Motorcycles have figured prominently in just about every aspect of 20th-century life, both as a means of transportation and a machine to realize one's aspirations to be as cool as Brando, Dean, and McQueen. Today, classic and vintage motorcycles from the pre- and post-World War II years have become highly collectible, especially among baby boomers, although in most cases part of the value lies in the ability of the collector to give his prize a kick start and take it out for a ride.
The first motorcycles were produced in the late 19th century, on both sides of the Atlantic. Some of the earliest efforts were simply small motors attached to bicycles. In the 20th century, hundreds of makers produced motorcycles of all varieties, from high-powered behemoths with side cars to scooters designed to navigate narrow city streets. Highly sought manufacturers include Indian, Harley-Davidson, Matchless, Ducati, Crocker, BMW, Triumph, BSA, Norton, Royal Enfield, Honda, Yamaha, and Kawasaki, to name but a very few.
Two American companies, Indian and Harley-Davidson, dominated the market in the U.S. until the waves of British and Japanese imports in the 1950s and 1960s offered consumers more choices, especially when it came to smaller bikes. Indian sputtered until its rebirth in 2006, while Harley-Davidson roared back to life in the 1980s after a disastrous decade under the management of AMF. Today, vintage "hogs" by both manufacturers are favorites of riders and collectors alike.