December 19 2011
Simon de Burton
People generally visit the Cotswold town of Bourton-on-the-Water for cream teas and antiques shops – but not necessarily to buy an exotic motorcycle. At least, that was the case until a couple of years ago, when Larry Preston-Smith and his business partner, Angus MacCurrach, decided to realise a mutual dream of turning a large barn on the latter’s nearby family farm into a bike shop for a discerning clientele.
As its name suggests, Iconic Motorcycles stocks mainly the rare, the exotic and the important – machines that are often as much works of art as forms of transport. Preston-Smith has been passionate about classic vehicles since his youth. After time in the armed forces, he returned home with a bit of money to invest in a business. “Angus suggested the barn would make an ideal motorcycle showroom,” he remembers. “The time was right, because a whole new market is emerging for certain sorts of motorcycles that appeal to people in their 30s, 40s and 50s who have funds to invest in the machines that they dreamt of owning as youngsters – and that can mean an immaculate Japanese classic, a hand-built endurance racer from the 1980s, or a rare ‘rally raid’ bike designed for events such as the Paris-Dakar,” he explains. “The aim is to deliver a very high level of personal service that makes the experience of buying a classic motorcycle thoroughly enjoyable.” Everything on sale here is either in excellent, original condition or professionally restored. “We also build machines to clients’ specifications and offer a finding service to track down particular models.”
Clients, who include one of Britain’s most senior industrialists, come from afar (it’s best to make an appointment first) to peruse the extensive stock of up to 50 machines. The rarest motorcycle to pass through the barn’s books was the first-ever production Douglas from 1907, which changed hands for £100,000, while the most expensive on the current stock list is a Brough Superior (£200,000). In between, there is a £60,000 MV Agusta, a Norton Commando production racing bike at £16,000, a Triumph T150 Triple, also £16,000, and a gleaming Ducati 900SS, which could be parked on a plinth in your drawing room for £16,250.
“Numerous events are now being organised for the type of machines we sell, from classic motocross races to hill climbs and regularity trials, and these help to boost demand and enhance values,” says Preston-Smith. But, he says, there’s a more important side to these bikes, “and that’s the fact that they are simply rocking good fun to own”.