The E.J. Cole Collection auctioned on the weekend and the ramifications are as profound as we'd expected. The top two motorcycle prices ever fetched at auction were achieved, 28 bikes sold for more than US$100,000, 12 forced their way into the top 100, 32 forced their way into the top 250 motorcycles ever sold at auction, and American-made bikes are now statistically more valuable than British bikes.
The two highest prices at the auction were both world records, being $852,500 for a 1915 Cyclone Board Track Racer and $715,000 for a 1907 Harley-Davidson strap tank single which was dubbed the "Mona Lisa of Harley-Davidsons."
Most significantly, the auctioning of such a large cache of American-made motorcycles has shifted the statistical balance of the top 250 motorcycles ever sold at auction, and American bikes are now officially more valuable than British bikes.
American bikes now more valuable than British bikes
The results of the analysis of our top 250 motorcycles sold at auction as they stand on March 22 are: Top 100 bikes: 40 British-made bikes, 46 American-made bikes. Top 250 bikes: 97 British-made bikes, 109 American-made bikes. Top 300 bikes: 111 British-made bikes, 134 American-made bikes.
The full results of the top 250 will be published shortly, but for the record, we've removed the "Easy Rider" Captain America bike and the 1910 Winchester from our listings – the $1.62 million Captain America sale fell through after the auction, and we have reason to believe the Winchester which purportedly sold for $580,000, did NOT! We're following up with stories on these bikes in the near future, but in the interests of accuracy, they have been removed until we have the full details of what really happened.
That means that the top two prices fetched by bikes from the E.J. Cole Collection now hold the top two prices ever fetched at auction by a motorcycle, the top three prices ever fetched at auction are now held by American motorcycles, and the recently combined specialist auction house Mecum Mid America now holds the top three places.
1 – 1915 Cyclone Board Track Racer – $852,500
It didn't quite make it to a million dollars as we had expected, but the beautiful 111 mph (179 km/h) bevel-driven OHC V-twin was the star of the collection at the end of the day, attracting the highest genuine bid ever for a motorcycle at auction, being a hammer price of $775,000 which ultimately translated to the bike fetching $852,500 including buyer's premium of 10 percent.
The shadow of Steve McQueen on the world continues to loom large. The number of bikes McQueen has owned which appear in the top 100 auction prices is again more than 10, and as new bikes force themselves into the top 100 over the last 12 months, the number has varied.
Watching the Cyclone formerly owned by Steve McQueen race to a world record on the internet was exciting, even if the action was so fast that toilet breaks were out of the question. The Mecum interface sadly doesn't reflect the current bid, but rather the asking price for the next bid, so it's sometimes difficult to follow.
The Cyclone sold to the same person who had purchased the previous Cyclone which held top spot on the top 100 list for $551,200 at a Pebble Beach auction in July, 2008. That's him above in the white shirt (paddle 13636) amongst a group of Cyclone collectors pictured at the Mecum MidAmerica auction from the company's Facebook page. Of the 13 Cyclones known to exist, nine of them were owned by this group of collectors at the E.J. Cole collection auction in Las Vegas (yes, one of them has two) and now the group owns 10 Cyclones between them. Serious collectors all!
As we noted in a dedicated article about the man with the Midas touch earlier this year, McQueen's name in any items provenance usually means gold when that item crosses the auction block.
2 – 1907 Harley-Davidson strap tank single – $715,000
Dubbed the "Mona Lisa of Harley-Davidsons" by Mecum MidAmerica's independent on-stage vintage bike authority Paul D'Orleans, the incredibly original 1907 Strap Tank set a new record for both the marque and the model.
11 – 1911 Flying Merkel Board Track Racer – $423,500
In stunningly original, as-raced condition, the 1911 Flying Merkel Board Track Racer set a new record for the marque with a hammer price of $385,000 and a total buy-price of $423,500 including buyer's commissions.
14 – 1942 Crocker Big Tank – $385,000
This 1942 Crocker V Twin was estimated to fetch between $300,000 to $350,000 and it went above estimate for a total price of $385,000, setting a new record for the marque. At Pebble Beach in 2012, Bonhams sold three in consecutive lots at its Quail Lodge sale - a 1937 model which fetched $291,000, then a 1937 Small Tank for $302,000, and then a 1940 Big Tank also sold for $302,000. RM Auctions sold a 1939 Big Tank model in June, 2008 for $302,500, MidAmerica sold a 1941 Big Tank model in Las Vegas in January, 2007 and Bonhams & Butterfield sold a 1937 Crocker "Hemi-Head" for $276,500 at the Silverman Museum auction in November, 2006.
39 – 1928 Indian Altoona – $247,500
This 1928 Indian Altoona hillclimber is an original machine in as-raced condition and bears a legendary name, with a board track speed record which will never be broken.
Official Auction Page
The Altoona Speedway was a 1.25-mile (2-km) board track located in central Pennsylvania which was the home of the American Board Track Championship races during the 1920s. Winning Altoona was so important that a winning machine might adopt the track name as its own, as was the case with many other bikes and cars which won at other famous venues such Daytona, Bonneville, TT and IOM, Le Mans ad infinitum.
On July 9, 1926, "Curley" Fredericks lapped Altoona at an average speed of 114 mph (183 km/h) in a race, the highest speed ever recorded on a circular track, and the Indian racer was immediately dubbed the "Altoona."
The 61 cu-in. side-valve engine of the Altoona was designed by Charles Franklin, and its most distinctive features were the removable cylinder heads (a first for a side-valve Indian) and twin updraft Zenith racing carbs. As the induction gasses on a side-valve engine feed the cylinder from below, mounting the twin carburetors accordingly greatly assisted gas flow and the Altoona proved to be the fastest sidevalve engine Indian ever built, and the fastest sidevalve engine until the much later arrival of the Harley-Davidson KRTT.
Six weeks after the 114 mph Altoona win, Fredericks used the Altoona to lap a 1.25-mile board track at Rockingham, New Hampshire at 120.3 mph (193.6 km/h), the fastest speed ever recorded on a board track. The powerful engine was used in many different racing genres, and was victorious in many National Championship hillclimbs too. This 1928 Indian Altoona hillclimber is an original machine in as-raced condition.
43 – 1912 Harley-Davidson Model 8A twin – $236,500
This 1912 Harley-Davidson Model 8A is a very rare and very early twin-cylinder model with a belt drive and idler wheel, enabling it to be stopped with the engine still running. It was restored from a complete and original machine and estimated to fetch between $100,000 and $150,000. It became one of the surprises of the collection auction, fetching $236,000.
48 – 1912 Henderson Four – $225,500
This ultra-rare first-year 1912 Henderson 4 is believed to be one of six surviving machines. An older restoration, the bike was purchased from Cape Town, South Africa in 1983 and thirty years later, it became one of the 50 most valuable motorcycles ever sold when it fetched $236,500.
53 – 1917 Henderson Four – $209,000
The Henderson Four was the first production motorcycle capable of 100 mph and many celebrity owners ensued, amongst them Henry Ford (who bought a 1917 model just like this one) and aviator Charles Lindberg. The most important celebrity owner for motorcycle enthusiasts is of course, Steve McQueen and this bike (Lot S95) was formerly owned by McQueen and purchased at the Steve McQueen estate auction in Las Vegas in 1984. Estimated to sell for between $125,000 and $200,000, it fetched $209,000.
The Henderson Four was the first production motorcycle capable of 100 mph (161 km/h) and many celebrity owners ensued, amongst them Henry Ford (who bought a 1917 model just like this one) and aviator Charles Lindberg. The most important celebrity owner for motorcycle enthusiasts is of course, Steve McQueen and this bike (Lot S95) was formerly owned by McQueen and purchased at the Steve McQueen estate auction in Las Vegas in 1984. Estimated to sell for between $125,000 and $200,000, it fetched $209,000.
65 – 1907 Indian Tri-car – $181,500
One of the true classics in the Cole collection, this 1907 Indian Tri-Car With Sedan Chair is for all intents, a chauffeured armchair. It was made in the period where personal transportation was still finding its way, and is possibly the only tri-car in the world from this period that retains its original chair and upholstery. Estimated to sell between $155,000 and $175,000, it fetched $181,500
66 – 1930 Harley-Davidson Factory Hillclimber – $181,500
One of Harley-Davidson's most successful and important racing machines, the "DAH" hillclimber is among the very few pre-Knucklehead OHV models produced, winning three national hillclimb titles. Only 25 of these specialised racers were produced between 1929-33, and this machine has a documented competition history ridden by Windy Lindstrom, and it was also used by sculptor Jeff Decker as a model for his famous statue "The Hillclimber," which sits outside the Harley-Davidson museum. The 1930 Harley-Davidson Factory Hillclimber sold for $181,500
80 – 1915 Militaire Four – $165,000
This 1915 Militaire Model 2 is a fascinating and unconventional four-cylinder motorcycle with an equally fascinating history as it was developed through several manufacturers. Estimated to fetch between $130,000 and $150,000, it sold for $165,000.
Estimated to fetch between $130,000 and $150,000, this 1915 Militaire Four sold for $165,000. Now very collectible and extremely rare, the "two-wheeled car" features outrigger wheels which are operated by lever for low speeds, center-hub steering and wooden wheels.
88 – 1934 Crocker Speedway – $159,500
The precursor to the famous Crocker v-twin, Albert Crocker built just 31 speedway bikes before turning his hand to the bikes which made him a global name. This is one of them, and not surprisingly, they don't appear at auction very often. MidAmerica sold the last one to appear at auction in Las Vegas in 2011 for $151,200. This 1934 Crocker Speedway Racer (Lot S73) was estimated to fetch between $150,000 and $180,000 and sold for $159,500.
112 – 1928 Excelsior Big Bertha – $143,000
This 1928 Excelsior factory hillclimb machine of which only a handful were ever built. The bike was "bleeding edge" racing exotica when it was created using the Super X crankcase with a pair of racing cylinders from Excelsior’s 30.5 cu-in. single-cylinder half-mile dirt track engines. Estimated to fetch between $150,000 and $200,000, it sold for $143,000.
120 – 1914 Pope Model K – $137,500
Pope produced the first OHV production engine in America in 1912, and would remain as the only OHV engine for many years. This 1914 Pope Model K single is hence of revolutionary design, fully restored, in beautiful condition, and is a very rare combination of an OHV engine with belt drive. E.J. Cole purchased this 1914 Pope Model K at the Steve McQueen Estate Auction at Las Vegas’ Imperial Palace in November 1986, so once again, the McQueen provenance came to bear. Estimated at $110,000 to $150,000, the bike sold for $137,500.
134 – 1917 Henderson Four Generator – $132,000
This 1917 Henderson is an older restoration, but incorporates the ‘generator’ option for the Model G which was a very expensive upgrade and hence very rare. Only six of these machines are believed to exist and this bike is also one of six bikes purchased by E.J. Cole from the Steve McQueen estate. Lot S85 was estimated to fetch between $135,000 and $175,000 and sold for $132,000.
143 – 1915 Iver Johnson twin – $126,500
In 1914, armament and motorcycle manufacturer Iver Johnson revealed a V-twin of very clean design. The motor, which was a stressed member of the frame, was an unusual 60 degree V-twin sidevalve design of 7.5 HP (62 cu-in./1020cc) capacity. The crankshaft featured two offset crankpins arranged so both cylinders fired at the same point. The effect was a different ‘sound’ than any other V-twin – more like a British parallel twin. While the Iver Johnson motorcycle was lauded in the press, in 1916 the company dropped ‘Cycle Works’ ceased motorcycle production as World War I ramped up. This 1915 Iver Johnson twin is fully restored, with a two-speed planetary drive on the crankcase and is a rare example of this beautifully built motorcycle. It was purchased from the Bud Ekins collection and was restored by Richard Morris. Estimated at $80,000 to $95,000, it sold for $126,500.
First number signifies position on all-time top 250 highest auction prices
Official Auction Page
In 1914, armament and motorcycle manufacturer Iver Johnson revealed a V-twin of very clean design. The motor, which was a stressed member of the frame, was an unusual 60 degree V-twin sidevalve design of 7.5 HP (62 cu-in/1020 cc) capacity. The crankshaft featured two offset crankpins arranged so both cylinders fired at the same point. The effect was a different "sound" than any other V-twin – more like a British parallel twin. While the Iver Johnson motorcycle was lauded in the press, in 1916 the company dropped "Cycle Works" ceased motorcycle production as World War I ramped up. This 1915 Iver Johnson twin is fully restored, with a two-speed planetary drive on the crankcase and is a rare example of this beautifully built motorcycle. It was purchased from the Bud Ekins collection and was restored by Richard Morris. Estimated at $80,000 to $95,000, it sold for $126,500.
144 – 1920 Ace Four – $126,500
When the Henderson brothers sold the Henderson motorcycle to Ignatz Schwinn in 1917, both brothers quickly moved onwards, with Thomas traveling to Europe, and Bill deciding to build a new and better four-cylinder motorcycle. That bike became the Ace. The Ace 4 retained an F-head cylinder, and increased in displacement of 75 cu-in. (1220cc), with splash lubrication and a three-speed gearbox for an output of 20 hp. This 1920 Ace 4 is an older restoration, and bears the earliest Ace serial number known. Lot S78 was estimated at $85,000 to $125,000 and sold for $126,500.
145 – 1915 Pope Model L – $126,500
While its twin-cylinder OHV engine was introduced in 1912, the chassis of the Pope lineup was changed in 1913 with a more modern ‘look,’ with squared-off pannier fuel tanks and deeply valanced fenders; the new Pope Model L. Pope motorcycles had a 70 miles per hour (110 km/h) top speed, and the Model L was the fastest production motorcycle in the world when it was introduced. It was also expensive at $250 – the same price as a Model T, although few automobiles could keep up with a Pope… and obviously few motorcycles! The OHV Pope pushed its rivals to look for more speed from their F-head engines and Indian to jump ship to sidevalve motors. The Model L featured a 61 cu-in. (1000cc) motor with Schebler carb and many options, including a two-speed countershaft transmission with Eclipse clutch, and even rear springing via a large plunger spring system at the rear axle. It was rated as an 8 HP model, but actually produced 15.4 HP at the engine, and 13.9 HP at the rear wheel. This 1915 Pope Model L is an older restoration of this hugely important American motorcycle, the first OHV production V-twin, which was only produced until 1918. Popes are very rare. Lot S83 was estimated to sell at $80,000 to $95,000, and eventually sold for $126,500.
146 – 1935 Indian 435 Four – $126,500
This 1935 Indian Model 435 four-cylinder, serial #DCE205M, is a magneto-igniton model and a rare machine, being produced for only half a year, before the new (and unloved) ‘upside down’ engine was introduced. It bears the beautifully skirted fenders and streamlined tank, which made the mid-'30s Indian range among the most beautiful motorcycles ever built. Estimated at $75,000 to $90,000, it sold for $126,500
158 – 1913 Minneapolis Model S-2 Deluxe twin – $121,000
The four Michaelson brothers (Jack, Walter, Joe and Anton) developed a motorcycle whose design was one of the freshest and most advanced of its time - this 1913 Minneapolis Two Speed V-twin was developed in a hot-bed of motorcycling innovation which was once the home of motorcycle companies such as Wagner, Thiem, and Cyclone. Lot S72 was estimated to sell between $150,000 and $170,000 and sold for $121,000.
171 – 1909 Pierce four – $115,500
Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Company produced some of the most advanced and innovative bikes of the early American motorcycle industry, but the bikes were expensive to produce and cost more to build than they sold for, with the Pierce Motorcycle Company ceasing production in 1914 with less than 500 Pierce 4s built. This first year 1909 Pierce 4 is an older restoration. Lot F36 was estimated to sell between $100,000 and $125,000 and sold for $115,500.
Percy Pierce was the son of the founder of the Pierce-Arrow Motor Car Company, George N Pierce, and when the company decided to produce motorcycles in 1907, Percy traveled to Europe to look at the more advanced two-wheeled industry there. Percy imported an FN four-cylinder model which provided the basic model for the engine, shaft drive, and forks though the Pierce engine had a 43 cu-in. (707 cc) capacity, and used a T-head sidevalve design, eschewing the atmospheric inlet valve operation of the FN.
Nor did Pierce copy the remainder of the FN, using large-diameter tubing for the frame (to contain the gas and oil tanks, plus all the cables), plus using the engine as a stressed member of the frame. The first models of 1909 had no clutch and a single speed (a two-speed transmission and clutch were added in 1910), and are both rare and highly sought after as they were America’s first four-cylinder motorcycle, and had excellent performance.
172 – 1939 Indian Four – $115,500
173 – 1942 Indian Four – $115,500
This 1942 Indian Four was the first one off the production line in the final year of Indian Four Cylinder production. It was estimated to sell for between $85,000 and $110,000 and sold for $115,500
189 – 1908 Indian twin-cylinder racer – $110,000
Specialised Indian racing machines first appeared in 1905 that were visibly different from the catalog offering, including a new V-twin engine, which was first offered to the public in racing form in 1908. That first 60.32 cu-in. engine retained the ‘automatic’ inlet valve and mechanical exhaust of the singles, although this ‘monkey on a stick’ twin racer was advertised as capable of 65 mph ‘according to gear,’ with a single Corbin coaster-brake on the rear wheel… racing was always for the brave! Other specifications included Hedstrom mica spark plugs, an English Brooks racing saddle (the B-100 or B-100-4 for ‘heavy riders’), and an all-up weight of 120lbs. Colors available were Indian Royal Blue (the standard), with options of black or Indian Red. The magnificent Twin-Cylinder Indian racer could be yours for $360. This E.J. Cole ‘monkey on a stick’ 1908 Indian Twin-Cylinder racer was purchased from D. Ollhoff, and retains its original parts, while remaining in unrestored condition.
190 – 1929 Excelsior Super X – $110,000
This 1929 Excelsior Super X was estimated to sell for between $105,000 and $120,000 and sold for $110,000.
196 – 1926 Indian Hillclimber – $107,250
First number signifies position on all-time top 250 highest auction prices
Official Auction Page