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Honda posted by

Fresh Off the Boat: 1989 Honda NSR250R MC18 for Sale


This post is in our archives. Links in this post have been updated to point to similar bikes available to bid on eBay.

1989 Honda NSR250R R Side

Honda’s NSR250R was, until recently, unicorn-rare here in the United States. But a number of companies have sprung up to scrounge decent examples in Japan, where they are far less hard to come by, then ship them over here where they sell for a premium. Certainly, many have been truly thrashed by young knee-dragging hooligans, but there are nice examples to be had as well. And when the alternative is not having an NSR250R… Well maybe taking a chance on one of these little grey-market beasts is worth the gamble.

1989 Honda NSR250R Rear

With a nearly square 54mm x 54.5mm bore and stroke, the 249cc two-stroke in this MC18-II used carburetors but was otherwise very high-tech: Honda’s Automatic Torque-Amplification Chamber used a butterfly valve to vary expansion chamber volume to increase the midrange and their PGM-II ignition system was exceptionally sophisticated, creating a 3D map based on throttle position and rpm and modifying the timing in response. Mated to a six-speed cassette-style gearbox, and slotted into an aluminum beam frame, the entire package was the perfect weapon to battle the other quarter-liter contenders.

1989 Honda NSR250R Dash

From the original eBay listing: 1989 Honda NSR250R MC18 for Sale

1989 Honda NSR250 two-stroke! This is the street version of the legendary world championship winning NSR250 and NSR500 MotoGP racers. The bike is in excellent condition, both physically and mechanically with only 8,900 miles. This bike was purchased in Japan and imported through US Customs and I can provide all documentation to support its legality. The bike will come with a US title that is transferrable. Bike will be available for pick-up / delivery on March 1st.

With a Buy It Now price of $6,500 and under 9,000 on the clock this looks like a relatively clean example. Obviously, titling may be in issue in some states, but you could certainly buy it and display it, or turn it into a track-day bike.

1989 Honda NSR250R Top

Our commenters seem to feel that keeping these little two-strokes on the road is difficult, but from what I’ve seen, parts aren’t too difficult to come by if you’re prepared to plan ahead and order stuff from overseas… Or pick up some parts bikes: $6,500 is basically chump change when it comes to collectible bikes. I mean, you could have three for the price of your average Harley!

Anyone who has experience experience living with one of these care to weigh in? Are these really as hard to keep running as people seem to think?


1989 Honda NSR250R L Side


  • I almost bought one of these in the black red silver colors for 4500 over 8 years ago but the seller whimped out on me.

    • I bought the last MC18 blue/white that appeared here but the seller also backed out after I paid the deposit – he said the enegine seized that day.

      Anyhow, this bike is priced just right and looks pretty good. Hopefully as guys like Moto2 import more of them the prices will reflect their real value, not inflated crazy prices.

  • I really don’t see how it can be that hard to keep running. I mean, It is a carbureted two-stroke engine…doesn’t get much simpler than that.

  • The bike we all should have al had in the eighties…still amazing machinery.

  • I bought brand new, off the showroom floor, a 1985 Yamaha RZ500, 1987 Yamaha TZR250 and a 1988 Yamaha RZ350. They were all very easy to maintain, and operate. Though I did not do a lot of rebuilding, what I did do was quite simple. The power valve maintenance was very simple, as was the carb. syncing. The RZ350 needed new pistons and a cylinder rehone after my brother bought it, after two seasons of “RZ Cup” racing, and 30,000 kilometers of road use. For my use they couldn’t have been simpler. Can you guess if I am sorry I sold ANY of these bikes?

  • Already sold.

    If I were going to buy a Japanese import, I think I will keep waiting for the chance to get an NC35/ RVF 400.

  • It’s kind of surprising for a 1989 motorcycle this has a lot of the design features we see on American market import motorcycles in the mid 90s from Honda. For example the swingarm construction, or the Wheel design, or the suspension design cues that we see in these pictures. This is a 1989 Model yet we see these features much later in America. Take the swingarm for example, this design looks like the one we first see on the 1999 Honda CBR 600.

    • All the. Design, performance and handling features of the Big Four where debuted in the Japanese domestic market a number of years before being introduced around the world.

      Many times these would be first incorporated into the TT-F3 250cc 2 stroke/400cc 4 stroke legal street bikes, then trickle up to the TT-F1 class and then be exported the world where permitted.

      For the 250cc 2 strokes there was the double advantage of the Honda a Yamaha chasing the 250cc prototype class as well, so the 250cc 2 strokes got direct input from the RS250/NSR250 and TZ250/YZR250 race bike programs.

      You can trace the DNA from 1 year GP250/AJ250 to the next years street 250cc to the next years export bikes. Frames, swing arms, forks, shocks and even engine management trickle down was quite visible.

      That’s why when the West was shocked and awed by the original GSXR750 and later the CBR900, the 400cc domestics had already been there done than 2 and 3 years prior.

  • Hello – I run Moto2 Imports, and am the one selling the bike above, so I though I’d weigh in here. I am obviously a motorcycle enthusiast and have always loved the smaller displacement bikes that you could never get here such as the 250cc two-strokes and 400cc four-strokes. When I was in college I got scammed out of $1,000’s trying to buy an RVF400 online from a guy in the midwest. Anyways, I decided that if nobody was going to legally import these bikes and make them available for sale, I would do it myself. I only import clean bikes in good mechanical condition that have been independently inspected in Japan. Customers receive a copy of all the legal importation documents (US Customs, Homeland Security, EPA/DOT exemption forms). I also title the bikes in the US for my customers so that they don’t have to deal with all the red tape. I can’t speak for other importers, but my bikes are priced to reflect the cost of purchase in Japan, professional packing and shipping, importation and US Customs clearance costs, US titling, and my profit margin. Please feel free to contact me at moto2imports@gmail.com or visit my website at http://www.moto2imports.com. To the people running RFBFS, I love the site!

  • Tim, you must be working on a pretty healthy profit margin when a nice one of these goes for $1500 in Japan!

    • Prices are king of all over the place now that the US market has been woken up to the greyBike phenom, and the buyers have a bit more cash available so the prices go up.


      I love the 2 stroke world, but it is getting a little lopsided when a used Ducati 999 is cheaper to buy (and find spares for) than an MC18 NSR250 😉

      Don’t even get me started on the run away prices for the RZ/RD/RG 500’s.

    • Hi Evan – I buy my bikes wholesale at the dealer auctions and I have never seen a clean MC18 let alone a nice MC21 go for anywhere near $1,500. These bikes retail for the equivalent of between $3k – $6k in Japan, and that is if you are physically in Japan and paying in yen. As far as shipping goes, the actual cargo transportation is cost is only part of the equation. You also have to have the bike prepared for shipping, packed & crated, delivered to port, have the title and bill of sale translated into english, get an official letter from the manufacturer specifying the manufacture date by VIN, deal with Japanese freight forwarding, US Customs, EPA / DOT filings, Homeland security, pay import taxes, duties, & demurrage fees, US delivery charges, and finally US sales tax and titling fees. Lastly, if you plan on selling more than a few vehicles annually in the U.S., you need to apply for and be granted a vehicle dealer’s license. Otherwise, you will be “curbstoning” (operating an unlicensed dealership), which is illegal.I’m only saying this because people seem to think that importing bikes is cheap & easy and people doing it are making a killing. Happy to answer any questions or support anything I’ve written above.
      Moto2 Imports, LLC

  • that evan guy sure know what he is talkn about, i was in japan recently and have discovered that prices for these bikes have gone up, that bike here in the u.s is worth 6500 in my opinion

  • 6500 for one shipped and all the import hoops out of the way is a good deal nice NSR’s like this one don’t sell for 1500 no way! PLEASE bring over some TZR125 Belgrada 4DL models!! Now those I have seen for sale in the 1500 range oh an some SDR 200’s too RG125F NF13A are sweet too look like baby RGV’s. Where’s the RZV 500’s and RG 400’s?

    It’s the guys who bring over these bikes now who think they can sell them for 10 – 12 grand that are the scalpers and like most bikes in Japan they rarely live life in a garage.

  • If anyone is interested in importing a bike themselves, it’s really not that bad of a deal. It’s easy to buy directly from dealer only auctions overseas, there are a couple of companies that offer this as a service and arrange shipping.

    I’ve imported 4 bikes so far (all for personal use), check out my webpage and email me (on that page) if you have any questions.


  • I own this ’89 model in Seed Racing colors (black/silver/red). Most fun bike I’ve ever owned and this is a fair price, if titled and the panels are all original. Most parts aren’t relatively available, but you have to get them from Japan. But because this specific model was 1 – year only, other parts like OEM fairings are especially thin on the ground. But there are alternatives out there–quality Japanese aftermarket or cheap Chinese. New barrels seems tough. Worst though, is the crank or seals to rebuild one.

    Finally, anyone who thinks you can have your pick of nice examples for $1,500 in Japan, doesn’t know their ass from a hole in the ground.

  • I have been tracking importing Japanese Hondas for about 4 years now, thinking I would be like Tim and get a dealers license and start those 40′ containers rolling in to the US. If you think these are expensive here, try Ebay UK for these. There are several companies that have been importing these over the past couple of years and the prices are only going skywards. I know there are a couple of Japanese webpages that lists prices, but those are for rust buckets, or thoroughly trashed bikes. You are not going to find these for $1.5k. I, too, like more of the <.5 litre bikes, and most of these examples are only going to get more expensive as time rolls on.

  • Stephen,

    I looked into doing the same thing, but something sounds fishy… If you are importing in to resell, you need not only a dealers license, but when I called around they indicated that you needed bonds in order to support recalls and other issues. Perhaps I was given incorrect information, not sure how Tim is getting around that.

    However, I found an easy way to import for yourself, I just bought a 1989 NSR 250 SP with a spare set of Magnesium rims for $2,600 from a dealer auction website. The cost to import is about $1,000 for shipping and to pay an exporter in Japan to do all the paperwork prep. Customs fees and other fees are around $400, so for about $4,000 US I am getting a low mileage NSR 250, and it’s the SP never laid down, very clean.

    This is the second batch I did myself, hope to have it here in a month or so.

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