Bonhams Spring and Autumn Stafford Sales are two of the highlights of the global auction year for rare and storied motorcycles. Every year there are records broken of one form or another, and dozens of the world's top 100 most expensive motorcycles have crossed the block at this twice-yearly venue. This year was no exception.
The auction achieved a 92 percent sell-through rate with sales totaling £3,892,397 (US$5,026,431), which represents an all-time record for a Bonhams' motorcycle sale.
Staged during the 39th Carole Nash International Classic MotorCycle Show, this year's auction saw several major records broken, including the highest price ever fetched by a 1000cc v-twin Coventry-Eagle Flying-8 at £218,500 (US$282,159).
Perhaps the most interesting motorcycle of the entire sale was this 1962 Triumph 650 TR6SS, which fetched £97,750 (US$126,229).
The bike was ridden in the 1962 International Six Days Trial by famous racer and stuntman Bud Ekins, who is best known as Steve McQueen's stunt double who performed the famous jump over the barbed wire fence in The Great Escape.
Ekins collected a Gold Medal in the grueling event, which was held near the shooting location of The Great Escape, and as a long time riding buddy of McQueen, and a regular ISDT competitor, it isn't surprising that the bike he rode fetched more than three times its top estimate at £97,750. The original bike used by Ekins in the iconic film (pictured above during the famous stunt), now resides in the Triumph factory museum after being discovered in a barn in Germany where it had lived the majority of its life in anonymity.
$32,671 | 1969 Honda CB750 "Sandcast"
It is now 50 years since the Honda 750 four revolutionized motorcycling and put Japanese performance motorcycles on the map, though at the time of the bike's launch, Honda was far from certain about the success of the model. So uncertain that the now dominant Honda motorcycle company produced the first 7,414 motorcycles using gravity cast engine cases so that it did not have to invest in the production casting dies for manufacture at scale. Though commonly referred to as "sandcast" thanks to their rough finish, these original models are now much sought after by enthusiasts.
No sale | 1961 Ducati 250cc F3 Production Racer
Prior to Ducati's L-twins bursting onto the global stage in 1970, the company had been best known for its desmodromic single cylinder motorcycles, and this particular production racer holds a very special place in that lineage. The bike was raced in period by Campbell Donaghy, finishing fifth in the 1962 Ulster Grand Prix. Then a round of the World 250cc Championship, Donaghy's fifth place in that race (behind three factory Hondas and a factory Moto Guzzi), gave Ducati its first 250cc world championship points. Though estimated to sell for between £35,000 and £45,000, the bike failed to meet reserve and is still for sale.
$53,462 | 1934 Matchless 600cc Silver Hawk
It may not appear so at first glance, but this Matchless Silver Hawk is actually a four-cylinder motorcycle. Curiously launched during the "Great Depression" at the 1931 Olympia Motorcycle Show, it shared top billing alongside another four-cylinder debutant in the form of the Ariel Square Four. The Ariel would eventually be enlarged to 1000cc and see 25 years of production, while the narrow-angle 26-degree V4 Matchless would be gone in just four years.
Whilst its production numbers were small, and it is hence much rarer than the Squariel, the Silver Hawk is arguably technologically superior, with cantilever rear suspension and a shaft and bevel gear drive to the overhead camshaft. Despite this, the Silver Hawk sells for some curious reason at very reasonable prices. If it were an American motorcycle, it would unquestionably sell for much more.
$62,372 | 1928 BMW 500cc R57
Fetching £48,300 (US$62,460), this rare BMW R57 is one of just 1,012 manufactured during its three-year production run. When new, it was one of the first of the new model produced, and the now 91-year-old motorcycle offered elite performance in its day. Though the BMW company had previously produced aero engines, the now iconic BMW Boxer twin was just five years old.
No sale | 1926 Moto Guzzi 500cc C2V Racer
Moto Guzzi motorcycles have now been produced at Mandello del Lario on the shores of Lake Como for 98 years. Now a legendary name known the world over for its transverse V-twins, in the first half of its existence the marque's hallmark engine configuration was the horizontal single cylinder, and this Corsa 2V (Racing 2-Valve) is one of the few remaining examples of Guzzi's first purpose-built racer, which only saw four years of production. Though now 93 years old, it is still capable of 75 mph (120 km/h). Estimated to sell for between £50,000 and £70,000, it failed to meet reserve and is still available via Bonhams. A 1925 C2V sold for $82,500 in Las Vegas earlier this year.
$66,827 | 1976 MV Agusta 750S America
Given that a world record for this model was set in Las Vegas earlier this year at $126,500, this price represents excellent buying.
$77,222 | 1939 Brough Superior 1000cc SS80
Introduced in 1922, the SS80, achieved instant fame when a stripped-for-racing version ridden by George Brough became the first sidevalve-engined machine to lap Brooklands at an average speed of over 100 mph (161 km/h). The road-going motorcycle was named SS80 because it was guaranteed to have a top speed greater than 80 mph (129 km/h) in road trim, and every production bike was tested to ensure the claim was accurate. Brough entered the 1930s with an entirely JAP-powered range, and then, after a brief absence, the SS80 re-appeared in 1935 as the SS80 Special, this time with an engine built by Associated Motor Cycles. The model continued to use the Plumstead-made engine until production ceased in 1939.
$78,798 | 1968 MV Agusta 860cc "Magni"
MV Agusta won 75 world titles, with a variety of capacities, configurations, and a cavalcade of the world's best riders. Only one man was directly associated with all of those titles – the factory racing chief, Arturo Magni. When the company closed, Magni set up his own company modifying performance motorcycles and specializing in converting the shaft-drive four-cylinder road bikes to chain drive with a range of other engine, chassis and suspension tweaks. This is one of those bikes, based on the original 600cc four, but now displacing 861cc.
$80,193 | 1951 Vincent 1000cc Series-C Black Shadow
The Vincent Owners Club has confirmed that this matching-numbers Black Shadow was despatched to Blacknells of Nottingham in October 1951. Nothing else is known of its history and it sold for £62,100 with a seized engine, rusted through exhaust pipes and the engine cases and forks were stripped of their original black paint. There is no documentation available, though the registration "NTV 761" does appear on the HPI database.
$80,193 | 1949 Vincent 1000cc Black Shadow Racer Project
The ex-Dave Dock, Manx GP Parkin-Vincent 998cc Black Shadow competition special.
$83,163 | 1951 Vincent 1000cc Series-C Black Shadow
A matching numbers Series-C Black Shadow that was restored in the late 1980s.
$92,073 | 1933 Brough Superior 1100cc 11-50HP Combination
As with people, some objects seem destined for extraordinary circumstances and this is just such a motorcycle. Built in 1933, this 1,096cc Brough Superior 11-50hp sidecar combination was entered by the Brough Superior factory in the 1934 International Six Day Trial (now the International Six Day Enduro), then the most important event in the world for road-going motorcycles.
Fitted with one of George Brough's famous banking sidecars, it was used by Freddie Stevenson to compete in the 1934 ISDT running in the Bavarian Alps, and despite a complete roll-over during the grueling six-day competition, Stevenson returned home with a coveted Gold Medal.
Changing hands several times after its retirement from active duty, in May 1965 the Brough was purchased for £40 by a dealership that regularly supplied classic cars and motorcycles to television production companies and it came to pass that "ATO 574" came to feature in two episodes of the British television series Dad's Army, appearing in 1971 and 1972, and when a reunion show was organized in 2008, it again appeared.
Then "ATO 574" had yet another chance at stardom, appearing as George's primary transport in every episode from 1976 to 1979 of the George & Mildred (1976-1979) TV Series. Following yet another retirement from the limelight, "ATO 574" then spent many years on display at the London Motorcycle Museum.
Now sold for £71,300 (US$92,073), the bike will be entered into our 'Top 100 most expensive Movie and TV vehicles." That is quite a rich history for one motorcycle and one that could easily have seen it sold for much more.
No sale | 1971 Münch Mammoth 1200 TTS
Given that the world-record price for a Munch Mammoth was set at this sale last year, when $216,951 (£154,940) was paid for a 1970 Clymer Münch TTS Mammut, the official estimate of £90,000 to £120,000 for this bike seemed to be set to entice prospective bidders. In the end, the lower limit was not breached and the bike remains for sale.
No sale | 1982 Suzuki 1000cc XR69 TT Factory Racer
This 1000cc 1982 Suzuki XR69 TT Formula 1 Racer was one of just five prepared by the Suzuki factory for racing in Formula One motorcycle racing events, and was campaigned extensively in period by Mick Grant, winning the North West 200.
Mick takes up the story: "My full factory XR69 has been in my possession since I retired from racing in 1985. It is the exact specification as I raced it. It was given to me by Suzuki. To the best of my knowledge there were only five or six of the special bikes made. For some reason my bike seems to be the best specification of them all, it has a dry clutch, magnesium carburettors, billet forks, twin sparking plugs, etc.
"I only know of two others that still exist, one is an ex-Roger Marshall bike with a collector in Ireland, and the other is an early twin-shock XR built for Graham Crosby. This machine is in very good mechanical and working condition.
"In the last few years I've demonstrated this machine in South Africa and at Oliver's Mount, Spa Francorchamps, Brands Hatch, Mallory Park, etc. It is a lovely bike to ride and still feels as fresh as when I was racing it. On this bike I had lap records and second places in the Isle of Man. I won the North West 200 on it, set the lap record Donington Park, was second in the Macau GP, etc."
Despite a conservative estimate of £90,000 to £120,000, the bike failed to reach reserve and is still, available for sale.
$126,229 | 1962 Triumph 650cc TR6SS Trophy
Bud Ekins' Gold Medal 1962 1962 Triumph 649cc TR6SS Trophy.
$126,229 | 1935 Vincent-HRD 500cc Comet Series-A
One of the many records to fall at Stafford this year was the world record for a single cylinder Vincent Comet. The current world record prior to the sale was $65,000, with another Comet owned by New Atlas regular Somer Hooker selling for $63,250 at Barber Motorcycle Museum late in 2018. This matching numbers, fully restored rare Series-A Comet fell just short of doubling the world record price.
No sale | 1956 MV Agusta 125cc Bialbero
Genuine factory MV Agusta racing motorcycles are rare indeed. This bialbero (DOHC) 125 is one of the two bikes used by Carlo Ubbiali during the 1956 racing season in which he won five of the six races to take the World 125cc Road Racing Championship, including the Isle of Man 125cc TT, plus the Italian National 125cc Championship. He never finished off the podium, and scored the fastest lap in three of the six Grands Prix. It didn't sell, mainly due to the reserve price of £100,000 (US$129,000), but it would have still been excellent buying at that price because such exotica is closely held. This bike was once part of the famous Fuji Motorcycle Museum in Japan.
$163,355 | 1924 Brough Superior 1000cc SS80
$267,309 | 1926 Brough Superior SS100 Alpine Grand Sports
The most sought after model of one of the world's most iconic marques, purchased at a very reasonable price. A 1925 Brough Superior SS100 Alpine Grand Sport sold in Vegas earlier this year for $357,500.
$282,159 | 1925 Coventry-Eagle 1000cc Flying-8
Coventry Eagle is one of the most valuable British motorcycles behind the Brough Superior and Vincent-HRD marques, with the Flying-8 being the most sought-after example. This bike sold for £218,500 (US$282,159), taking a new record for the marque and model.
Previous sales of the Coventry Eagle Flying-8 sold at auction include a 1928 Coventry Eagle Flying-8 for $265,500 at Bonhams' Quail Lodge auction during Monterey Car Week in 2011, $236,077 for a 1929 Coventry Eagle Flying 8 KTOR (£163,900 on April 24, 2016), $199,292 for a 1928 Coventry Eagle Flying-8 (£100,500 on 27 April 27, 2008) and $162,140 for a 1926 Coventry Eagle Flying-8 (£106,780 on April 2015).
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