Bonhams sells the two most valuable basketcases in history – US$400,000 and $365,000
The strength of the English motorcycle collecting world was on display this week in the United Kingdom, when Bonhams' Stafford Autumn Sale weekend realized GBP£3.6 million, becoming the biggest (highest grossing) motorcycle sale ever seen in Europe. The most discussion regarding the sale was not the beautifully restored top-selling motorcycles but three "basketcases" that sold in the top six lots for US$400,039, $365,454 and $144,113 respectively (a 1934 Brough Superior 1,096cc 11-50HP Project) – three of the four most valuable basketcases in history.
Split into a two-day sale, the first day of the annual Bonhams Stafford Autumn Sale saw the single-owner Lonati Collection of 60 rare motorcycles fetch GBP£1.3 million, with a 91 percent sell-through rate.
The second day of the sale saw a further GBP£2.3 million of motorcycles sold with Brough Superior coming from this sale and accounting for the top three lots of the weekend, with a pair of Brough Superior 981cc SS100 Alpine Grand Sport "projects" sold for £236,700 and £259,100 respectively, and the Olympia Motorcycle Show 1937 Brough Superior 990cc SS100, the first whole motorcycle to feature in the top sellers, fetched £208,700.
Other top sellers across the two day Bonhams sale and the H&H Classic Auctions motorcycle auction at the Imperial War Museum included a 1930 Indian Model 402 Four Motorcycle Combination (£96,700 - $149,300), a 1971 Münch 1,177cc TTS "Mammoth" (£85,500 - $132,008 – a new marque record), a 1932 Rudge 350cc works racer (which more than tripled its estimate to sell for £70,940 and set a new marque record – $109,528), 1910 Pierce 688cc Four (£63,100 - $97,424), a 1925 Coventry Eagle 976cc Flying Eight (£61,980 - $95,694), the ex-Steve McQueen 1934 Indian 750cc Sport Scout (£59,740 - $92,236) and a pair of Vincent Black Shadows went for £55,200 ($85,226) and £52,640 ($80,208) respectively.
The 1953 Vincent Black Shadow that sold for £52,640 had just 22,000 miles on the clock and was completely original, having been stored indoors for the last 46 years. With a discernible trend towards authenticity in this marketplace, bikes such as this may go a lot longer in unrestored condition than ever before over the next few decades.
Being original will be worth a premium it seems, and the price fetched by two excellent racing engines of the period during the sale also pointed in that direction with a 1923 Brough Superior JAP 981CC Four-cam Racing Engine fetching £23,750 ($36,669) on an estimate of £20,000 - 30,000 ($31,000 - $46,000) and a 1928 Zenith 998cc JTOR Racing engine fetching £25,000 ($38,599) on a similar estimate of £20,000 - 30,000 ($31,000 - $45,000). That's it above – we're not sure if should be installed into its original form so it can be heard at 125 mph, or as a foyer exhibit in a tech company striving for excellence.
The 1928 Zenith 998cc JTOR Racing engine fetched £23,750 ($36,669) despite being incomplete.
Two DKW 250SS Supercharged Racer fronted the block during the week, with one selling for £50,600 ($78,124 - a 1938 DKW 250SS) to take a place in the top 500 motorcycles ever sold at auction, and the other, also a 1938 model, being passed in on an estimate of £80,000 - 100,000 ($120,000 - $150,000). The first becomes one of the most valuable two-strokes in history to be sold at auction. Four-strokes rule in the world of collectibles, with genuine hairy-chested two-strokes not available until the second-coming.
The 1967 Benelli Grand Prix 500cc Replica (estimated at $90,000 to $110,000), the 1956 BMW Rennsport RS500 Type 256 (estimated at $245,000 to $275,000) and the 1955 NSU Sportmax (estimated at $45,000 to $60,000) all failed to sell.
Three of the top four most expensive basketcases in history sold at Bonhams ' annual Stafford Autumn Sale
Of particular interest at this bi-annual festival that traditionally sets the tone of the marketplace, restoration projects were in extremely high demand. The cost of restoring a bike is much less than a car, and if you factor in say up to $50,000 to make it new again, there's a lovingly-restored, kiss-every-part, perfect motorcycle from 80-years-ago at the end of the project, and a family heirloom that might realistically net a million bucks a few years from now.
For those seeking an investment with a healthy profit margin, if you can buy an authentic motorcycle (the original frame and engine with matching numbers), you essentially have a license to recreate that motorcycle and discerning buyers appear to be going for the best possible long-term outcome and that's to use craftsmen of your choosing in determining the quality you require. If you do it and document it yourself, you have all the requirements of a stellar investment.
Even at $400,000, the project has plenty of margin considering the record for the model is US$492,973 (sold for GBP£315,100 in November, 2014) for a 1929 Brough Superior SS100 "Alpine Grand Sports" (pictured directly above) and RM-Sotheby's sold a 1926 Brough Superior SS100 Alpine Grand Sports for US$452,234 (sold for £280,800 in October, 2012 and pictured below).
That said, the demand for basketcases with all the bits there was remarkable, and it's even getting to the stage where Bonham's auctioneer feels it necessary to point out that one of the heads was missing from a V-twin motor in one of the basket cases.
Now the basketcase market has not been previously explored, so we looked back through the database to see how previous basketcases have fared.
The record for an unassembled motorcycle was previously held by the 1955 Vincent Black Prince "project" which sold for US$153,094 (£91,100 in June, 2014). This was the only basketcase in the top 100 motorcycles sold at auction until last Sunday.
The next most valuable unassembled motorcycle was a 1930 Brough Superior Overhead 680 which fetched $95,617 (sold for GBP£59,740 in October, 2012), pictured above. This means only one motorcycle in "basketcase" condition had sold for more than $100,000, which makes the weekend's results even more remarkable.
Bonhams just sold the most valuable basketcase motorcycle in history, more than doubling the previous record, and the second most valuable basketcase in history and the fourth too.
Clearly there are moves afoot in the collectibles marketplace and collectors are looking to the medium term future for their returns.
Here are the top sellers of the week:
£259,100 ($400,039) – 1927 Brough Superior SS100 Alpine Grand Sport Project
Estimate: £120,000 - 160,000 ($185,000 -$245,000)
The most valuable basketcase motorcycle in history. Don't let the "basketcase" condition fool you, this pile of bits is pure gold. Bonham's auction description cites the SS100 Alpine Grand Sport as "the most desirable of Vintage-era motorcycles" and it should know, as it sold a fully restored version of this bike for £315,100 (US$492,973) less than twelve months ago. RM Auctions sold another SS100 Alpine Grand Sport for £280,800 (US$452,234) in October, 2012. This box of bits, sold for $400,000, also becoming the 13th most valuable motorcycle ever sold at auction.
£236,700 ($365,454) – 1926 Brough Superior SS100 Alpine Grand Sport Project
The second most valuable basketcase motorcycle in history. Below is a shot from the 1929 brochure showing what it will look like again sometime in the next few years.