Groovy motorcycle ads from the past

Step back in time with the funniest classic adverts of all time. Wax your moustache, pull on your Belstaff and pull women on your motorbike

1978 Honda CBX1000

From an era when going faster simply meant having more cylinders than the rest, this shot of Honda’s mighty CBX on its side-stand isn’t very clever. But there’s an appealing simplicity to this advert, and the rider’s helmet is unbelievably cool. Sadly for Honda the price of £2,800 was a very large number, and the CBX didn’t sell.

retro Belstaff

1988: Belstaff clothing

These days Keith Huewen and Steve Parrish earn millions talking on TV, but 20 years ago both were top racers with sidelines promoting Belstaff’s waxed cottons. It’s Mallory Park, and Stavros considers his other future job as a fart machine importer, while Keith’s hair is already plotting a career of its own.

Yamaha XS750

1977: Yamaha XS750

The headline ain’t just a reference to the Yamaha’s drive system. It links the lady to Shaft, the movie starring black private detective John Shaft, arguably making this ad motorcycling’s only example of Blaxploitation. Politically-correct types might say justice was done when the XS’s ghastly transmission killed sales dead.

Phil Read RX15 fairing

1979: Phil Read RX15 Fairing

Modesty was never among Phil Read’s attributes. Here the seven-times World Champ and self-styled Prince of Speed gets his kit off to advertise a fairing along with wife Angie. You just know that barn door has never so much as seen a wind-tunnel, would be held on with cast-iron girders and impossible to see through!

Life helmets

1978: Life helmets

Life helmets did a series starring Tula (left), a stunning brunette who wore just spray-painted leathers over her curvy 37-25-37 bod. This shot’s “Double Life” headline proved appropriate four years later when The News of the World revealed that Tula was a trans-sexual, having grown up in Norfolk as Barry Cossey before changing his name to Caroline and having the op!

Metzeler tyres

1985: Metzeler ME33/ME99A tyres

Metzeler’s ME33/99 combo was as advanced as cross-ply technology got in ’85 , and their logo was the inspiration for this shot of ’85 Proddy TT winners Geoff Johnson, Mick Grant and Mat Oxley being chased by a raging bull elephant. Nobody got their knee down in those days (apart from the elephant, when he lay down).

Honda CM200T

1980: Honda CM200T

Leather-jacketed riders chatting and smoking by their laid-back bikes; dishy blonde pillion hanging on their every word. Look more closely though and yikes! These mean machines are mere 200cc twins. Truly a triumph of advertising over reality. No self-respecting girl even in 1980 would have shagged a man on a CM.

MV Agusta 750S

1977: MV Agusta 750S

MV Agusta’s importers chose a badly-drawn cat to emphasise the power and rarity of their 750S. Trouble was, the ad also revealed that 30 years ago the MV cost a hefty £3,187, when you could buy Kawasaki’s Z1000 for £1,800. What it didn’t say was that the factory still lost money on every bike, and was about to go bust.

CZ 250 Custom

1980: CZ 250 Customs

Short of throwing CZ’s 250 Custom off a cliff there was no way on earth you’d have got the budget two-stroke’s front wheel in the air. So just hand the ad campaign over to an artist. The result was a wheelie-popping, metalflake-painted beast that thrilled teenagers and was great value at £565. But still nobody wanted it.

Nolan helmets

1984: Nolan helmets/Regina chains

This is when Nolan helmets were proper cutting-edge stuff, unlike their rather awful cut-and-shut photo wizardy to create this stretch CB125. If you look very carefully, you’ll see how the top of each helmet spells out N-O-L-A-N. Sheer marketing genius, as was the Princess Di look-a-like advertising Regina (geddit?) chains...

Avon tyres

1983: Avon Roadrunner 2

As the age of political correctness approached, so using nubiles to sell your product waned. Avon lashed out in ‘83 with this erotic flesh-fest. What was more remarkable was that they couldn’t find bikes of their own and had to borrow (and credit) a London dealer for two of the bikes. Rubber, women, sex - brilliant!

Ducati Darmah 900

1980: Ducati Darmah 900

Luton-based importers Coburn & Hughes sold high-class Italian superbikes and had some of the hottest ads to go with them. Related ads for Moto Guzzi, featuring dark-haired women and the line “Long-legged and easy to live with”, caused similar trouser stirrings in teenage bike fans. The Darmah was seriously good...


1975: Rivetts leathers

East London firm Rivetts had a cunning plan to cut costs: instead of photographing models, give some crayons to a bunch of kids. Who cares that the resultant smiling wearers look inter-bred, when you have copy as persuasive as “easy rider makes the rest envious in this… fantastic jacket with a fantastic design.” Fantastic!

Life helmets Tula

1978: Life helmets - 2

Here’s more of Tula, aka Caroline, aka Barry from Norfolk. While the Californian helmets sold well, Tula’s career as a model and actress (she’d made an appearance in For Your Eyes Only) was derailed by the sex-change stories. But she still wrote two autobiographies and made the pages of Playboy for the second time in 1991!