The UK Government announced that MoT exemption status is going to be extended to anything over 40 years old this week.
Well before that only bikes built before 1960 were exempt and that meant smoky, clanky, oily old British stuff, but rolling it up to 1977 takes it right past the Japanese invasion of the early 70s, through the dawn of multi-cylinder superbikes, and into the blue haze of the two-stroke giant-killers – there’s now some serious seventies speed that has achieved classic status.
Still not convinced?
Well anything over 40 years-old is also Vehicle Excise Duty exempt and qualifies for nice, cheap classic insurance policies too. That’s a win-win in our book…
Here’s our pick of the ‘77 crop:
Ducati Darmah 900 Sport Desmo
The Darmah 900 Sport Desmo appeared in 1977.
The years preceding it hadn’t been kind to Ducati: its 250, 350 and 450cc single cylinder and round-case 750 GT, Sport and Super Sport models were gone, the 900SS was too exotic and expensive, and the Japanese were taking a big bite out of what was left. They needed something ‘accessible’ and the Darmah was it.
Essentially it was a detuned 900SS, with a re-styling job by Leopoldo Tartarini – not much to write home about you might think – but it also had an electric start, electronic ignition, a dual seat and a sensible list price.
Legend has it that the XLCR was created by designer Willie G. Davidson from an existing XLCH Sportster as his personal vehicle, but the truth is it was a bit of a designed-by-committee bike.
The bikini fairing, slim front fender, reshaped fuel tank, a pillion-free saddle and two-into-two exhaust certainly looked the part, but the long wheelbase, cruiser steering geometry and lazy power delivery didn’t match the cafe racer looks and buyers ignored it in droves.
Fast-forward forty years though, and collectors would give their eye-teeth for an XLCR. If you can find one – and can afford it – buy it.
The CB750 sent a shockwave through the motorcycling world when the cover came off it at the 1968 Tokyo motor show. The arrival of the CB750 not only changed the way we looked at Japanese bikes, it changed the way bikes were built forever.
It would top 125mph, wouldn’t rattle your fillings out on the motorway, it was reliable and started at the push of a button. It knocked one of the final nails in the British bike industries’ coffin, coined the phrase ‘superbike’ and set the benchmark for big production bikes.
Purists might say by 1977 it wasn’t really a CB750 anymore – and yes they got a bit overweight and unpowered by then – but production in SOHC form continued until 1978, so you’re still getting what’s considered an ‘original’ CB, but much cheaper.
The current cafe racer trend is nothing new you know, back in the 1970s racer-inspired designs were hot stuff and the Z1-R was Kawasaki’s attempt.
Designed in the USA it featured a cool silver livery, slim tank, four-into-one exhaust, a bikini fairing and cast alloy wheels – nothing new nowadays, but back then styling like that had never really before seen on a big displacement sports bike. It also went like stink, which helped.
Like the XLCR, if you can find one and can afford it, you’d be a fool not to buy it.
The GS750 was Suzuki’s first four-stroke engined motorcycle after 22 years of two-strokes.
The GS was Suzuki’s answer to the Honda CB, and it ticked all the right boxes: DOHC, 5-speed gearbox, electric start, 72bhp, and a top speed knocking on the door of 125mph.
Solid, reliable and with decent performance, handling and brakes (by 1970s standards) a well fettled GS750 will still get you to work and back during the week and tour and scratch at the weekends too.
Not quite as glamorous as it’s Honda and Kawasaki rivals, but a considerably cheaper and a much more useable proposition.
Although Yamaha anoraks will tell you the RD was actually launched in 1976, it’s the ‘77 model – complete with it’s cast wheels (the first time on a production bike, we think?) – that is most remembered/lusted after.
Everyone thought Yamaha had nailed it with the RD350, but when the 160kilo, 40bhp 106mph 400cc RD popped up, they were definitely proved wrong.
Although it’s time in the spotlight was to be brief – the LCs were just around the corner – the 400 was the ultimate racer-on-the-road and would give the big-four-strokes a serious run for their money back in the day, and will have you grinning from ear to ear today.
Agree? Dissagree? Which newly MoT-exempt classic would you be hunting the classifieds for?