The British rare car and motorcycle auction season kicks off this week with H&H Classic Auctions' Imperial War Museum sale where several key lots are expected to provide a litmus test for the elite classic motorcycle market.
Some choice vehicles on sale include a 1959 Daimler Ferret armored reconnaissance vehicle (US$15,000–19,000), a matching numbers 1952 Vincent Black Shadow (£55,000–60,000, $80,000–88,000), a rare Linto 500 GP racer (£90,000–110,000, $130,000–160,000), a Ducati 750 Sport with NCR 750SS Desmo heads (£24,000–26,000, $35,000–38,000), some delectable vintage and veteran road machines plus a plethora of vintage racing bikes. We've picked the eyes out of the sale and a full preview of the key lots follows below.
1959 Daimler Ferret MK 2/3 Reconnaissance Vehicle
Estimate: £10,000 - £13,000 (US$15,000 – $19,000)
Probably the most interesting four-wheeler among 90 going under the gavel at the War Museum is this former Classic Military Vehicle magazine cover girl, a delightfully khaki-green 1959 Daimler Ferret MK 2/3.
Powered by a 4.5-litre Rolls-Royce B60 engine and driving through a 5-speed pre-select Wilson epicyclic gearbox, the Ferret is almost capable of 60 mph (95 km/h) but the highlights package includes a (sadly, de-activated) Browning 0.30 calibre machine gun in the turret and smoke dischargers present. Spartanly appointed, great for the cut-throat peak-hour rush and free long-term parking for life (as the auction description notes, the machine gun says more than any "back in 5 mins" note ever could), this Ferret seems like a bargain considering the lifetime intimate relationship you'll have with the preselector gearbox and all the friends you'll make among the many who will work on it.
Two potential top 250 motorcyclesThere are no cars likely to crack the top 1000 (coming soon) but two motorcycles amongst H&H's offerings at Duxford could make it into the top 250 motorcycle prices of all time. One is a largely original, unmolested and unrestored 1952 Vincent Black Shadow Series C, the other being one of the last purpose-built four-stroke Grand Prix race machines prior to the two-stroke influx into the 500 class – a Linto.
Gizmag's painstakingly-researched top 250 will be published later this week, and entry into that exclusive club currently requires a sale at auction of US$90,000 (or equivalent currency on the day) and the Vincent might conceivably sneak into that category for a week or two if it sells slightly above estimate, though even if it does make the cut, it will likely be displaced again with the Bonhams' Spring Stafford Sale on April 26 where a dozen bikes will raise the bar even further. Watch for a full preview later this week.
1952 Vincent Black Shadow Series C
Estimate: £55,000 – £60,000 (US$80,000 – $88,000)
There's not a lot of difference in the engine of a Black Shadow and a Rapide, certainly far less than the difference in value between the lesser Brough Superior V-twin and its black enameled sibling. Hence this 1952 Black Shadow with matching numbers and in highly original condition but for a set of alloy rims is estimated to fetch between £55,000 and £60,000.
With the Greenback buying 14 percent more in British pounds than it did a year ago, there's likely to be some great value to be had by American collectors at the H&H and Bonhams sales over the next fortnight and this bike in particular is likely to act as somewhat of a harbinger of the mood of the marketplace for the Spring Stafford Sale. If it breaks through its upper estimate, the Bonhams sale should provide some fine sport for watchers.
1969 Linto 500cc Grand Prix Racer
Estimate: £90,000 – £110,000 (US$130,000 – 160,000)
Every auction seems to have at least one lot that might take the bidding sky high, or disappoint with a non-sale, and this 1969 Linto 500cc Grand Prix Racer will play that role in the War Museum sale.
One of the last purpose-built four-stroke Grand Prix race machines in the period before expansion chambers took on a deeper note and dominated the 500 class as they had already done with the smaller capacity Grand Prix bikes, the Linto is named after its designer Lino Tonti.
Tonti has an illustrious resume, having begun work in the pre-WW2 racing department of Benelli when it was a major racing force, and working on the four-cylinder supercharged 250cc racing bike which was finished just prior to WW2, never to see international competition. Post WW2, Tonti worked at Aermacchi, before moving to F.B. Mondial where he worked under engineering prodigy Alfredo Drusiani on the 250 machines which went on to win the world championships in 1957.
Mondial was part of the group of Italian manufacturers which pulled out of Grand Prix racing at the end of 1957 (MV Agusta reneged on the agreement and used the vacuum of competition to begin the creation of a globally-recognized brand), so Tonti moved on to Bianchi where he designed 250 cc four-stroke twins.
In the mid-sixties, Tonti hit upon the idea of building a DOHC 500cc twin racer with four-valve, radial valve heads, but with limited finances, he eventually used the cylinders and heads of two Aermacchi Ala d'Oropushrod 250cc single-cylinder racers on a common 360 degree crank and engine of his own design driving through a six-speed gearbox.
The trellis frame of the Linto was built by the specialist Milanese frame builder Stelio Belletti, with Ceriani suspension and Fontana drum brakes, resulting in a sweet-handling lightweight 142 kg bike with enough power (65 hp @ 12,000 rpm) to blow away the big singles it was competing against in a straight line. Reports suggest the Linto's near 260 km/h top speed had a 35 km/h advantage over its Norton and Matchless competitors.
Though the company only managed to produce 16 Lintos, they became quite sought-after as privateer machines, as they were probably the second-fastest 500 class machines in the world in the late sixties, behind the lone MV Agusta four-cylinder ridden by Giacomo Agostini.
In the Linto's first Grand Prix season, the bike proved fast but fragile due to the engine's extreme vibration cracking frames, and the fragility of the six-speed gearbox. From five starts in the hands of Alberto Pagani, the bike failed to finish three times, but scored a fourth place at the Nations Grand Prix in Italy and a second place at the East German Grand Prix behind Agostini, giving it equal fourth place in the title amongst a bevy of single-cylinder Manx Nortons and Matchless G50s.
The following year proved to be Linto's most successful, with a number of fast privateers scoring podiums (two thirds to Steve Ellis, and one third place each to Australians Jack Findlay and John Dodds), one win in the hands of Pagani, and Gyula Marsovszky taking second place in the title. Pagani's win came at the Nations Grand Prix in Imola, after MV Agusta boycotted the event.
The sound of expansion chambers was ever more prominent that season, and 1970 proved to be the year that two-strokes began to displace four-strokes in the premier class. Several Lintos appeared in 1970, and when they finished they usually finished well. Pagani started eight races for three third places and five DNFs, while John Dodds started the same number of races for seven DNFs and one second place. Even technical writer Kevin Cameron was intrigued enough by the Linto to pen a few paragraphs while the Italian Wikipedia has the most complete information on the bike on the internet, while former Linto campaigner Steve Ellis' 2002 book The history of Linto is worth chasing if the bike intrigues you.
The biggest problem for the Linto was that Lino Tonti had left the project in 1967, so the reliability that might be expected to be developed, did not occur. Tonti was hired by Moto Guzzi and he redesigned the frame and motor of the company's transverse V-twin to create the V-7 and lay the foundations that still underpin the distinctive Moto-Guzzi engine configuration to this day. The pictured V7 Moto Guzzi sold for €41,400 (US$47,323) in February at the Paris Retromobile sale.
This Linto is the tenth of 16 made and little is known about the history of this bike prior to 1988 when it was purchased in Argentina by Italian collector Gianni Perrone and returned to its native Italy, where it has been ever since. The bike is original, as-raced and unrestored.
1974 Ducati 750 Sport (with 750SS Desmodromic heads fitted by NCR)
Estimate: £24,000 – £26,000 (US$35,000 to $38,000)
Considered by many to be the most beautiful of the Ducati V-twin roadsters, the 750 Sport was the first sporting version of the original 750 OHV Ducati motor, but quickly fell under the shadow of the Desmodromic versions which achieved racing glory and kickstarted the globalization of the brand.
This 1974 Ducati 750 Sport offers the best of both worlds in that it was fitted with 750SS Desmodromic cylinder heads during the 1980s by Ducati's defacto race department of the seventies, NCR.
1923 FN M50 748cc four
Estimate: £7,000 – 9,000 ($10,000 – $13,000)
The bike pictured above is not the bike for sale, but rather a 1926 FN 748cc M50 Four with sidecar which sold at Bonhams in February, 2010 for £24,725 (US$37,706).
This 1923 FN M50 748cc four is a basketcase with a few parts missing, but represents one of the truly remarkable offerings for those restorers with a sense of adventure is this 1924 FN M50. The bike is the final iteration of the world's first mass-produced four-cylinder motorcycle from FN. The four-cylinder FN was manufactured in Liége, by Belgium armaments manufacturer Fabrique Nationale (FN). Though the world's oldest FN four dates to 1904, the bike debuted publicly at the 1905 Paris Motorcycle Show and directly led to the development of the Pierce and at very least inspired the later American in-line fours of Henderson, Excelsior, Ace, Cleveland and Indian.
Approximately 1,200 M50s were built with this dismantled example dating from 1923 and appearing to have some parts missing. There is, however, a dismantled but almost complete spare engine together with a current registration document, period and contemporary literature and transfers for the machine. Given the estimate and the price that restored FNs sell for, there's little chance this bike will be overcapitalized in its restoration, and at the end of all of the fun of restoration, plus the ongoing appreciation of prices in the marketplace, the restoration work is likely to be handsomely rewarded.
Estimate: £20,000 – £22,000 ($30,000 – $32,000)
This first year BMW R12 is a military version with single carburetor, sidecar and the ultra-reliable side valve 745cc horizontally opposed engine. Though 36,000 examples of the R12 were built between 1935 and 1942, nearly all of them went to the German armed forces and were dispersed to every theater of war, and very few survive. This bike has been in storage in Japan for the last 25 years and is presented in unrestored, original condition.
1950 Vincent Rapide Series C
Estimate: £23,000 – £25,000 ($34,000 – $37,000)
This Series C Rapide has been in the vendor's possession since 1972, and he is thought to be only the second keeper of the machine. It is offered in complete, original unrestored condition with "matching" numbers, is fitted with two front cylinder heads, and is offered with an original log book.
1927 Harley Davidson Model JD
Estimate: £18,000 – £22,000 ($26,000 – $32,000)
This 1927 Harley Davidson Model JD dating from 1927 has formed part of private European collection and has benefited from a comprehensive restoration that has seen the machine returned to, according to the owner, "as new" condition in every respect.
Vast offering of period racing bikes
If there's a significant difference between this and other sales of recent memory, it is the number of period racing motorcycles on offer.
In addition to the logical supply of wonderful and original pre-war British racing machinery, such as the (from top right clockwise) ex-works 1933 Velocette KTT MK4 (£13,000-15,000) and 1939 Norton Manx 30M (£14,000 – 16,000), there's also a 1955 AJS 7R (£17,000 - 18,000) and 1962 Norton Manx 30M with factory frame (£28,000 – 33,000).
The sale also contains a number of examples of 1960s Japanese racing machinery such as this (from top right clockwise) 1964 Tohatsu 125cc (£18,000 – 20,000), a 1965 Yamaha TD1B (£7,500 – 8,500), and a 1967 Suzuki TR50 (£18,000 – 20,000), all the way through to this 1988 Suzuki RG500 MK14 (£30,000 - 35,000).