Antique Motorcycle Parts Buying Guide

Chris Waldron Chris Waldron

The oldest motorcycles are found in museums, as they are prototypes or one-of-a-kind. Bikes that are old and were mass produced are referred to as antique bikes, vintage bikes, or classic bikes, but no official consensus is available to distinguish between the terms.

Antique Motorcycle Parts Buying Guide

Owners of old motorcycles often search for parts to get the bike on the road or ready for show. Searching is labor-intensive and time-consuming, as parts are hard to find. The search is easier if riders consider reproduction parts or aftermarket parts.

When searching, consumers should be aware that, like any antique, alterations to the bike may decrease its value. Bike owners that simply want the bike to function can pay less attention to original replacement parts. Bike collectors, however, should pay special attention to the part’s age, origin, style, and quality, as the parts ultimately influence the bike’s ultimate. To find antique motorcycle parts, people search motorcycle events, auctions, private sellers, and online marketplaces like eBay Motors.. When searching, consumers should know some details about older bikes and their replacement parts.

History of Motorcycles

Motorcycles were first developed in the mid-1800s, but were not mass produced until the early 1900s. The leaders in motorcycle manufacturing at the time were Indian, Triumph, BMW, and Harley Davidson. Later, DKW, NSU, and Moto Guzzi produced race machines and popular bikes. Honda, Suzuki, Kawasaki, and Yamaha joined the motorcycle competition in the mid 1900s. Today, Harley Davidson, Triumph, Yamaha, Kawasaki, Suzuki, BMW, and Honda continue operation. The original Indian company went out of business, but the name lives on with successor companies. DKW went out of business and NSU became part of Volkswagen. Owners of antique motorcycles whose brand survives have a better chance at finding replacement parts.

Buying the Right Antique Motorcycle Replacement Parts

Antique bike owners can help themselves by doing some research before buying antique motorcycle parts.. They can look on the Internet for information, join motorcycle clubs to consult with others, and seek advice from groups like The Antique Motorcycle Club of America. The bike itself can offer valuable clues and signal a way forward, as the chassis, engine, and other parts may have numerical identifying marks that can help in identifying suitable replacements.

While it may be tempting to buy the first part one sees, taking the time to consider the provenance is advised. The provenance refers to the part’s manufacturer, production date, history of owners, and other details that reflect authenticity. When looking at the part in person or online, consider it from all angles, checking for paint cover-up, dents, scratches, or cracks. With background on the bike from prior research, details about the part can help in the selection process.

Antique Motorcycle Replacement Parts

In many cases, the part for a certain brand but different model may work, as some parts are interchangeable or may fit with some modifications if the connectors match. If the existing part has a number and the seller lists the same number and the picture looks the same, it is reasonably sure to match. When browsing for parts or considering restoring an old motorcycle, knowing which parts are most likely to be needed is important.

Electrical System

Antique motorcycle electrical systems are much more simple than new bikes, with sophisticated sensors and computers. To overhaul the electrical system, bike owners must find wiring harnesses, ignitions, and uncover any electrical mistakes from previous restoration efforts. All lights and switches should work, and the engine should crank over, or a new battery may be needed.

Engine and Transmission

The engine and transmission often needs a total or partial rebuilding. Rebuilding the engine with original parts is important not just for show or performance but to keep the original spirit of the bike; the sound it makes, the power it produces, and the riding experience. Bike owners may need to replace the cylinders, valves, pistons, and crankshaft in the engine. The antique motorcycle transmission may need shift forks or gears, bearings, or other parts. Keeping the original exhaust system helps maintain the spirit of the bike, as the sound and vibration stays the same.


Antique motorcycle brakes are available and some manufacturers offer brake kits for their older bikes. Keeping or replacing the original brake parts like the calipers, rotors, drums, and master cylinder is possible. Levers can be re-plated or polished. However, for brake lines, old lines are unsafe and new ones are recommended. Brake pads, for safety reasons, should be new.


Most restoration projects start with a complete disassembly until the frame is exposed. Front forks need replacing as well as the fork sliders, springs, and seals. Antique motorcycle frames can be cleaned and polished while still keeping the original finish, or they can be sent out for painting or chrome plating.

Wheels and Tires

Many bikes retain their original wheels, as antique motorcycle wheels are rebuilt with a combination of new and old parts. For instance, wheels are respoked and the metal hub polished or refinished. It may need new wheel bearings and grease seals. Tires are most often new, as old motorcycle tires are often dry, cracked, and unsafe. As part of the wheel system, replacing the shocks is advisable for safety.

Fuel System

Old gas tanks are susceptible to rust or a milky coating on the inside, as well as dark colored gas that has been sitting for years. The tank can be cleaned and sealed or antique motorcycle gas tanks are available for sale. The carburetor often needs cleaning, replacement hardware, or another carburetor entirely installed. Fuel lines should be new, as old ones are unsafe.

Miscellaneous Parts

Functional parts or components that connect parts to each other are often needed. These include gaskets, rubber parts, hoses, and cables. Hardware like screws, nuts, bolts, and brackets may be necessary. Items like ball bearings, clutch levers, gauges, light bulbs, seats, chains, and belts keep the bike operational and looking original. The parts that are functional need replacement, but so do the parts that are for looks only or have a functional and aesthetic component. Parts like mirrors, sissy bars, seats, and foot pegs often need work or replacement. Consumers can find the original parts, find replication parts, or find parts with cosmetic work done. Seats can be refurbished with new foam, but keep the original leather. The mirror can be replaced with chrome. Many motorcycle parts are painted or polished.

Buying Antique Motorcycle Parts

Antique motorcycle owners can journey over to eBay Motors,, as it provides an easy and productive way to find replacement parts, with sellers from all over the world offering replacement parts. Searching is a matter of using the categories and refinement filters. However, for rare parts like antique motorcycle parts, using the search box is the easiest and fastest way. You can enter general search terms or specific terms, but specifying the brand is advised, like "antique Harley parts.." If you are just browsing for now and want to purchase later, use your computer browser to save your search. Especially when looking for rare parts, signing up for email alerts is a good idea, as they alert you if a part comes up for sale.

Choosing the Best Sellers on eBay

Since finding the right part is necessary for the vehicle to operate and can increase or decrease the bike’s value, finding a local seller is advised. With the seller’s permission, you can go and examine the component and take immediate delivery if satisfied. In addition, be on the lookout for the hardware or supplies you need to install the part, including diagrams if possible. If shipping the part, look for sellers that offer free shipping. Additionally, a seller with reasonable return and exchange policies can make the process more convenient. To find sellers with favorable feedback from previous customers, choose eBay’s top-rated sellers..


While the guidelines for antique and vintage items like furniture are well established, motorcycles have only been mass produced in the last one hundred years and classifications are not universally agreed upon. Therefore, bike owners refer to their old bikes as antique, vintage, or classic, and they search for parts using those terms. Spreading a wide net is important for antique bike owners, as original parts are hard to find and expensive in some cases. Original parts are very important for collectors that show their bikes, but not as important for enthusiasts that want to ride the bike regularly.

To get the bike running, looking good, and maintaining its value, bike owners can find original parts, partially rebuilt parts, or replications. Finding parts is often a labor of love but very time consuming, as people look through junkyards, go to events, and join other networking groups in order to find parts. Searching and purchasing on eBay Motors is much easier, as people from different communities gather there to showcase their antique motorcycle parts. With eBay’s easy search tools, the quest to acquire antique motorcycle parts is made much easier.