The 100 most interesting sales at Las Vegas motorcycle auctions
There is little doubt that the motorcycle auction marketplace was evolving at the year-defining Las Vegas auctions this year, both on a macro and micro level. Mecum's five day sale from January 23 to 27 was the largest single auction of motorcycles ever held, with Bonhams' one day sale setting a new world record for a motorcycle sold at auction by fetching $979,000 for a 1951 Vincent Black Lightning.
Those two key factors were fairly obvious before the show began though, and of far greater interest was the movement in the middle and lower ends of the marketplace where models from the 1970s and 1980s are clearly beginning to be appreciated, and the value of many motorcycles is on the rise.
Japanese motorcycles have traditionally not been recognized by the marketplace on the auction block. This year in Las Vegas we saw some of the most valuable Japanese motorcycles ever sold and perhaps even more significantly, many of the Japanese bikes which fetched top prices were two-strokes.
There still may only be a handful of two-strokes in the top 250 most valuable motorcycles ever sold, but in the bottom and medium ranges, many two-strokes are now being recognized for their rarity and importance.
With the sheer volume of bikes this year, we've been able to add in a bit more detail to each model with multiple examples in many cases.
$1,610 | 1967 Yamaha 246cc YDS3 Catalina
Bonhams | Lot 192 | Auction Link
This bike is 50 years old, has just 5,518 miles on the odometer, runs perfectly, and as the auction report states "the paint and chrome exhibit rich patina."
Most significantly, the 246cc engine has a five speed gearbox and will still run 16.6 seconds for a quarter mile with a top speed of 82 mph, with great handling to boot. Yamaha was just getting started when this 250cc pocket rocket was sold, but already the performance of its small two-strokes was encroaching on that of much larger motorcycles. If it had an Italian, American or British brand name on the tank, it would still be being referred to as a miracle machine.
$2,090 | 1980 Kawasaki KZ1300
Mecum | Lot W216 | Auction Link
Kawasaki only produced one six cylinder motorcycle, but that was enough. Yes, it was unfeasibly large, but once you had your head around the magnitude of the motorcycle, and treated it with respect, it was a fantastic motorcycle, with more power than seemed fair, and genuine presence to boot. Two grand doesn't do it justice.
$2,750 | 1964 Honda 305 Dream
Mecum | Lot F336 | Auction Link
Believe it or not, this is considered a late model Honda Dream, though Japanese styling still predominates. This was the period when Honda was proving its worth, and these bikes are reliable and quiet and economical and ... fast. We really don't want to spoil it for all those people who still ride these bikes and love them with all their heart, but there's a huge following of early Hondas.
Ride one of these and a few of its contemporaries, and you'll understand why Honda became the world's largest motorcycle manufacturer. These two articles on the bike might help light a fire under you: Frank Melling on The Honda Dream 250 and Greg Williams on the Honda Dream 305.
$4,500 | "Hero" bike from the hit movie Priest
Mecum | Lot S127 | Auction Link
The 2011 post apocalypse sci-fi movie Priest contained many quite radical motorcycles made for the film by designer Ron Mendell and this bike was one of them. Based on a Suzuki Gladius, it apparently rides well.
$4,950 | 2002 Indian Wreck (Terminator 3 movie bike)
Mecum | Lot T100 | Auction Link
This is one of the Indian police bikes that was wrecked during the filming of the 2003 Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines. Indian provided eight motorcycles configured as police machines, and Schwarzenegger rode this motorcycle during the chase scene and this was the bike that got smashed during the crane sequence. One of the bikes which didn't get wrecked sold for $9,360 at a Bonhams auction in 2009, but this is easily fixable and ... hey, it's Arnie's bike, with genuine Terminator movie provenance. If the value of a bike is the stories it contains, surely this is worth more than $4,950!
$4,950 | 1968 Bridgestone 350 GTR
Mecum | Lot S292 | Auction Link
This was a bargain for someone. Until the early 1970s, globally renowned tire manufacturer Bridgestone also made a range of motorcycles which were of exceptional quality. This was the largest capacity motorcycle produced by Bridgestone, the 350 GTR, and it was produced in very limited quantities, believed to have been just 9,000 units.
Around that time, the other major motorcycle manufacturers made Bridgestone an offer it couldn't refuse: stop making motorcycles or we won't use your tires on our motorcycles.
Bridgestone complied, and this roadgoing motorcycle, which was faster than the Yamaha 350cc Grand Prix roadster (see below) of the same period, was shelved. It was faster thanks to its use of disc valve induction and this bike was sold with just one previous ownerplus full documentation including the original owners manual, and an original parts catalog.
$6,875 | 1967 Yamaha YR-1 Grand Prix Twin
Mecum | Lot T299 | Auction Link
Though there have been several much lauded Grand Prix replica road bikes in recent times, the Yamaha YR1 Grand Prix twin of 1967 was probably as close technologically to the 350cc two-stroke twin cylinder racers produced by Yamaha, as the more recent bikes of Ducati and Honda were to their Grand Prix counterparts.
Indeed, the YR-1 was a landmark motorcycle in myriad ways. The engine was the first to use aluminum cylinders with cast iron sleeves, the first to use a horizontally-split crankcase, and instead of the problematic crank-mounted clutch of previous models, a multi-plate clutch was mounted on the countershaft.
The bike could also be set up to have the gearshift and brake on either side, and the 61 x 59.6 mm bore and stroke gave it 348.4cc, fitting nicely into the 350cc category of Grand Prix Motorcycle racing.
Just as the Yamaha YR-1 embarrassed road bikes two and three times larger, its race bikes were doing so on racetracks around the world. In 1968, Yamaha's 350cc road racing bikes (with engines almost identical to this bike) shocked the American public by finishing second and third in the country's most important road race, the Daytona 200 Miles, against a field of unlimited capacity machines. In 1969, a Yamaha 350 was the first to lap the Daytona circuit at 150 mph.
This is a landmark motorcycle in unrestored but remarkable condition that sold for $6,875.
$5,175 | 1970 Norton 750cc Commando S Café Racer
Bonhams | Lot 104 | Auction Link
Astonishing value for this 1970 Norton 750cc Commando S Café Racer
$5,225 | 1969 Chang Jiang SJ750 with sidecar
Mecum | Lot T324 | Auction Link
I had never seen one of China's Chang Jiang SJ750s until I went to the China International Motorcycle Show in Chongqing in 2017. The full story is worth a read and covers the pricing. Remarkably, the rather low price paid at auction in Las Vegas is greater than you'd pay in China for a "good one" (everything is relative).
They were manufactured from 1957 onward, initially as the motorcycle of choice of the Chinese People's Liberation Army, and later for civilian use.
The tale goes much further though, because due to a "technical collaboration" between the Peoples Republic of China and Cold War Soviet Russia, the CJ750 is a copy of the Russian made 1956 IMZ (Irbitski Mototsikletniy Zavod) Motosikl 72 ... aka M72 ... which in turn began its own technological evolution as an improved military version of a 1938 BMW R71.
No sale | 2002 Honda VTXS Fauxari Enzo 1
Mecum | Lot S248 | Auction Link
Quite a remarkable price for a motorcycle with such star power. The Ferrari-themed Honda VTX 1800 has only 10,000 miles on the clock, thanks to being trailered to shows, where it "consistently wins Fan Favorite, Best Paint and Construction at both motorcycle and car shows" according to the auction description. Was selling with the themed trailer but bidding only reached $7,000.
$7,975 | 1958 Honda Benly JC58
Mecum | Lot S246.1 | Auction Link
This Japanese market Honda Benly was produced before America even had a Honda dealer, though Honda had already been producing complete motorcycles for a decade prior to this. Significantly, Honda was preparing to compete at the 1959 Isle of Man TT races for the first time with a racing version of the Honda 125 cc Benly, and Kihachiro Kawashima would not leave Japan to establish Honda's first overseas base, American Honda Motor Co, until June 10, 1959.
Just two years later, Honda was beginning to sell a lot more motorcycles than it had anticipated, and wins in the 125cc and 250cc World Motorcycle Racing Championships in 1961 suddenly gave the machinery greater credibility. Just for the record, the commonly used Honda model designation "Benly" comes from the Japanese word that sounds like "benri," and means "convenient."
$9,350 | 1958 BSA 500 Gold Star
Mecum | Lot S39 | Auction Link
Great value at $9,350, this 1958 racing bike with gorgeous hand-formed metal tank, guards and fairing was one of many bikes which wore the BSA Gold Star name over a very long time frame that extended from 1938 to 1963. They also came in 350 cc and 500 cc variants.
If you are into BSA Gold Stars, the most expensive one ever to go to auction was a working cutaway version that was estimated to sell for between $250,000 and $350,000. It didn't sell, but it truly is living, moving art, and it was just one of many priceless motorcycle artifacts from the Herb Harris Collection. Numerous Gold Stars went to auction in Vegas with a 1956 BSA B34 Gold Star Scrambler fetching $19,800 and a stunning 1951 B34 Gold Star Road Bike with 734 miles on the clock was passed in when bidding stopped at $20,000.
$9,900 | 1975 Laverda SF2
Mecum | Lot S217 | Auction Link
If you wanted a collectible bike that was a bit different, goes fast, handles and stops well, would appreciate in value and never give you any trouble no matter how many miles you put underneath it, this is one of the best. In SFC form, these bikes won many major endurance races in the early seventies mainly because they could lap reliably at scorching pace for 24 hours at a time.
$9,900 | 1965 Yamaha 250 Ascot Scrambler
Mecum | Lot F251 | Auction Link
One of motorcycling's finest writers, Kevin Cameron, recently wrote about this bike. It was at the bleeding edge of two-stroke development. It launched the careers of many people beyond Erv Kanemoto.
$9,900 | 1974 BSA B50 Motocross
Mecum | Lot S160 | Auction Link
Probably the last great BSA motorcycle that never got the credit it deserved while the company was asphyxiating was the B50, a 500cc single cylinder motorcycle that was so light, fast and frugal that it won serious endurance races.
It won its class in the Thruxton 500 and Barcelona 24 Hour races, and astonishingly won the Zolder 24 Hour race outright in the early 1970s. The B50 engine was also used in the B50 MX, BSA's motocross bike and a brand new example of the B50 MX sold new in Las Vegas. It was assembled from NOS parts but ... it was new and had never even been started. Truly remarkable.
$10,450 | 1975 Hercules Wankel
Mecum | Lot F314 | Auction Link
My initial story on this bike contained some mistakes regarding prior art in the wankel motorcycle area. Suzuki made the best known wankel-engined motorcycle in the form of the RE5, with the Van Veen OCR 1000 and Norton Interpol II also running rotary engines. The bike above was marketed as both a Hercules and a DKW.
We haven't had the pleasure of riding one of these but are assured by a friend who tested one for a motorcycle magazine in period that they are great to ride, with an engine so smooth you'll find it hard to believe. This is a motorcycle of immense scarcity. Scarcity usually equates with increased price on the auction block, so this appears to be a winner.
$11,000 | 1976 Yamaha XT500
Mecum | Lot T197 | Auction Link
An absolute bargain at $11,000 as this is another landmark motorcycle in as-new condition with virtually all original equipment. There may have been quite a few of these sold, but very few weren't modified.
Make no mistake about the significance of this motorcycle as it was an absolute revelation in 1976, proving that big singles could be perfectly reliable and very fast. In 1977, Bengt Aberg won the first race of the 500cc Luxembourg Motocross Grand Prix on a modified XT500, then in 1979, Cyril Neveu led a 1-2 Yamaha 500 win in the inaugural 1979 Paris-Dakar race. In 1980, Neveu led a Yamaha 500 1-2-3-4 whitewash in the second Paris-Dakar race. The XT500 spawned a dynasty of Yamaha single cylinder motorcycles which survives to this day.
$11,500 | 2011 Chaos Cycle 'Excelsis Deo' Bobber
Bonhams | Lot 173 | Auction Link
Named after the famous Vivaldi piece, Gloria in Excelsis Deo, this bike began life as the personal motorcycle of the "Punk Princess," Gloria, Princess of Thurn and Taxis. That's the spread Xtreme Bikes did on the bike above, and no, we are not making this up. That's a serious S&S motor in there. At $11,500, it is a steal!
$11,550 | 1973 Rokon 340 RT
Mecum | Lot S234 | Auction Link
Rokon made some radical motorcycles in its day, and this was one of the most successful and radical of them all, the 340 Enduro. This bike from 1975 was sold with 0.5 miles on the odometer. It had only ever been started once.
$11,550 | 1985 Yamaha RZ500
Mecum | Lot F226 | Auction Link
The RD500LC or RZ500 was a V4 two-stroke with serious cred, rolled out live by King Kenny Roberts at the Paris Motorcycle Show to emphasize the closeness of his Grand Prix 500 four-cylinder two-stroke.
This RZ500 V4 was the cover bike for Cycle World magazine in November, 1984 and presented at auction as new. At $11,500, the V4 two-stroke engine is still not for amateurs, but it is a two-stroke and two-strokes do not sell well at auction. Incredible value.
$12,100 | 1985 Yamaha RZ350
Mecum | Lot F34 | Auction Link
The ultimate evolution of the 1967 Yamaha YR-1 Grand Prix Twin listed above, this particular bike went to auction as a limited edition Kenny Roberts Replica, with Roberts' signature on the fairing and just three miles from new on the clock. We are unaware of an RZ350 ever selling for more than this.
$13,200 | 1977 Benelli 750 Sei
Mecum | Lot T252 | Auction Link
Benelli liked Honda's four cylinder CB500 so much it copied it, but then it went one better and added two extra cylinders and created a very sweet six-cylinder 750 cc motorcycle. The subsequent 900 was faster but the 750 was sooooo sweet to ride. Another bargain.
$13,750 | 1967 Yamaha TD1-C
Mecum | Lot F180 | Auction Link
At the very beginning of Yamaha two-stroke racing motorcycles, the TD1C snapped crankshafts like carrots, seized its brains out, frightened the bravest riders with its speed and when it seized. Most of the bike's issues are understood and sorted these days. This is a motorcycle from the very dawn of the two-stroke era.
$13,800 | 1979 Honda CBX1000
Bonhams | Lot 182 | Auction Link
This was the most expensive CBX prior to the last day of Mecum's sale, with one of the Mecum offerings slipping past it to sell for $15,400 on last day and become the most expensive of 16 Honda CBXs to sell during Scottsdale. That's the other 15 below with the Mecum lot numbers in the far right column for those who wish to examine the details.
I owned a CBX identical to this for many years, having tested one new for a motorcycle magazine in period and absolutely falling in love with the balance/handling, induction roar and turbine smoothness of the engine. I also spent time with the designer of the bike in Japan at a later Honda launch, and we both lamented the lack of recognition for a wonderful motorcycle, partly due to Honda exceeding its sporting potential with the 900 four, and then Suzuki trumping everyone with the GSX1100E which was introduced in August 1979.
Despite a lot of nonsense written about the CBX, when it was carefully set up, it was an extraordinarily well balanced, perfectly reliable and thoroughly civilized motorcycle. As can be seen, it doesn't cost much to own a six cylinder bike with impeccable manners.
$14,300 | 1973 Kawasaki H2 Mach IV
Mecum | Lot T245 | Auction Link
The Kawasaki 750cc three-cylinder two-stroke Mach IV was the fastest motorcycle on the road for several years until Kawasaki released the four cylinder four-stroke Z1. Despite what is written in wikipedia about the bike, this bike was no match for the subsequent 900cc Z1 in production racing, if for no other reason that it had to stop for gas once an hour if you had the throttle wide open for long.
Just the same, this is a surprisingly high price for a two-stroke motorcycle and perhaps the Mach IV is finally beginning to be appreciated as an infinitely better motorcycle than the Mach III.
$14,300 | 1965 Honda CL 72
Mecum | Lot F330| Auction Link
A remarkable motorcycle that fetched a remarkable price, this 1965 Honda CL 72 sold for $14,300. It sported a matching numbers 250cc engine and had been subject to a restoration to original specifications. Nice to see the original Hondas getting some respect.
$15,400 | 1982 Suzuki Katana 1000
Given the instantly recognizable styling on top of the domination of the bike in production racing during its model years, the only thing stopping the Katana from becoming a collectible motorcycle was the vast numbers in which it was sold.
This is another bike I owned in period for several years and NOTHING else that was stock came close to it in a straight line, though it did tend to weave disconcertingly at extreme speed. Beauty and brawn and surprisingly rare on the auction block in such original condition.
$16,500 | 1962 Moto Guzzi Falcone
Mecum | Lot S246 | Auction Link
An older restoration of one of the nicest versions of the 500cc single you can imagine. The Falcone is fabulous fun to ride, with a gentle, loping motor. Great value at $16,500.
$16,500 | 1967 Husqvarna 250 MX
Mecum | Lot S121 | Auction Link
One of Gerrit Wolsink's early motocross bikes that was restored by Vintage Iron. Excellent price for a two-stroke, which tends to make us feel there's a history to this bike that we don't know about.
$17,050 | 1974 Ducati 750 GT
Mecum | Lot T184 | Auction Link
There is something about the Ducati name on the auction block that seems to multiply pricing just by the way it rolls off the tongue. The Ducati 750 SS is now selling into the stratosphere (like this one for $176,000), and the Ducati 750 S followed suit with pricing climbing at an extraordinary rate thanks to the rising tide caused by the 750 SS. Now the 750 GT is doing likewise. This unrestored model fetching $17,050 is a sign for the future methinks.
$18,700 | 1964 Honda CZ100
Mecum | Lot S64 | Auction Link
Rare early model of the original series of the Honda Monkey bike. Imported from Holland 12 years ago, with a very low VIN numberand frame no. S00108. Could become a significant "missing link" model as it was the first of an important motorcycle sub-species that is now propagating across Asia as a better-sized road bike for urban environments and smaller humans.
$18,700 | 1987 Suzuki RG500
An excellent price considering this bike is a two-stroke, and particularly considering it is an RG400, not one of the genuine RG500 road bikes. Suzuki's RG500 racing bikes first won World 500cc Championships in the hands of Barry Sheene in 1976 and 1977 but when they became available as production racers, they were the privateer's bike of choice for a decade, winning seven consecutive Constructors' championships in the 500cc class.
The RG500 was built in limited numbers, with an RG400 produced for those markets where there was a tax break for bikes under 400cc. The RG500 was a better and faster road bike than the Yamaha RZ500 of the same period and quite a bit rarer.
$19,250 | 1978 Kawasaki KZ100-ZIR-TC
Mecum | Lot S147 | Auction Link
Long before the Japanese manufacturers gave us the sophisticated turbo motorcycles of the eighties, such as the Honda CX500 Turbo, the Kawasaki GPz750 Turbo, the Yamaha XJ650 Turbo and Suzuki's XN85, Kawasaki bolted together a special turbo for the American marketplace, selling small numbers of a potent but fragile beast. Motorcycle Classics tells the full story. Get the right one of these, and you have a very fast motorcycle available to you.
$19,250 | 2017 Speco Captain America Chopper
Mecum | Lot F132 | Auction Link
Unless you've been living in a box for the last 50 years, you'll recognize a Captain America Chopper from the 1969 feature film Easyriders. The original, or maybe it wasn't, reportedly sold for $1,620,000, then it didn't, and then maybe it did. We don't know for sure what happened and that's why we report on auction results where the real price can be verified. This replica does the job nearly as well as the original, and cost a lot less than the price the original sold for (or maybe it didn't).
$19,800 | 2006 Ducati Paul Smart 1000
Mecum | Lot F99 | Auction Link
The Ducati Paul Smart 1000 was built by Ducati in 2006 in limited numbers to commemorate Paul Smart's win at the Imola 200 race in 1972. Remarkably, a few years ago, the bike it commemorated sold at auction for just €70,200. Limited edition Ducati V-twins will always appreciate in value.
$20,900 | 1966 Bridgestone 175 Dual Twin
Mecum | Lot F149 | Auction Link
While the Bridgestone 350 GTR might have been better known to road riders, this 1966 Bridgestone 175 cc racer is a perfect example of the amount of effort required to go vintage racing today. Read the auction page and you won't wonder why someone paid $20,900 for it.
$22,000 | 1961 Victoria Model 115
Mecum | Lot F69 | Auction Link
A legendary motorcycle for its beauty, the Victoria Model 115 was also produced from 1961 to 1965 as the Zweirad Union 115, DKW Hummel 115, Victoria 115, Express 115 and Cavalier 115, all instantly recognizable because of distinctly different color schemes, and all emanating from German brands of the sixties. They were all collectively nicknamed the "Tin Banana," and all could be purchased as 155 models with 3.7 hp instead of the 115 model's 2 horsepower. The 155 also came with high beam and a horn.
As gorgeous as the Tin Banana is, those who have owned one found it to be an apparent nightmare to maintain and work on, with even a spark plug change requiring a workshop and a goodly amount of effort, which is a distinct disadvantage for a 50cc two-stroke with prehistoric ignition.
Though the beauty may only be skin deep, the 115 is highly sought after, as can be seen by the price this bike fetched, and another DKW Hummel 115 which sold for a more modest $8,250. For some reason, the 115 models almost always turn up at Mecum's Vegas auction, with a DKW Hummel 115 fetching $24,000 at this auction last year, a 1962 Victoria 155 fetching $15,000 in 2015, and a 1961 Victoria 115 fetching $13,500 in 2016. As such, the 115/155 models are some of the most expensive two-strokes ever sold.
$23,000 | 1920 Harley-Davidson 61ci Model 20J
Bonhams | Lot 127 | Auction Link
Restored or unrestored? History or not? This 1920 Model J was sold in recently restored form after the seller bought an incomplete, dismantled bike at an internet auction. It sold for $23,000 and was an excellent buy. Now consider a near identical bike from 1917 that went to auction the following day. It was an Atlantic City Police bike, purchased from the widow of an Atlantic City policeman. It went to auction complete and correct but unrestored. It sold for ... have a guess before you click the link.
$23,000 | 1954 Harley-Davidson 74ci Fl
Deluxe 50th Anniversary Model
Bonhams | Lot 140 | Auction Link
Excellent value as this was a Deluxe 50th Anniversary 74ci FL Model from 1954 and the 100th anniversary is now ancient history too.
$23,100 | 1969 BSA Rocket III
Mecum | Lot T158 | Auction Link
Now Triumph's three-cylinder Trident and BSA's three-cylinder Rocket III were essentially the same bike apart from badges and slightly inclined cylinders. Not counting the three Craig Vetter styled Triumph X75s which are covered elsewhere in this article, three Tridents and two Rocket IIIs went to auction in Vegas and the above 1969 model BSA Rocket III the most expensive of them all at $23,100, with another 1969 model in second place which sold for $18,150. By comparison, the best the Triumph Tridents could muster was $9,000 for a 1973 model that had been tastefully modified into a cafe racer, followed by two at $6,050 (a 1973 model and a 1974 model).
Take the three X75 variants into consideration (which use the slanted cylinders of the BSA motor) and there was a vast discrepancy in pricing between the two models. Could there be a divergence of pricing happening or is it just a statistical anomaly?
$23,100 | 1973 Kawasaki Z1 900
Mecum | F201| Auction Link
When the Z1 arrived, there were no other motorcycles capable of challenging it on the road. It was so far ahead of all other competitors that it was a quantum leap in performance and comfort. It was quite simply, the perfect platform with which to build an entirely new breed of motorcycle and hence original Z1s with original exhausts and unlomolested everything are near extinct. The price of an unmolested 1972 Z1 can be expected to skyrocket from here, with 1973 models such as this one not far behind. The Honda CB750 was a major landmark, but so too was the Z1. Another sold for $22,000.
$23,100 | 1953 Maserati 125 GT Racer
Mecum | Lot F96.1| Auction Link
It's a 64-year-old 125 cc two-stroke, but there's magic in that name.
$25,300 | 1941 Harley-Davidson Servi-Car
Bonhams | Lot 154 | Auction Link
Harley-Davidson's three-wheeled Servi-Car was developed during the Great Depression, targeted at car dealerships and service shops as a way of increasing revenue while cutting the man-hours required to service a customer's automobile.
$25,300 | 1969 Kawasaki 500cc Mach III
Mecum | F228| Auction Link
The Kawasaki Mach III was an incredibly fast motorcycle, but its reputation as a "widowmaker" seems to have enhanced its value. While this was the most expensive at $25,300, no less than three Kawasaki 500cc H1 Mach III triples sold for more than $20,000 in Vegas. The others sold for $20,900 and $20,350 respectively.
$25,875 | 1927 Harley-Davidson 74ci Model JD
Bonhams | Lot 128 | Auction Link
Three Harley JD models sold in Vegas with this the cheapest of the three at $25,875. Another 1927 model sold for $27,500, while an unrestored, very original 1926 model sold for $60,500. A very original 1917 Model J sold for $95,700.
$27,025 | 1930s Indian Scout Racere
Bonhams | Lot 146 | Auction Link
The ilk of Indian which you'd see at a racetrack during the 1930s, and the type which generated the headlines and put the Indian name consistently in the results column of newspapers.
$27,500 | 1955 Ariel Square Four
Mecum | Lot F139 | Auction Link
$27,500 | 1973 Norton Commando
Mecum | Lot T140 | Auction Link
As usual, there was no shortage of Norton's Commando variants in Vegas, but this one was the pick of the litter, fetching an extra $10,000 more than the second most expensive, a 1975NortonJohn Player Special which fetched $17,050 (that's it below).
The top-selling black and red Roadster was truly a knock-out in the flesh, being sold with just 30 miles on the odometer since an extensive engine rebuild by Classic Bike Experience, and a complete repaint by Vintage Vendor, both of Vermont.
$28,050 | 1973 Triumph Hurricane X75
Mecum | Lot S81 | Auction Link
The most valuable variant of the Triumph/BSA triple-cylinder 750s of the late 1960s and early 1970s is the Hurricane X75 styled for the factory by Craig Vetter, and three went to auction in Vegas. The above bike was the most expensive at $28,050, with another 1973 model X75 being passed in with a high bid of $24,000 and a third from the 1973 model year fetching $12,650.
The most valuable Triumph Hurricane X75 sold to date fetched $38,200 (£24,150) at Bonhams' Autumn Staffordshire Sale in 2012, while the auction record for a three-cylinder 750 was a BSA Formula 750 racer which fetched $104,760 at a Mecum auction in January 2014.
$28,600 | 1955 Fratelli Ferrari 165 Roadster
Mecum | Lot T104| Auction Link
As can be seen elsewhere in this article, people wishing to utilize the Ferrari name on a motorcycle are not exactly unique. This 1955 Fratelli Ferrari 165 Roadster sold for $28,600 and another very rare Ferrari motorcycle sold for $27,500 in Vegas but they weren't from the same automotive company and legal action eventually saw the demise of the marque.
The only motorcycle ever built that used the name Ferrari with Ferrari's permission features in our feature of the most expensive motorcycles ever sold. It was built in 1995 in the United Kingdom, used a bespoke 900cc four-cylinder motor, and was sold by Bonhams for $139,066 (GBP £85,500) in 2012 at the Staffordshire Spring Sale.
$29,700 | 1938 Zundapp K500 With Sidecar
Mecum | Lot F135| Auction Link
An extraordinary motorcycle with a sweet 500cc horizontally side-valve engine, an unusual all-chain 4-speed gearbox and the most exquisite art deco styling. The pick of the Zundapp range was the four-cylinder K800, one of which sold on Saturday for $58,300.
$29,700 | 1939 Jawa 250 Special
Mecum | Lot S112 | Auction Link
As can be seen from the design of this restored 1939 Jawa 250 Special, the company was once at the forefront of motorcycle engineering. Once exporting to over 120 countries, the name Jawa may well rise again now that it has been purchased by India's Mahindra, and the $29,700 paid for this fully restored two-stroke masterpiece could turn out to be quite an investment.
No sale | 1970 Indian Velo 500
Mecum | Lot S180 | Auction Link
On one of several occasions when the Indian brand was revived only to fail again, Velocette Thruxton machines were sold as Indians. This 1970 Indian is one such bike. It failed to sell, attracting a high bid of $30,000 against an undisclosed reserve.
$30,475 | 1928 Harley-Davidson 61ci Model J
Bonhams | Lot 130 | Auction Link
$30,800 | 1908 Marsh Metz
Mecum | F183| Auction Link
The Marsh Metz was one of the many wonderful motorcycles in particular and inventions in general to come from the fertile mind of Charles Herman Metz, one of the pioneers of the American motorcycle industry. Metz co-founded America's first motorcycle company, the "Waltham Manufacturing Company" (WMC) in 1893.
Waltham began manufacturing bicycles, expanding into motorcycle manufacturing just before the turn of the century, and subsequently into automobile production. Metz is believed to have coined the term "motorcycle," first using it in an 1899 advertisement for the company's new Orient motorcycle. Waltham Manufacturing's 1900 Orient Light Roadster and "Orient-Aster" were America's first mass-production motor driven cycles, and in July 1900, at the Charles River Race Track in Boston, the Orient covered a five mile distance in seven minutes (42.86 mph).
In 1902, Metz left WMC to begin the Metz Motorcycle Company (MMC) and his new Metz set an American speed record of 51.42 mph over a one mile course. In 1906 Metz merged with the Marsh Co. to create the "American Motorcycle Company" and this bike would have come from that company. A spectacular 1000cc V-twin Marsh-Metz motorcycle was introduced in 1908 and one of those bikes is documented in our list of the top 100 most valuable motorcycles.
$31,050 | 1953 Indian 74ci Chief
Bonhams | Lot 153 | Auction Link
$32,450 | 1969 Honda CB750
Mecum | S100 | Auction Link
Though it now seems ludicrous, when Honda first produced its CB750, it wasn't sure the bike would sell, and the first 7,000 CB750 units made in 1969 had engine cases that were cast in sand, because Honda didn't want to go to all the trouble to make the mass production tooling until it new it had a marketplace of sufficient size.
Those sandcast CB750s now regularly command high prices and this bike comes from that batch and it has less than 30,000 miles on it. It is also restored to museum quality with many NOS parts. This one fetched $32,450, however there is one rarer version of the CB750: there were four original prototype bikes and one of them sold at auction on eBay for $148,100 in 2014.
$32,775 | 1941 Indian 30ci 741 Scout Military
Bonhams | Lot 151 | Auction Link
$33,000 | 1980 Kawasaki Mystery Ship
Mecum | S99 | Auction Link
Only 10 of these famous motorcycles were ever made, and they made news all around the world for their futuristic design at the time. This bike was the most famous of the 10, has just 48 miles on the odometer. A remarkably low price at $33,000 does not seem commensurate with the historical significance of the bike.
$33,000 | 1967 Suzuki RH67 MX
Mecum | S146 | Auction Link
One of Suzuki's very first motocross bikes, it is little wonder that this 1967 Suzuki RH67 MX became one of the most expensive two-strokes ever sold when it fetched $33,000. As the auction description so accurately states, "this bike is the foundation of a tremendous lineage of dominating Suzuki MX racers and is incredibly important historically."
$33,000 | 2002 Ducati MH900E
Mecum | F98 | Auction Link
One of Ducati's most successful limited editions, the entire 2,000 unit production run sold in an hour on the internet. This bike had just 150 miles at the time of the sale.
$33,925 | 1950 Vincent 499cc Comet
Bonhams | Lot 121 | Auction Link
$34,100 | 1962 BMW R-60 W/ Steib Sidecar
Mecum | Lot F167| Auction Link
$34,500 | 1991 Yamaha FZR 750RT OW01
Bonhams | Lot 176 | Auction Link
This bike is one of the homologation specials built for the 1991 World Superbike Championships. Only 500 were built, and only 30 got to the United States. The engine has such niceties as two-ring pistons, titanium con-rods, 38 mm flat-slide Mikuni carburetors with Yamaha's EXUP valve downstream of the header pipes ensuring that, even though tuned for 121bhp, the engine possessed adequate tractability for road use.
This particular bike sold at Bonhams with 74 miles on the odometer for $34,500 while a second bike was offered at Mecum with 8,710 miles and sold for half that price, fetching $17,050.
No sale | 1909 Yale 500 Single
Mecum | Lot S153 | Auction Link
Extremely rare with a fascinating tale behind it, a bike very similar to this was the first to cross America in 1903. We know of only one of these that has been sold before, by Bonhams in 2008 for $23,400, so if the high bid of $35,000 for this bike had been accepted, it would probably have been a record for the model. The reserve was $40,000 but no common ground could be found.
$35,650 | 1940 Indian 74ci Chief
Bonhams | Lot 147 | Auction Link
$35,650 | 1951 Triumph 650 6T Bonneville Salt Flats Racer
Bonhams | Lot 162 | Auction Link
It might look pretty but this bike is ALL business, having run 122 mph at Bonneville in 1953 with a 13-year-old riding. The full story is amazing and can be found at the auction link.
$38,500 | 1968 Velocette Thruxton
Mecum | Lot S149 | Auction Link
The Velocette Thruxton was one of the last of the successful British singles, made from 1965 onwards for for production and endurance racing. It had a top speed of 120 mph and handling identical to the company's World Championship bikes, which had won at the very demanding Isle of Man TT course. Named after the Thruxton circuit at which this model won both 12- and 24-hour races. This particular bike has just received a total, nut and bolt restoration, which explains its $38,500 price.
$38,525 | 1910 Harley-Davidson Model 6A 30.2 ci single
Bonhams | Lot 124 | Auction Link
$39,600 | 1999 Yamaha YZF-R7 OW02
Mecum | Lot F87| Auction Link
$39,675 | 1940 Indian 45ci Sport Scout
Bonhams | Lot 152 | Auction Link
$40,250 | 1962 Norton Petty-Molnar 519cc Manx
Bonhams | Lot 109 | Auction Link
This 1962 Norton Petty-Molnar 519cc Manx represents the final evolution of the Manx Norton as developed by noted English tuner Ray Petty. Petty's bikes won many British Championships, including the very last by a single cylinder in 1971, recording more wins than the famous Francis Beart in whose shop he had served an apprenticeship. This bike was then developed further. Quite a tale and seemingly $40,250 well spent for the vintage racer wanting to be as competitive as possible.
$41,400 | 1927 Indian 74ci Big Chief
Bonhams | Lot 143 | Auction Link
$41,800 | 1916 Pope Twin
Mecum | Lot S222 | Auction Link
Fabulous value for this beautifully restored 1916 Pope 1000cc v-twin, which had a 70 mph (110 km/h) top speed, and was the fastest production motorcycle in the world when it was introduced. The record for a Pope 1000cc v-twin was set at the E.J. Cole Collection auction in March, 2015 where a 1915 model sold for $126,500 (inc comms).
No Sale | 1967 Husqvarna 250 ISDT
Mecum | Lot F219 | Auction Link
Malcolm Smith is one of motorcycling's all-time-greats, one of the stars of the McQueen film On Any Sunday, and the winner of eight Gold Medals at ISDT/ISDE events. This is the bike he rode to his first Gold Medal in 1967, complete with Smith's riding gear and helmet and wall display as it was featured in the AMA and Sturgis museums. A high bid of $42,000 was not enough to bring the hammer down.
$44,000 | 1968 Harley-Davidson KRTT
Mecum | Lot F205 | Auction Link
The KRTT is described as the "ultimate flathead" in the auction description and it is a poignant reflection. Long after side-valve engines had been consigned to the scrapheap, long after the Japanese hordes with their DOHC four strokes and ear-piercing two-strokes had arrived, Harley-Davidson's KRTT Road Racers kept defying the laws of physics by winning. This 1968 KRTT is one of the very last of a special breed of old school racers.
No sale | 1948 Vincent Rapide Series B Hill Climber
Mecum | Lot S137 | Auction Link
This Vincent-engined bohemoth is a thing of raw beauty. It is a single-purpose tool created in post-war America specifically to win hill climb events and it succeeded handsomely winning no less than seven American titles in the hands of Beese Wendt and Glen Kyle. Those trophies are still with the bike and would have gone to the buyer had bidding reached the undisclosed reserve price. Remarkably, the beast has gone through the auction process twice without selling, at Vegas in June 2017 when bidding went to $67,500, then again last Saturday January 27, when bidding only reached $45,000.
Riding this would have been very interesting indeed, and would have required industrial-sized cojones. That's the AMA professional champ Glen Kyle riding it in period above. The 1000cc Vincent engine had been modified considerably, ran on nitro methane, and flames would belch from those straight-through exhausts. Note the size of the rear sprocket, and the position of the footpegs. There are lots more images on the auction page, and we found these PDF write-ups (here and here) of the bike on the VOC site.
$44,850 | 1939 Indian 74ci Chief
Bonhams | Lot 149 | Auction Link
1939 was the year in which the World's Fair was held in New York and the Indian brochure that year featured the Indian range portrayed in front of the key features of the famous fair. It was to be the last year of the open fenders, the first year of metallic paint, and the spectacular color schemes available for the bikes (effectively rolling adverts for the automotive paints of Indian's owner Du Pont) became known as World's Fair paint schemes. This 1939 Indian 74ci Chief has done no miles since a complete repaint and restoration.
$47,150 | 1929 Indian 45ci 101 Scout
Bonhams | Lot 145 | Auction Link
This 1929 Indian 101 Scout was originally an export model, coming back to the United States from Australia and features the more popular 45 cubic inch engine.
$47,300 | 1978 Ducati 900SS
Mecum | Lot S58 | Auction Link
Later models of the Ducati Super Sport such as this 1978 model 900SS are now rising in value with the marketplace originally based on the first Ducati 750 SS, then 750 S and and 750 GT. This 900 SS fetched $47,300.
$49,500 | 1913 Sears Dreadnought Deluxe
Mecum | Lot F258| Auction Link
In the years prior to WW1, the Dreadnought was the ultimate armored battleship with fearsome firepower and steam turbine speed and it was hence an important symbol of national power. It is not surprising that when Sears decided to include mail-order motorcycles in its catalogs, it chose the name for its most powerful 1157cc model. This museum quality Dreadnought sold at Mecum for $49,500, making it a steal compared to the record for the model. In 2001, Sothebys sold a 1914 Dreadnought for $126,750.
$49,500 | 1952 Vincent Trackmaster
Mecum | Lot F157| Auction Link
A unique motorcycle, being the only Vincent engine in a Trackmaster frame. It is ironic that Vincent engines were so revered that they were lifted out of their original chassis and deployed wholesale in many other sporting pursuits, yet at the end of the day, the most valuable Vincent is an original.
$50,600 | 2008 Ducati Desmosedici 990cc 16RR
Mecum | Lot F218| Auction Link
The first of the road-legal, limited-production factory MotoGP replicas, only 1,500 were made and they offered a 197 hp engine giving it a top speed of 188 mph. Remarkably, they still don't sell for what they cost a decade ago, despite people storing them in climate controlled garages and looking at them instead of riding them. This bike has traveled less than 200 miles. Our opinion is that these bikes are still a bargain, and that they will eventually sell for much more than they cost.
$50,600 | 1938 Indian 74ci Chief with Princess sidecar
Bonhams | Lot 148 | Auction Link
A very fast pre-war motorcycle, a 1938 Chief in stock condition was clocked at 120.7 mph in period, significantly faster than its Milwaukee competition with a stock machine. Sold with matching Princess sidecar, this fully-restored 1938 Chief sold for $50,600.
$52,800 | 1985 Kawasaki SR250 'Jeff Ward'
Mecum | Lot F126| Auction Link
Kawasaki factory rider Jeff Ward had an illustrious racing career that spanned both motorcycles and cars, and saw him reach international status in both. His path to fame and fortune began in the famous Steve McQueen film On Any Sunday when as a 10 year-old, he wheelied a Honda 50 out of sight.
In 1985, Jeff had a purple patch, winning both the American Supercross championship and the 250cc Motocross national championship, plus the Motocross Des Nations that year. He did nearly all of that winning on the bike he regarded as the sweetest bike he rode in his career: this one. This bike now becomes one of the most expensive two-stroke motorcycles ever sold at auction.
$55,000 | 1973 Ducati 750 Sport
Mecum | Lot S47 | Auction Link
As we wrote previously regarding the 1974 Ducati 750 GT that fetched $17,050, the Ducati 750 Sport prices at auction have risen with the tide caused by the 750 SS. The Ducati 750 SS is now selling into the stratosphere (like this one for $176,000), and this 750 Sport was the highest priced Ducati of the Vegas auctions.
If there is a great irony about all of this, the reputation all stems from Paul Smart's win at the Imola 200 race in 1972, and a few years ago, that bike sold at auction for just €70,200. Anyway, this appears to be a bevel-driven 750 sport motor with a Dr. Desmo kit fitted.
$55,000 | 1914 Pope Model K Ex-Steve McQueen
Mecum | Lot F184| Auction Link
This bike has had an interesting life, being owned by the late Steve McQueen and being purchased by the well known collector E.J. Cole at the Steve McQueen Estate Auction at Las Vegas' Imperial Palace in November 1986.
When E.J. Cole sold his collection in March, 2015, this bike sold for $137,500 which made it 120th in the list of the highest prices ever fetched by a motorcycle at that time. It looks identical to three years ago, but sold for $55,000 this time around, dropping an astonishing $82,500 in 34 months. Ouch!
$55,000 | 1910 Thor IV
Mecum | Lot F162 | Auction Link
An original-paint 1910 Thor in running condition, with family ties to Indian. Thor was the brand name of the Aurora Automatic Machinery Company which built the engines for early Indians.
As the auction description explains, "the landmark agreement by Indian, allowing Aurora to sell Hedstrom's engine to other motorcycle producers, was truly the foundation of the American motorcycle industry."
Apart from using Indian's engine in its own Thor brand motorcycles, Aurora sold them to other manufacturers such as Reading Standard, Racycle and Thoroughbred.
$57,200 | 1914 Excelsior Twin with Sidecar
Mecum | Lot F92.1 | Auction Link
This bike was sold by just the third owner, who purchased it 18 years ago from the second owner, who in turn, purchased it from Hal Roach Studios, being the first owner.
Hal Roach Studios is best known for producing comedy silent movies such as as the Laurel & Hardy, Charley Chase, Harold Lloyd, and Our Gang film comedy series from 1914 onwards. It is believed that this bike and sidecar may have been used in the Laurel & Hardy movies.
At $57,200, the story doesn't appear to have had much impact on the price as Excelsior twins from this period have sold into this price range previously, and the record for the model is $100,000 which was fetched by a remarkable unrestored and completely original model in 2016.
$58,300 | 1937 Zundapp K800
Mecum | Lot S91 | Auction Link
This is one of the most beautiful motorcycles ever built, with art deco styling, a reliable 800cc four-cylinder engine and footboards and heating from the rear exhaust pipe during winter. We'd imagine it gets more than a tad "toasty" in warmer weather but reliability and stunning looks will help an owner overlook a few foibles.
This is the most expensive Zundapp K800 we've ever seen, and as an aside, the engine in this motorcycle is a close relation to the engine which subsequently became one of the best-sellers in history in the Volkswagen Beetle.
$60,500 | 1913 Jefferson Twin Board Track Racer
Mecum | Lot S152 | Auction Link
With a significantly advanced engine for its time, this Jefferson is a rare motorcycle. This sale for $60,500 is believed to be a record for both the model and the marque.
$60,500 | 1926 Harley-Davidson 74ci Model JD
Mecum | Lot S154 | Auction Link
Three Harley JD models sold in Vegas with the cheapest of the three being a 1927 model that sold for $25,875, another 1927 model sold for $27,500, while this unrestored, very original 1926 model sold for $60,500.
$60,500 | 1953 VINCENT BLACK SHADOW
Mecum | Lot S76.1 | Auction Link
Restored a decade ago with many personal touches, such as an electric starter being fitted, this 1953 Black Shadow has done just 150 miles since that restoration. Good buying at $60,500.
$60,500 | 1911 Harley-Davidson Single
Mecum | Lot F195 | Auction Link
$61,600 | 1974 Yamaha 360 MX Steve McQueen
Mecum | Lot S179 | Auction Link
Originally sold at the 1984 Steve McQueen Estate auction at the Imperial Palace in Las Vegas, this lot comprised not just the bike but Steve McQueen's boots, leathers, helmet and goggles on a mannequin, along with certificates of authenticity from McQueen's estate. At auction it failed to sell with a high bid of $56,000, but in the following negotiations, the deal got done.
No Sale | 1951 Vincent Rapide
Mecum | Lot S161 | Auction Link
This Chinese Red 1951 Rapide at Mecum had a high bid of $70,000 before being passed in.
$71,500 | 1926 Indian Altoona
Mecum | Lot S206 | Auction Link
The photogenic Altoona was Indian's hottest racing model of the 1920s. 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 record price for an Altoona was set at the E.J. Cole Collection auction, when a 1928 model fetched $247,500. At less than a third the price, fully-restored, this bike represents great value.
$71,500 | 1915 Harley-Davidson Twin
Mecum | Lot F134 | Auction Link
The 1915 Harley-Davidson Model 11 twin 3-speeder has long been a favorite of antique motorcycle collectors, being one of few machines of the pre-1916 era with a proper gearbox.
This bike might well have sold for more than the $71,500 it fetched as apart from a recent and stunning restoration, it won the Motorcycle Cannonball Endurance Rally winner before it was restored. The Cannonball is considered the ultimate old-bike test, so ... a fabulous machine with a modern provenance.
$74,750 | 1929 Henderson 1,301cc Kj Four
Bonhams | Lot 141 | Auction Link
A fully-restored example of a first-year Henderson KJ 1300cc four-cylinder
$82,500 | 1912 Indian Twin
Mecum | Lot S157 | Auction Link
One of the five Indian twins produced between 1912 and 1915 that went to auction during the Vegas motorcycle auction week, this very original 1912 Indian Twin Board Track Racer fetched $82,500 to top the listings.
Others fared a little less well, with a 1914 Twin Board Track Racer passed in at $30,000, a 1912 Twin Board Track Racer sold for $44,000, a 1915 Twin Board Track Racer sold for $49,500 and a fully restored Indian Twin roadster sold for $55,000.
$77,000 | 1938 Indian Super Six
Mecum | Lot S158 | Auction Link
This 1938 Indian Super Six is a masterpiece made in period circa 1939-1940 by fusing together two 1938 Indian type 438 4-cylinder motors together to create a six-cylinder 1966cc engine.
This is the second time this bike has been to auction, having first gone under the auctioneer's hammer in June, 2017 where it received a high bid of $100,000 (effectively $115,500 with commissions), but was passed in.
This time it was bid to $73,000 and passed in, with a deal done after the auction to secure a sale at $77,000. The full story of the construction of the bike and frame can be found in the Auction Catalog Description.
$83,950 | 1939 Indian Four World's Fair
Bonhams | Lot 150 | Auction Link
$88,500 | Harley-Davidson Factory neon sign
Mecum | Lot F62.1| Auction Link
This is the actual neon sign that hung over the Harley-Davidson visitor/employee entrance at the Milwaukee factory for many decades, complete with photographic evidence showing that the water stains on the sign match those on the original 'in situ.'
A piece of motorcycle history without doubt, but it's ironic that it sold for just $3,500 less than the Honda RC30, which in turn, is the fifth most valuable Japanese motorcycle ever sold. Very few brand names are so revered that devotees tattoo the brand logo on their body.
$88,550 | 1953 Vincent 998cc Black Shadow Series-C
Bonhams | Lot 134 | Auction Link
A 1953 Vincent Black Shadow that has been in storage for many years and is original other than an older repaint. The bike is believed to have done only the 14,804 miles recorded on the (working) Smiths 5-inch speedometer.
$92,000 | 1950 Vincent 998cc Rapide Series-C Touring Model
Bonhams | Lot 133 | Auction Link
Chinese Red is not a common color for Vincents so having two Chinese Red Vincent Rapides going to auction within 48 hours was interesting. This one sold at Bonhams last Thursday for $92,000 while the Chinese Red 1951 Rapide at Mecum had a high bid of $70,000 before being passed in.
$91,300 | 1911 Flying Merkel V-Twin
Mecum | Lot F143| Auction Link
The only Flying Merkel V-twin to go to auction in Vegas was this 1911 model which fetched $91,300. The record for the model is a whopping $201,250 which was recorded in 2011 in Glenview, Illinois by Auctions America (now RM-Sothebys)
$92,000 | 1990 Honda VFR750R Type RC30
Bonhams | Lot 175 | Auction Link
Two Honda RC30 motorcycles were sold in Vegas, one at Mecum for $44,000 and the one above at Bonhams for $92,000. As we have written before, the significance of the RC30 model can not be overstated. It was built in very low quantities so that Honda could go production racing and each one was hand-built by Honda Racing Corporation, not the Honda factory.
For several years, it won everything, including the first two World Superbike Championships. We go into a lot more detail about the RC30 and its immense significance to sporting two-wheelers in this feature about the evolution of the Sports Motorcycle.
This bike also becomes the fifth most expensive Japanese motorcycle to ever sell at auction. The most expensive Japanese motorcycle actually sold in post-auction negotiations after it had been passed in at a MidAmerica (now Mecum) auction in Vegas in January 2009, fetching $180,000: astonishingly, it was a 1962 Honda CR72 Production Racer.
The next most expensive was a 1969 Honda CB750 Prototype which fetched $148,100 in February, 2014 on eBay, and the next again was a 1975 Bimota HB1 which sold for $96,614 (it actually sold for £57,500) at a Bonhams Staffordshire auction in April, 2014.
The only other Japanese bike to sell for more than this RC30 was a 1992 Honda RC45 NR750$92,952 (sold for £57,500) at another Bonhams Staffordshire auction in October, 2013. Just for the record, the RC30 that fetched this fabulous sum was more than just perfect. It was essentially unused, having just 14 km on the odomoter, with most of those clocked up being pushed from trailer to stand inside exhibitions.
$93,500 | 1914 Henderson
Mecum | Lot F240.1| Auction Link
As close to a perfect restoration as you will see. As the auction description notes, "22 coats of hand rubbed lacquer paint.Extensive hand painted pin striping.Every nut and bolt is period correct original nickel plated." This is a "picture perfect" 104-year-old motorcycle.
$95,700 | 1917 Harley-Davidson Model J
Mecum | Lot S203 | Auction Link
The value of originality. If you haven't already connected the restored 1920 Model J that sold for $23,000 at Bonhams, it's further up this list. Comments?
$99,000 | 1928 Indian Four
Mecum | Lot S108 | Auction Link
An older restoration of a rare late 1928 Indian Four.
$99,000 | 1945 Harley-Davidson Knucklehead EL
Mecum | Lot S55 | Auction Link
The sheer volume of the Mecum's offering in Las Vegas was immense, as could be seen by the numbers of some otherwise scarce models such as the Harley-Davidson Knucklehead, the most coveted of American Classic motorcycles. The 1945 EL above was the most expensive Knucklehead of the weekend at $99,000, well ahead of a 1941 EL Knucklehead at $68,200, a 1946 E Knucklehead at $60,500, a 1947 FL Knucklehead at $57,750, a 1938 EL at $46,000, and a 1948 model at $44,000.
No sale | 1975 MV Agusta 750S & 1977 MV Agusta 850SS
Bonhams | Lot 113 | Auction Link | Estimate: $85,000 to $100,000
Bonhams | Lot 114 | Auction Link | Estimate: $98,000 to $110,000
One of the most beautiful of the modern collectible motorcycles is the MV Agusta four. Those who have them don't wish to part company for less than six figures and those that don't yet have them were reluctant to pay anywhere near six figures to get them in Las Vegas this time around. Only two were on offer, and they were offered in consecutive lots at Bonhams, both failing to meet reserve.
$101, 750 | 1941 Indian Four
Mecum | Lot S141 | Auction Link
This 1941 Indian 441 Four comes from the last full year of production for this elegant and powerful model. An older restoration, this bike sold for $101,750.
$104,650 | 1955 Vincent 998cc Black Prince
Bonhams | Lot 135 | Auction Link
An idea ahead of its time, the enclosed 'Series D' bikes were first shown at the 1955 Earls Court show in London. Phil Vincent's concept of fully enclosing his motorcycles hastened the demise of one of the great brands.
Known as the Series D, the Black Prince was an enclosed Black Shadow, while the very similar Black Knight was an enclosed Vincent Rapide. This 1955 Vincent 998cc Black Prince is one of just 200 of the enclosed bikes that were made, and presents as new.
$107,250 | 1968 Godet-EGLI Vincent
Mecum | Lot F156.1| Auction Link
The name Fritz Egli has long been part of Vincent folklore, and Egli handed that mantle to Frenchman Patrick Godet. Godet now stands in his own right as the foremost Vincent modifier and restorer in the world, and this is a bike he created. Behind the world record holder, this was the most expensive Vincent to change hands in Vegas.
No sale | 1984 Buell RW 750
Mecum | Lot S225 | Auction Link
Erik Buell's motorcycles are revered the world over, and we have watched his rise and fall and rise and fall with fascination and admiration. His motorcycles have always been state-of-the-art, and I have been a breathless devotee for decades.
This motorcycle didn't sell, but it did receive a high bid of $110,000. It is the very first production bike to wear the Buell name, built in 1984 and entitled the Buell RW750 Production Racer.Only two were ever produced, and they spawned a royal lineage.
$110,000 | 1917 Henderson Four
Mecum | Lot F191| Auction Link
The Henderson Four was one of the largest and fastest motorcycles of its time, and though it was produced from 1912 until 1931, 1917 was the last year of production of the "true" Henderson Four lineage, as the company was purchased by Schwinn in October of that year, and production was moved from Detroit to Chicago and the company became known as Excelsior-Henderson.
The Henderson Four was the first production motorcycle to be capable of exceeding 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 was formerly owned by McQueen and purchased at the Steve McQueen estate auction in Las Vegas in 1984 by E.J. Cole. Cole's collection sold in March, 2015 and this bike fetched $209,000 with commissions, only to reappear at auction in 2017 in Vegas and sell for a disappointing $93,500. Appearing again at auction last week, it sold for $110,000.
No sale | 1952 Vincent Black Shadow
Mecum | Lot S136 | Auction Link
A matching-numbers, fully-restored, 1951 Vincent Series C Black Shadow in faultless condition, this bike was bid to just $60,000 before being passed in, which was exactly half the reserve price.
$120,500 | 1939 Brough Superior 980cc SS80
Bonhams | Lot 168 | Auction Link
The only Brough Superior of the week sold at Bonhams for $120,500. It was a perfectly maintained SS80 (so named because it was guaranteed to be capable of 80 mph) with a complete history file dating back to its first registration in 1939. One of just 460 made.
No sale | 1949 Indian Vincent Super Chief
Mecum | Lot S176| Auction Link
In 2017, Bonhams' auction in Las Vegas featured an extreme rarity, a 1949 Indian-Vincent prototype that might have changed the two-wheeled world if history had run a slightly different course. The bike had been taken to Australia by Vincent designer Phil Irving after the merger had failed, but it might have been ground-breaking if Indian hadn't gone out of business before the initiative got any buy-in.
The stillborn cooperation between the great British marque Vincent and the great American marque Indian was captured perfectly in this one-off, and in Vegas 2017, it was expected to sell between $250,000 and $300,000. Bidding started at $100,000 but only reached $180,000.
The whole process was repeated in 2018, this time with Mecum selling the bike and this time the bidding only reached $145,000, suggesting that the seller's expectations and those of potential buyers are a long way apart.
$154,000 | 1911 Harley-Davidson Twin
Mecum | Lot F133| Auction Link
Harley-Davidson began producing a single-cylinder 500cc machine in 1905, and while a twin-cylinder motorcycle appeared in Harley-Davidson's press as early as 1908, there is no record of a twin-cylinder machine being sold until the Model 7D appeared in 1911.
This bike is an incredibly rare survivor, with matching case and cylinder serial numbers, of that first year production of which few remain. For Harley aficionados, this is considered by some to be the Holy Grail of collectible early American motorcycles.
$929,000 | 1951 Vincent 998cc Black Lightning
Bonhams | Lot 131Ω | Auction Link
We covered this bike in a separate article as it is now the world record holder: the most expensive motorcycle ever sold at auction. There are no doubt a handful of motorcycles that have fetched more money in private sales, but this is the most money that has ever changed hands that can be publicly verified. We use the same auction basis for all of our "most expensive" lists.
No sale | Excelsior-Henderson Brand
Mecum | Lot S173| Auction Link
Obviously, no one is contemplating starting a new motorcycle brand at present because one of the legendary American motorcycle marques, the Excelsior-Henderson brand name and all its trademarks, web domains, motorcycle designs and expired patents were offered as one lot, and the high bid was just $1.9 million.
Even the reserve was just $3 million, and with successful resurrections of famous brands to show as precedents, namely Brough Superior, Indian and Bugatti, it is hard to believe that the brand equity in the name could not be capitalized upon.
The Indian and Chinese markets in particular revere traditional brand names and this name is still one of the strongest in the world. Note that last year at this auction the top selling motorcycle, which fetched $532,000, wore this name. This year, two of the 10 most valuable motorcycles sold in Vegas wore the name. It is hard to explain the lack of interest other than no-one wants to start a motorcycle brand at present. Our preview story can be found here.