that OEM motorcycle parts do a tremendous amount when it comes to adding value to your restoration.
Anyone who restores motorcycles has asked himself or herself the question – Should I search for factory original motorcycle parts at a swap meet or buy some aftermarket knockoff via the internet?
Obviously for internal components like valves, pushrods, etc., new or aftermarket makes little difference (you are not selling to Superman), but for external parts like fenders, tanks, and exhaust I recommend going OEM.
I know that feeling though. The feeling of wanting to customize. The feeling of wanting to make this bike “your own.” That is part of the joy of owning a motorcycle. The decision, however, really has to come down to your end goal for this motorcycle. Do you plan to keep the bike or sell it? The value of visual customization is in “the eye of the beholder.” That is what makes us all unique – our different tastes. Therefore, don’t put a bunch of esthetic customizations on your motorcycle and expect it to fetch a higher price. Collectors look for bikes as close to original as possible.
As a self-proclaimed motorcycle historian, I would also always encourage a friend to fight the urge and go original where possible. Old bikes are artifacts of motorcycle history. Anyways…..
Going with the original look and style of the bike is always the safest bet if you want to maximize the value of your ride. I have done my best to keep “Cal” the Shovelhead close to original. I even went as far as creating my own set of two piece handlebars. The only “customization” of note on “Cal” is the use of some blackout truck bed coating spray paint on the fender struts and dust shields – these parts were too far gone in terms of chrome damage. Eventually, I might pick up replacement sets of these parts at a swap meet, but for now I have kept the factory original motorcycle parts on the bike with a little paint to help things out.
What is the quantified difference? Honestly, it is hard to be precise here. That said, a good estimate of the difference is KBB and NADA guides. They always have pricing tiers like Poor, Fair, Good, and Excellent. Honestly, the different between Very Good and Excellent is usually the difference. When you get into the really historic bikes, a large percentage of factory original parts can actually take the price of the bike above the highest price mark.
Finally, I would like to answer one more question with this post. How do you know that part you are looking at is a factory original motorcycle part? At least when it comes to American bikes, Harley-Davidson tended to stamp larger parts with part numbers. For example, swingarms and mufflers will always have a stamp on them indicating part number and year of original manufacture – see my related blog post on swingarm numbers. To the extent they used third-party contractors to help produce “factory original” parts, these vendors tended to stamp their own logos in non-descript places. For example, fender tips normally have a logo or some other stamp on the inside.
Anyways, I hope with this post that I have helped a few of you who are wavering between a crazy customization and using factory original motorcycle parts. The reward of keeping it original goes beyond just the value in the bike. I can tell you from personal experience that standing over a bike from the 70s that looks exactly as it did when it rolled off the factory floor has a feeling of satisfaction that is a reward in and of itself.
That’s all for now. Thanks from Chris at HappyWrench!
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