1894 Hildebrand & Wolfmuller - world’s first production motorcycle sells for GBP86,200

1894 Hildebrand & Wolfmuller - world’s first production motorcycle sells for GBP86,200
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The rare appearance of an 1894 Hildebrand & Wolfmüller on the auction block on April 25 caused considerable excitement across the world in the preceding months. Gizmag covered the history and heritage of the machine in great detail prior to the auction and we're not surprised that a far-from-pristine example of the world's first production motorcycle should fetch an above-estimate GBP86,200.

Despite travel difficulties resulting from the volcanic eruption in Iceland, buyers from all over the world packed the saleroom of the Bonhams auction at The International Classic MotorCycle Show, Stafford on Sunday 25th April.

Manufactured in Germany, the Hildebrand & Wolfmüller is of the utmost historical significance as the first powered two-wheeler to enter series production, and is the first such vehicle to which the name ‘motorcycle’ (motorrad in German) was ever applied. The ‘barn find’ example offered had been in the ownership of the vendor’s family in the USA since at least the early 1930s, which is when it last ran. Presented in original, unrestored condition, this wonderful machine will be appropriately returned home to its native Germany, where it sold to a private collector.

Other ‘barn finds’ turned in some of the sale’s most notable results, confirming the continuing healthy demand for original, unrestored machines, whatever their condition. Purchased by its late owner in 1956, the 1935 AJS 500cc Model 10 sold for GBP16,675 – almost double the top estimate – while the technologically eccentric and extremely rare 1921 Wooler 2¾hp Model B – known as the ‘Flying Banana’ on account of its fuel tank’s shape and colour – sold to The Sammy Miller Motorcycle Museum for an above-estimate GBP14,950.

Less uncommon but considerably more useable, the 1938 Brough Superior 982cc SS100 v-twin on offer turned in the sale’s best result. A restored, ‘matching numbers’ example that had been in its late owner’s possession for 40 years, the machine had been test run occasionally but not licensed for the road since 1959. The Brough sold to a UK private collector for GBP157,700 against a top estimate of GBP130,000. An older British v-twin - the 1913 Zenith-JAP 6hp forming part of the Basil Keys Collection - achieved the best result among the Veterans, selling for GBP20,125, bang on top estimate.

Small, one-owner collections were one of the features of the sale, with all turning in strong results, one such being the above-estimate GBP3,220 fetched by the 1982 Suzuki GS1000G with only 1,937 miles recorded. This sale was also unusual for its strong Velocette representation, there being no fewer than 17 of the Hall Green marque’s machines on offer. Top seller among the Velos was the 1967 Venom Thruxton 500cc Production Racing Motorcycle that incorporated the engine from Neil Kelly’s TT-winning machine, which sold for GBP21,850, while the above-estimate GBP10,350 fetched by the 1947 350cc KSS MkII, roughly double what it would have made five years ago, confirmed the increasing demand for good examples of Velocette’s charismatic ‘cammy’ roadsters.

The sale’s other top-performing production racers both came from Italy: the 1938 Moto Guzzi 500cc GTC/L Condor fetching an above-estimate GBP41,100 while the 1974 Laverda 750SFC sailed past its GBP20,000 top estimate, finding a new home in the UK for GBP27,025. Among the memorabilia highlights, the collection of competition trophies amassed by the late Marjorie Cottle, Britain’s most famous lady motorcyclist of the inter-war years, sold for GBP1,955 against a top estimate of GBP1,500, while the huge collection of mainly 1940s/’50s racing photographs fetched GBP1,840, comfortably outstripping the top estimate of GBP350. Any memorabilia associated with Britain’s most successful motorcycle racer of all time – Mike Hailwood – is always keenly sought after and the two silver-plated trophies on offer proved no exception, selling for GBP1,380 and GBP1,495 respectively.

The full online catalogue and results of the auction can be found here.

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