Bonhams sells the two most valuable basketcases in history – US$400,000 and $365,000

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Pictured are the four top selling lots at Bonhams' Stafford Autumn Motorcycle Auction weekend(Credit: Bonhams)

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The strength of the English motorcycle collecting world was on display this week in the United Kingdom, when Bonhams' Stafford Autumn Sale weekend realized GBP£3.6 million, becoming the biggest (highest grossing) motorcycle sale ever seen in Europe. The most discussion regarding the sale was not the beautifully restored top-selling motorcycles but three "basketcases" that sold in the top six lots for US$400,039, $365,454 and $144,113 respectively (a 1934 Brough Superior 1,096cc 11-50HP Project) – three of the four most valuable basketcases in history.

Split into a two-day sale, the first day of the annual Bonhams Stafford Autumn Sale saw the single-owner Lonati Collection of 60 rare motorcycles fetch GBP£1.3 million, with a 91 percent sell-through rate.

The second day of the sale saw a further GBP£2.3 million of motorcycles sold with Brough Superior coming from this sale and accounting for the top three lots of the weekend, with a pair of Brough Superior 981cc SS100 Alpine Grand Sport "projects" sold for £236,700 and £259,100 respectively, and the Olympia Motorcycle Show 1937 Brough Superior 990cc SS100, the first whole motorcycle to feature in the top sellers, fetched £208,700.

Other top sellers across the two day Bonhams sale and the H&H Classic Auctions motorcycle auction at the Imperial War Museum included a 1930 Indian Model 402 Four Motorcycle Combination (£96,700 - $149,300), a 1971 Münch 1,177cc TTS "Mammoth" (£85,500 - $132,008 – a new marque record), a 1932 Rudge 350cc works racer (which more than tripled its estimate to sell for £70,940 and set a new marque record – $109,528), 1910 Pierce 688cc Four (£63,100 - $97,424), a 1925 Coventry Eagle 976cc Flying Eight (£61,980 - $95,694), the ex-Steve McQueen 1934 Indian 750cc Sport Scout (£59,740 - $92,236) and a pair of Vincent Black Shadows went for £55,200 ($85,226) and £52,640 ($80,208) respectively.

The 1953 Vincent Black Shadow that sold for £52,640 had just 22,000 miles on the clock and was completely original, having been stored indoors for the last 46 years. With a discernible trend towards authenticity in this marketplace, bikes such as this may go a lot longer in unrestored condition than ever before over the next few decades.

Being original will be worth a premium it seems, and the price fetched by two excellent racing engines of the period during the sale also pointed in that direction with a 1923 Brough Superior JAP 981CC Four-cam Racing Engine fetching £23,750 ($36,669) on an estimate of £20,000 - 30,000 ($31,000 - $46,000) and a 1928 Zenith 998cc JTOR Racing engine fetching £25,000 ($38,599) on a similar estimate of £20,000 - 30,000 ($31,000 - $45,000). That's it above – we're not sure if should be installed into its original form so it can be heard at 125 mph, or as a foyer exhibit in a tech company striving for excellence.

The 1928 Zenith 998cc JTOR Racing engine fetched £23,750 ($36,669) despite being incomplete.

Two DKW 250SS Supercharged Racer fronted the block during the week, with one selling for £50,600 ($78,124 - a 1938 DKW 250SS) to take a place in the top 500 motorcycles ever sold at auction, and the other, also a 1938 model, being passed in on an estimate of £80,000 - 100,000 ($120,000 - $150,000). The first becomes one of the most valuable two-strokes in history to be sold at auction. Four-strokes rule in the world of collectibles, with genuine hairy-chested two-strokes not available until the second-coming.

The 1967 Benelli Grand Prix 500cc Replica (estimated at $90,000 to $110,000), the 1956 BMW Rennsport RS500 Type 256 (estimated at $245,000 to $275,000) and the 1955 NSU Sportmax (estimated at $45,000 to $60,000) all failed to sell.

Three of the top four most expensive basketcases in history sold at Bonhams ' annual Stafford Autumn Sale

Of particular interest at this bi-annual festival that traditionally sets the tone of the marketplace, restoration projects were in extremely high demand. The cost of restoring a bike is much less than a car, and if you factor in say up to $50,000 to make it new again, there's a lovingly-restored, kiss-every-part, perfect motorcycle from 80-years-ago at the end of the project, and a family heirloom that might realistically net a million bucks a few years from now.

For those seeking an investment with a healthy profit margin, if you can buy an authentic motorcycle (the original frame and engine with matching numbers), you essentially have a license to recreate that motorcycle and discerning buyers appear to be going for the best possible long-term outcome and that's to use craftsmen of your choosing in determining the quality you require. If you do it and document it yourself, you have all the requirements of a stellar investment.

Even at $400,000, the project has plenty of margin considering the record for the model is US$492,973 (sold for GBP£315,100 in November, 2014) for a 1929 Brough Superior SS100 "Alpine Grand Sports" (pictured directly above) and RM-Sotheby's sold a 1926 Brough Superior SS100 Alpine Grand Sports for US$452,234 (sold for £280,800 in October, 2012 and pictured below).

That said, the demand for basketcases with all the bits there was remarkable, and it's even getting to the stage where Bonham's auctioneer feels it necessary to point out that one of the heads was missing from a V-twin motor in one of the basket cases.

Now the basketcase market has not been previously explored, so we looked back through the database to see how previous basketcases have fared.

The record for an unassembled motorcycle was previously held by the 1955 Vincent Black Prince "project" which sold for US$153,094 (£91,100 in June, 2014). This was the only basketcase in the top 100 motorcycles sold at auction until last Sunday.


The next most valuable unassembled motorcycle was a 1930 Brough Superior Overhead 680 which fetched $95,617 (sold for GBP£59,740 in October, 2012), pictured above. This means only one motorcycle in "basketcase" condition had sold for more than $100,000, which makes the weekend's results even more remarkable.

Bonhams just sold the most valuable basketcase motorcycle in history, more than doubling the previous record, and the second most valuable basketcase in history and the fourth too.

Clearly there are moves afoot in the collectibles marketplace and collectors are looking to the medium term future for their returns.

Here are the top sellers of the week:

£259,100 ($400,039) – 1927 Brough Superior SS100 Alpine Grand Sport Project

Estimate: £120,000 - 160,000 ($185,000 -$245,000)

The most valuable basketcase motorcycle in history. Don't let the "basketcase" condition fool you, this pile of bits is pure gold. Bonham's auction description cites the SS100 Alpine Grand Sport as "the most desirable of Vintage-era motorcycles" and it should know, as it sold a fully restored version of this bike for £315,100 (US$492,973) less than twelve months ago. RM Auctions sold another SS100 Alpine Grand Sport for £280,800 (US$452,234) in October, 2012. This box of bits, sold for $400,000, also becoming the 13th most valuable motorcycle ever sold at auction.

£236,700 ($365,454) – 1926 Brough Superior SS100 Alpine Grand Sport Project

The second most valuable basketcase motorcycle in history. Below is a shot from the 1929 brochure showing what it will look like again sometime in the next few years.


£208,700 ($322,223) – 1937 Brough Superior 990CC SS100

Estimate: £210,000 - 240,000 ($320,000 - $370,000)

This is the bike that took pride of place on the Brough Superior stand at the 1937 Olympia Motorcycle Show, then the world's most highly-regarded marque and the world's most important motorcycle show. Only three owners from new, matching numbers ... this bike became one of the world's top 30 most valuable motorcycles.

£126,940 ($195,990) – 1938 Vincent-HRD 998cc Series-A Rapide

Estimate: £60,000 - 80,000 ($90,000 - $120,000)

Pre-WW2 Vincent Rapides are highly sought-after. A 1939 Vincent-HRD Series-A Rapide sold for £275,900 (US$418,940) at Bonham's Spring Stafford sale earlier this year, another sold for £225,500 (US$366,775) at the Spring Stafford sale in 2012, and still another sold for £198,400 (US$357,291) in London in September, 2008.

Around 78 Series A Rapides were built prior to the war, a similar number to the American equivalent V-twin superbike, the Crocker, and they all invariably sell into the top 100 motorcycles if they ever reach public auction. This one will be in the top 65 motorcycle prices of all-time.

£96,700 ($149,300) – 1930 Indian Model 402 Four Motorcycle Combination

Estimate: £40,000 - 50,000 ($60,000 - $75,000)

The world record price for an Indian 402 was previously owned by Coys which fetched £90,000 (US$153,959) for a 1931 Indian 402 in July, 2014. A beautiful and highly collectible motorcycle which incorporates so much American motorcycle history, with its basic architecture traceable to the Henderson four of 1912. This restored Indian Four combination is likely to rapidly appreciate in value over the coming years despite setting a new record for the model.

£93,340 ($144,113) - 1934 Brough Superior 1,096CC 11-50HP Project

Estimate: £30,000 - 50,000 ($45,000 - $75,000)

A wonderful barnfind in need of some tender loving care but the end result will be more than worthwhile, as the record price at auction for a Brough Superior 1096cc 11-50 HP was achieved by a 1937 model at Bonham's Spring Stafford Sale earlier this year when it fetched £147,100 (US$223,364). Acquired by the current owner in 1991, this 1934 Brough Superior 1,096cc 11-50 hp appears to be totally original and complete, and should, despite its somewhat distressed condition, be a relatively straightforward restoration for the experienced practitioner.

£85,500 ($132,008) – 1971 Munch 1,177cc TTS 'Mammoth'

Estimate: £28,000 - 35,000 ($43,000 - $54,000)

Very large capacity motorcycles are commonplace these days but in 1971, Friedel Münch's Mammut was by far the largest capacity production motorcycle on the roads, and a favorite of road testers at that. It was extremely expensive and exclusive then, and it will only become moreso. As far as we can tell, there had never been one sold at auction before this one, though two have reached the auction block in America, one with an estimate of US$100,000 to $125,000 and the other with an estimate of US$90,000 to $110,000. Both were passed in, so this bike is now the most expensive Mammoth ever sold.

£70,940 ($109,528) – 1932 Rudge 350cc works racer

This bike was expected to be sold for way less than half of what it fetched, indicating that the heritage of the machine, being that it was a world class factory racing machine in it's heyday, was deemed more valuable by the marketplace than first thought. The Rudge four-valve 350 was very fast in period, the works bike even rarer.

£63,100 ($97,424) – 1910 Pierce 688cc Four

Estimate: £60,000 - 80,000 ($90,000 - $120,000)

Pierce made America's first four-cylinder motorcycle, manufactured by the upmarket Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Company in Buffalo, New York. According to its makers, the Pierce would be "vibrationless, give motor car comfort and travel comfortably from a mere walking pace up to the speed of the motor car."

It was not just its multi-cylinder engine that made the Pierce unusual; the frame too was novel, being constructed from 3½-inch diameter steel tubes that housed fuel and oil, and, like the FN, final drive was by shaft. Early models employed direct drive, but from 1910 onwards a two-speed gearbox was standard. Fast and well made, the Pierce soon had a string of city-to-city endurance race wins to its credit. The cost of the Pierce motorcycle ultimately led to its downfall. It cost $400 when production ceased in 1913, at which time the base Ford Model T automobile cost $525. Pierce fours are very rare and this example has been restored to a high standard.

Some recent examples of this rare 1910 Pierce 688cc Four at auction include an original but completely unrestored 1909 Pierce Four which sold for US$161,000 at a Bonhams auction in San Francisco in November, 2007, a restored 1909 Pierce Four which sold for $115,500 in Las Vegas at the E.J. Cole Collection auction in March this year, and another restored 1911 Pierce Four which sold for £54,300 (US$89,638) at the Stafford Spring auction in April, 2011.

£61,980 ($95,694) – 1925 Coventry Eagle 976cc Flying Eight

Estimate: £30,000 - 40,000 ($45,000 - $60,000)

One of only a relative handful of overhead-valve Flying-8s known to survive worldwide, the model represented Brough Superior's most credible rival in terms of quality, performance and price. The Flying-8 was powered by a 980cc JAP v-twin engine and built a fine sporting reputation thanks to its racing achievements, with its name derived from the engine's RAC rating of 8 horsepower.

Indeed, the estimate proved to be a little light, particularly given recent sales of the model with a 1926 Coventry-Eagle Flying-8 selling for £106,780 ($162,140) at Bonham's Spring Stafford Sale earlier this year and the record price for the model is a 1928 model which sold at Bonham's 2011 Quail Lodge Sale during Monterey Car Week in 2011, when it fetched US$265,500. At just, $95,694 his bike appears very well bought, as it's still $170,000 shy of the record for the model.

£59,740 ($92,236) – Ex-Steve McQueen 1934 Indian 750cc Sport Scout

Estimate: £55,000 - 65,000 ($85,000 - $100,000)

Another former Steve McQueen steed, this one a 1934 Indian 750cc Sport Scout that was purchased by the current vendor at Bonhams' McQueen Sale in San Francisco in November 2006 for US$177,500. This meant that this bike's price of £59,740 (US$92,236), involved an $80,000 discount. We've written about McQueen's "Midas touch" many times and the king of cool's brand values are pure gold. He is still one of the world's highest earning celebrities a third of a century after his death, more than a dozen of his former motorcycles are in the 250 most valuable motorcycles in the world, and earlier this year,Steve's Cyclone became the most expensive motorcycle ever to sell at auction. Well bought!

£55,200 ($85,226) – 1951 Vincent 998cc Black Shadow

Estimate: £50,000 - 60,000 ($75,000 - $90,000)

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 sold 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.

This bike is much more than just any 1951 Vincent Black Shadow, this bike was once owned by John Surtees, the only person to have won world championships at the highest level for both cars (1964 World F1 Champ) and motorcycles (350cc title in 1958, 1959, 1960 and 500cc title in 1956, 1958, 1959, 1960). You can't beat provenance like that.

£55,200 ($85,226) – 1931 Brough Superior Overhead 680 Black Alpine Project

Estimate: £15,000 - 20,000 ($23,000 - $31,000)

£52,640 ($80,208) – 1953 Vincent Black Shadow

Estimate: Not available (Not available)

£50,600 ($78,124) – 1938 DKW 250SS Supercharged Racer

Estimate: £40,000 - 50,000 ($60,000 - $75,000)

£49,450 ($76,349) – 1930 Henderson 1301 Model KJ Streamline

Estimate: £28,000 - 34,000 ($43,000 - $53,000)

£46,000 ($71,022) – 1914 Indian 7hp Big Twin

Estimate: £15,000 - 25,000 ($23,000 - $38,500)

£41,440 ($63,142) – 1962 Honda CR93

Estimate: £28,000 - 32,000 ($43,000 - $49,000)

£40,250 ($62,144) – 1905 Indian 2¼hp 'Camel Back'

Estimate: £28,000 - 36,000 ($43,000 - $55,000)

Another potential bargain to be had as this bike appears to be completely original and accordingly in very good condition to begin a restoration. The "Camel Back's" heritage and place in American motorcycle history is well documented, having put the fledgling Indian motorcycle on the map. The record at auction for the model is US$133,500 set at Bonham's Las Vegas auction in 2011, with a dilapidated and unrestored 1906 model (Ex-E. Paul du Pont) selling for US$ 72,540 at Las Vegas in 2012. Well bought!

£36,800 ($56,818) – 1916 Henderson 965cc Four

Estimate: £30,000 - 40,000 ($45,000 - $60,000)

£36,800 ($56,818) – 1912 Pierce 592cc Single

Estimate: £30,000 - 40,000 ($45,000 - $60,000)

Pierce is a marque with a remarkable history and examples are extremely rare. Though Pierce is best known for its fours, the single is even rarer, and an original bike identical to this model but in need of a complete restoration sold for $143,640 in January 2013 at a Las Vegas auction by MidAmerica (now Mecum MidAmerica). You can see a pic of that bike in 106th place of our top 250 bikes ever sold at auction. This particular bike is exquisitely restored and has four AMCA concours awards to its credit (images in the auction description). A sterling investment at the price it went for!

£36,800 ($56,818) – 1938 Indian 77.21ci Model 438 Four

Estimate: £26,000 - 32,000 ($39,000 - $49,000)

£34,500 ($53,266) – 1924 Henderson 1,951cc Deluxe Six

Estimate: £24,000 - 28,000 ($37,000 - $43,000)

£34,500 ($53,266) – 1930 Harley-Davidson 1,200cc Model V

Estimate: £18,000 - 24,000 ($28,000 - $37,000)

£33,350 ($51,491) – 1911 Flying Merkel 498cc 'Racing' Motorcycle

Estimate: £16,000 - 20,000 ($25,000 - $31,000)

£32,200 ($49,715) – 1938 Vincent-HRD 500cc Series-A Comet Project

Estimate: £15,000 - 18,000 ($23,000 - $27,500)

£32,200 ($49,715) – 1925 Zenith-JAP 678cc Model 6-80 Project

Lot 251 at Bonhams Autumn Stafford Sale held on 18 October, 2015

Estimate: Not available (Not available)

£32,200 ($49,715) – 1918 Thor 76.25ci Model U Twin

Estimate: £28,000 - 35,000 ($43,000 - $54,000)

Another rare and highly desirable motorcycle from the annals of American motorcycle history, the 76.25 cubic inch (1250cc) Model U V-twin was marketed by Thor as the most powerful motorcycle yet known, and this restored example is one of the many gems in the Lonatti Collection. The record at auction for the model was set earlier this year by Mecum Mid-America during the Las Vegas auctions when a 1914 model sold for $77,000(price including buyers commission).

£29,900 ($46,164) – 1933 Matchless 592cc Silver Hawk

Estimate: £25,000 - 30,000 ($38,500 - $46,000)

£29,900 ($46,164) – 1913 Matchless 3½hp TT Model

Estimate: £28,000 - 36,000 ($43,000 - $55,000)

£29,900 ($46,164) – 1928 Henderson 1,301cc Deluxe Four

Estimate: £24,000 - 28,000 ($37,000 - $43,000)

£28,800 ($43,883) – 1954 Norton Manx 30M

Estimate: £25,000 - 26,000 ($38,500 - $40,000)

£28,750 ($44,389) – 1940 Ariel 4G Square Four

Estimate: £20,000 - 25,000 ($31,000 - $38,500)

£28,000 ($42,664) – 1951 Vincent Rapide

Estimate: £30,000 - 32,000 ($46,000 - $49,000)

£27,025 ($41,725) – 1928 Harley-Davidson 1,200cc Model JDH 'Two Cam'

Estimate: £15,000 - 25,000 ($23,000 - $38,500)

£26,450 ($40,838) – 1923 Henderson 1,301cc Deluxe Four

Estimate: £24,000 - 28,000 ($37,000 - $43,000)

£26,450 ($40,838) – 1917 Excelsior 61ci Motorcycle Combination

Estimate: £25,000 - 30,000 ($38,500 - $46,000)

£26,450 ($40,838) – 1942 Harley-Davidson 750cc XA Military Motorcycle

Estimate: £14,000 - 18,000 ($21,500 - $27,500)

Germany's BMW Military motorcycles developed such a reputation for reliability during WW2 (particularly in the sand of North Africa and the mud of Europe) that in 1942, the American Government told Harley-Davidson and Indian to base a new design on the BMW and Zundapp military motorcycles. Harley responded quite quickly within months.

By the time Harley had the XA model ready for production with its 750cc sidevalve flat twin modeled on a pre-war BMW R71, it had already produced 88,000 motorcycles for the war effort, all of them but a handful being the WLA model, based on the company's already tooled 45ci flat head v-twin.

Like the BMW, the XA featured shaft drive, a four-speed gearbox and a hand operated clutch, while the steel disc wheels and balloon tires were tailored for use in desert terrain. In the event, neither the XA nor Indian's similar 841 were considered to offer any advantages over the cheaper-to-produce WLA and Scout models, and XA production halted after little more than 1,000 had been made.

£25,875 ($39,950) – 1918 Reading-Standard 1,150cc 'Big Twin' Motorcycle Combination

Estimate: £25,000 - 30,000 ($38,500 - $46,000)

£25,300 ($39,062) – 1922 Martinsyde 500cc Model C Sports Solo

Estimate: £19,000 - 25,000 ($31,000 - $38,500)

£25,300 ($39,062) – 1916 Emblem 820cc Model 106 Lightweight Twin

Estimate: £25,000 - 35,000 ($40,000 - $54,000)

£25,300 ($39,062) – 1923 Indian 61ci Chief Motorcycle Combination

Estimate: £20,000 - 25,000 ($31,000 - $38,500)

£25,000 ($38,599) – 1928 Zenith JTOR Racing Engine

£24,150 ($37,287) – 1919 Indian 7hp Powerplus

Estimate: £15,000 - 20,000 ($23,000 - $31,000)

£23,750 ($36,669) – 1923 Brough Superior JAP 981CC Four-cam Racing Engine

Estimate: £20,000 - 30,000 ($31,000 - $46,000)

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