When Bonham's James Stensel said that "the Bonhams Stafford Sale continues to act as the international barometer for collectors' motorcycle sales," he could have not been more accurate.
The Spring and Autumn Stafford sales traditionally throw up the finest of British collectible motorcycles and break records. Our top 250 motorcycles sold at auction listing includes dozens of bikes sold at the Staffordshire Country Showground in these bi-annual sales and the results of Sunday's Stafford sale (a 94 percent sale rate and a total value of £1,572,712 - US$1.9 million) reflect a strong market.
UPGRADE TO NEW ATLAS PLUS
More than 1,500 New Atlas Plus subscribers directly support our journalism, and get access to our premium ad-free site and email newsletter. Join them for just US$19 a year.UPGRADE
The undoubted highlight of Bonham's Autumn Stafford Motorcycle auction on 16 October was the sale of a 1924 Croft-Cameron 996cc Super Eight for £203,100 (US$246,991). The company only produced motorcycles from 1923 to 1926, and no-one knows how many were produced, but the quality of the 996cc overhead-valve v-twin motorcycle and its twin loop frame put it right alongside its competitors at the top end of the market of the era, being Brough Superior and Coventry Eagle.
Bonham's official auction description of the bike is interesting because it contains great detail. Croft Cameron Super Eight used the British Anzani v-twin and was available in eight-valve form (four valves per cylinder) for £140, or four-valve (two valves per cylinder) at £125, and with a slightly larger capacity there was also the option of a slightly larger "Plus Power" engine which cost £145 and £130 for the four-valve and two-valve versions respectively.
Two gearboxes were offered, being a three-speed Sturmey Archer gearbox or a Jardine four-speeder. From the description, "the silencer was placed behind and below the gearbox - a common practice today, adopted in the interests of 'mass centralization' – which just goes to show that there really is nothing new under the sun when it comes to motorcycle engineering."
The bike set a new world record for the rare Coventry based Croft-Cameron marque.
Other highlights included a 1948 Series-B Vincent 998cc Black Shadow (above) selling for £113,500 (US$138,028), the third oldest complete and original post-war Vincent (a 1946 998cc Rapide Series-B) that fetched £68,700 (US$83,547), and a 1937 Brough Superior 1,096cc 11-50HP Combination that was first owned by the Sheffield police, for £85,500 (US$103,977).
Though there are many variants of the big Vincent 1000cc V-twin (White Shadow, Black Lightnings, Black Prince and Rapide), the most common specific Vincent model in the top 250 highest prices ever achieved by a motorcycle at auction is the Black Shadow.
The world record price at auction for a Black Shadow was set in April, 2012 at Bonham's Spring Stafford Sale by a 1955 model which fetched £124,700 ($202,824). The second highest price achieved by a Black Shadow was a 1952 model at $175,698 (£113,500) in April, 2013, and the third highest price was a 1954 model by Mecum MidAmerica which fetched $156,600 during Monterey Car in August, 2013. There are dozens more Black Shadows which you can find at our listing of the top 250 motorcycles sold at auction. To make the top 250, a motorcycle has to have sold for more than US$90,000.
The 1937 Brough Superior 1,096cc 11-50HP Combination that fetched £85,500 (US$103,977) offers an interesting contrast with previous examples of the model that have been to auction.
Launched in 1933, the 1,096cc 11-50 was the largest Brough Superior ever produced, and fitted into the Brough price range between the SS80 touring and SS100 super-sports models. Facilitating its sale abroad, the 11-50 featured sidecar mounts on both sides of the frame. It had been conceived as a long-legged, effortless tourer and was claimed by its maker to offer 85 mph performance in solo form and pull a heavy sidecar at a comfortable 70 mph; indeed, in the latter role it was one of the finest sidecar mounts of its day. Production lasted until 1939, by which time the 11-50 was the only JAP-powered machine in the Brough Superior range. The 1937 Brough Superior 1,096cc 11-50HP Combination was first owned by the Sheffield police, but had been beautifully restored and sold for £85,500 (US$103,977). The record for the model was set at Stafford in April, 2015 when the Earls Court Motorcycle Show 1937 Brough Superior 1,096cc 11-50hp sold for £147,100 ($223,364). A completely original 1934 Brough Superior 1,096cc 11-50hp in need of a complete restoration sold at this auction in 2015 for £93,340 ($144,113).
Of particular interest due to some prior stellar prices for the model, a 1977 ex-works, NCR Ducati 905cc Production Racer ridden by Roger Nicholls (above) in the Isle of Man TT Formula 1 race fetched £59,740 (US$72,650).
Ducati 900 NCRs were made in very small numbers and are hence rare. The 900 NCR was very competitive on the racetrack, but owes much of its fame to the legendary Mike Hailwood coming out of retirement at the geriatric (at least for racers) age of 37 and winning the Isle of Man TT at an average speed over 108 mph, setting a new lap record of 110.62 mph into the bargain.
Posters of Hailwood on the distinctive NCR adorned workshop and "man cave" walls the world over and it was one of two wins (the other being the 750SS win at the 1972 Imola 200) that put the Italian marque on the world map. Everyone loved "Mike the Bike" and his achievement made world news, helping to reinforce to the baby boomer generation that immortality was indeed possible. The world record auction price for a Ducati 900 NCR is US$175,500 which was set by Bonhams at its Las Vegas auction in January, 2014. The record price went to a bike that had no special racing provenance as it had never been raced.
Elsewhere, one of the first Yamaha TZ350 water-cooled racers fetched a surprisingly modest £12,650 ($15,384) but if there was a surprise it was the next bike.
This is a 1976 factory Suzuki RG500 race bike with the ultra-rare XR14 magnesium wheels and it was ridden by Barry Sheene, John Newbold and John Williams. It had an estimate of £45,000 to £55,000 (roughly US$55,000 - US$67,000) but failed to meet reserve. A provenance of this particular bike is somewhat unclear and who rode it and when is not documented, plus its value as a classic racing bike is diminished as it uses the older 56x50.5mm motor that was superseded that season by the 54.0 x 54.0 mm motor that Sheene used to win the 1976 title.
One of the great buys of the sale, and a perfect example of the lengths an enthusiast will go to in order to bring a bike back to life was this 1908 Triumph 3½hp sidecar combination which sold for £14,950 (US$ 18,181). It was first registered in 1908 in South Australia, dismantled for reconditioning prior to WWI and rediscovered in 1975 in a dismantled state with the parts spread around a large workshop. The vendor at this sale purchased the workshop's entire contents to ensure he got all needed parts for restoration. The bike was found to be complete except for the wicker sidecar body, so a replica of the latter was made to attach to the archeologically-manifested restoration. At 108 years of age and quite beautiful, it's a time warp and a magnificent restoration for the rather meagre price.
Finally, one of the more interesting results for a more recent machine was the sale of a limited edition 1997 Ducati 996cc 916 SPS which fetched £22,770 (US$27,606).View gallery - 23 images