Preview: The 2020 Las Vegas Motorcycle Auctions
Never before in the history of motorcycle auctions has there been a greater field of desirable lots than is on offer in Las Vegas later next week. It’s not just the depth of the field, but the diversity.
The Las Vegas January motorcycle auctions have become an institution in the industry over recent decades because it’s the only time that the world’s two biggest motorcycle auction houses both appear in the same city at the same time. Sometimes it happens in Monterey, but that’s during Monterey Car Week, and the emphasis is on cars.
Las Vegas in January is motorcycling's equivalent to Monterey Car Week when it comes to auction sales. Approximately 1,935 motorcycles are to be offered for sale between January 21 and January 26, and the remarkable successes of last year’s sale, which we dubbed “The Sale of the Century” seems to have flushed out some of the most desirable motorcycles from the 1970s and 1980s.
During Las Vegas auction week in 2019, a Green Frame Ducati 750SS sold for US$247,500, a Honda NR750 (RC40) sold for $181,500, and a Honda VFR750 (RC30) sold for $121,000. Neither Honda model had previously sold for more than $100,000 at auction.
Seventies motorcycles were far more sought-after than ever before in 2019, as was amply demonstrated by that regular seventies auction block performer, the MV Agusta 750 S. Produced from 1970 to 1975, the bike was too expensive for its era and at the time was hard to sell. These days, people can’t get enough of the exotic 750 four. Produced in two distinct styles, being the voluptuous original “Italian” styling and the flat-sided-tank of the “America”, both versions fetched record prices in Vegas in 2019, with the new high watermarks being $137,500 for the original styling and $126,500 for the America.
People who were thinking about selling have suddenly decided the time is right to cash out, and this year there are four Green Frame Ducati 750SS motorcycles on offer, one Honda RC45, five Honda RC30s, and four 1974 MV Agusta 750S (one original and three Americas) on offer.
Simple economics suggests that with the sudden abundance of those bikes on the market, prices should fall. That means there is very likely a bargain to be had if you’ve been waiting for a brief period of oversupply. If you’ve been waiting to get a good example of a particular model, Las Vegas in January is the only place on earth where you’ll be able to compare several specimens.
In preparing for this preview, I found over 100 bikes that I really wanted to highlight. I’ve had to cut it back a bit but the interesting motorcycles come at all price points – we always cover the milestone motorcycles, but they are no more fun to ride than most of the bikes you can pick up for under $10,000 here.
1940 Crocker Big Tank V-Twin (1000cc)
Auctioneer: Bonhams | January 23, 2020 | Lot 180
Estimate: US$ 450,000 - US$ 550,000
A 1939 Crocker Big Tank sold for $704,000 during Las Vegas auction week in 2019, setting the tone for the rest of the year, which was by far the most spectacular success for the marque in its history. Just 20 years ago, you could buy a Crocker very reasonably – certainly for less than $10,000. Across 2019, several other Crocker V-twins sold for $825,000, $715,000, $550,000 and $423,500, clearly establishing Crocker as the most valuable motorcycle marque of the year, pushing its way past Brough Superior and Vincent at the very top end of the market.
There are only around 70 Crocker V-twins known, whereas over 1,000 Brough Superiors are known and over 3,000 Vincent twins. Limited supply has finally brought Crocker prices to the boil, and it will be interesting to see what happens with this bike and with the marque for the rest of the year. Vincents, Brough-Superiors, Indians and Harley-Davidsons of rare provenance may still sometimes exceed Crocker prices, but Crocker V-twins are now the most expensive production motorcycle at auction by a considerable margin.
Of continuing fascination to us is that the success of Crocker motorcycles at auction mirrors (perhaps even trails) the success of guitars at auction fitted with a “Bigsby” – the electric guitar vibrato tailpiece built by Crocker’s foreman Paul Bigsby. More than half the guitars in our 100 most valuable guitars of all-time are fitted with a Bigsby, primarily because the last decade has seen the first round of the guitars of the “guitar gods” coming to auction, and Hendrix, Clapton, Gilmour et al, all preferred Bigsby’s indispensable invention. There are more Bigsbys in the top 100 guitars than Crockers in the top 100 motorcycles.
1922 Brough Superior Mark 1
Auctioneer: Mecum | January 24, 2020 | Lot F166.1
Estimate: $400,000 plus
This bike was unknown for many years. Purchased as a basket case from a deceased estate in Australia, its prior history cannot be traced, though it is known to have been in pieces in Australia for at least two decades. The restoration was completed just in time for Australia’s premier collector car event, Motorclassica 2019, where it won ‘Best of show’!
It is one of just three known Brough Superior Mk I motorcycles in the world that use the OHV JAP motor. This bike was the original basis for the SS80 and SS100 models that made the marque famous and was the top of the Brough-Superior range until the SS80 was introduced. Given its place in Brough Superior history, we’re predicting this could be one of the most expensive motorcycles sold this year.
1938 Vincent-HRD SERIES A Rapide
Auctioneer: Mecum | January 24, 2020 | Lot F253
Our estimate: $400,000 plus
Like the bikes above it, this Vincent HRD Series A Rapide is likely to be one of the most expensive motorcycles sold this year. There are approximately 60 Series A Rapides in existence, so this is a spectacular example of one of the world rarest motorcycles.
1930 Brough Superior SS100
Auctioneer: Mecum | January 25, 2020 | Lot S141
Our estimate: around $350,000
The most valuable motorcycle sold during 2019 that wasn’t a Crocker was a 1938 Brough Superior SS100 that fetched $313,000 at Monterey in August. That bike was fully restored in England, as is this bike from the Bob Weaver Collection, which will likely also sell above the $300,000 mark. This bike was sold new with a guarantee it would achieve 100 mph as per the bike’s name. Not many people have a 90-year-old bike in the garage that can comfortably run at the ton all day.
1940 Harley-Davidson EL Knucklehead
Auctioneer: Mecum | January 24, 2020 | Mecum Lot F189
Our estimate: around $300,000
This bike has an interesting past. When it was sold at auction to the current owner for a record-setting price of $159,000, it was one of a number of high-priced Knuckleheads sold in Las Vegas six years ago. Since then, the vendor has established that, although the green paint was supposedly not available in the Harley-Davidson catalog at that time, this bike was delivered new in this color. By tracking down the original invoices, he subsequently proved that this bike was ordered from the factory with green paint and nickel plating instead of chrome, as well as many extra details. His detective work is expected to double his money inside six years. There’s a lot of difference between a delightful, non-authentic older restoration and a unique original-paint factory special
1914 Jefferson Twin
Auctioneer: Mecum | January 24, 2020 | Mecum Lot F204
Our estimate: around $250,000
This 61 ci (1000cc) 1914 Jefferson Twin from the Waverley Manufacturing Co. of Jefferson, Wisconsin is one of just two Jefferson road bikes known to exist. Due to the excellent performance of the Jefferson OHV V-twin engine, a number of board track 1000cc V-twins are still in existence because they were highly prized. By the engine number, we can tell that this bike is from the last days of production. It’s gorgeous, rare as hell, and if the board trackers that used exactly the same engine were considered fast, then you’ve got a ripsnorting 106-year-old motorcycle that can break the speed limit. Could go much higher if someone wants it for their collection – after all, there are only two.
1926 Excelsior Super X ex-Steve McQueen
Auctioneer: Mecum | January 25, 2020 | Lot S241
Our estimate: around $230,000
The wisdom of investing early can be borne out by this motorcycle. It was purchased at the Steve McQueen Estate Auction in 1984 for $7,402.50 – not a lot of money in 1984, but seemingly a pittance now. McQueen was a motorcycle connoisseur, and he appreciated the heritage of motorcycles and collected significant models, long before collecting became a worldwide phenomena. This alcohol-fueled OHV ’26 Super-X is one of the many significant models in McQueen’s original collection, having been raced by the Excelsior factory team as a flat tracker. It’s exactly as it was left by McQueen who kept the bike on his Santa Paula ranch and apparently rode it regularly. The wisdom of investing early? This is now a $200,000 plus motorcycle.
Indian Larry’s 1956 Harley-Davidson “Grease Monkey”
Auctioneer: Mecum | January 25, 2020 | Lot S181
Our estimate: $200,000 but maybe much more
Indian Larry became a household name for the bikes he built and his to-the-bone authenticity, and although he became famous, he remained the same guy through it all. Larry built Grease Monkey in 1996/97 and it was the bike that brought him to public attention when it was featured on the cover of Easyriders in 1998. In the remaining six years of his life, Larry became recognized across the country and his daily ride was this bike. This is possibly the hardest bike of the entire Vegas auction week to predict a hammer price for. It might go for much more, but equally, it might not reach reserve. Such are the diverse expectations of buyer and seller.
Indian Larry’s 2004 Indian “Chain Of Mystery” Custom
Auctioneer: Mecum | January 25, 2020 | Lot S182
Our estimate: $200,000 but maybe much more
The Chain of Mystery was Indian Larry’s last build, created during Larry’s third appearance on Jesse James’ “Biker Build-Off.” For the occasion, Larry built a frame entirely from chain links. You can see the build and the back story in the video above. Like Grease Monkey in the Lot above, this is a work of art and a cultural artifact as much as a motorcycle, and … the only thing for certain is that watching the auction will be must-see viewing. This bike, as with the bike above, may not be as recognizable to the general public as the original Easyrider Captain America bike, but within the industry, both are equally iconic.
1974 Ducati 750SS Green Frame
Auctioneer: Mecum | January 24, 2020 | Mecum Lot S257
Our estimate: around $200,000
Ducati is making the right moves to become motorcycling's equivalent to Ferrari, with a long history of road models with close ties to superbike racing (think Ferrari’s long-term history of sports car racing) and a stellar reputation on the auction block. Ducati has a long way to go to catch Ferrari which commands such high prices that roughly half of the 500 most valuable cars ever sold at auction are Ferraris ... but there are too many similarities to ignore, and the limited edition nature of many Ducati motorcycles with racing victories to back it up, delivers the rarity and performance validation necessary for high prices.
The Ducati 750SS was built in limited numbers to commemorate Ducati’s most famous victory, the Smart-Spaggiari 1-2 victory at the 1972 Imola 200. Just over 400 of the resulting 750 SS 'green frame' street versions were produced in 1974 and in Las Vegas last year (2019), one of them sold for $247,500 to become the most expensive 1970s motorcycle ever sold, exceeding the $216,951 (£154,940) paid for a 1970 Clymer Münch TTS Mammut at Bonhams Spring Staffordshire Sale in 2018. The world-record price for “Green Frame” Ducati 750 Super Sports prior to last year’s Mecum Las Vegas auction was $176,000 fetched by Gooding & Company during the official Pebble Beach auction in 2016.
This year there are four Green Frame Ducati 750SS bikes on offer, and the most likely of the four to sell for a stellar amount is this near-perfect 2,400-mile original with original rims, mufflers and tires (pictured directly above). With the record now at $235,000, it will be interesting to see how long it takes for the Green Frame to extend its own record and go after the Ducati marque record set by Casey Stoner’s 2010 Ducati GP10 Desmosedici. Going to auction in Monaco in 2012, the MotoGP machine that had won the 2010 Australian Grand Prix sold for EUR251,500 (US$325,430). I haven’t seen this bike, but I’m told it is good enough to take the marque record.
2002 Rooke Custom Chopper Dinah
Auctioneer: Mecum | January 24, 2020 | Mecum Lot S40.1
Our estimate: around $200,000 |
The late Jesse Rooke died in a motorcycle accident just nine months ago, and although his career lasted just 18 years, his status in the motorcycle industry was such that almost every major motorcycle magazine in the country ran a story on his passing. Jesse was a winning builder from his very first build – this bike. With the build running late, Rooke entered Dinah in the Long Beach Calendar show in 2002, arriving a day late, after the seat had fallen off en route. The bike won first place, and the win was repeated at every show in which the bike was entered. Dinah was subsequently featured on the cover of 10 magazines worldwide. Once more, we have an iconic motorcycle within the industry, but whether that will be translated into auction block respect is yet to be seen. Customs are gaining in popularity, and going mainstream, but … another bellwether for the industry.
1949 Vincent 998cc Black Shadow Series-C
Auctioneer: Bonhams | January 23, 2020 | Lot 165
Estimate: US$ 90,000 - US$ 110,000
This bike has spent most of its 71-year existence in storage, having emerged from a nut-and-bolt restoration in 2017, and having covered just 96 “shakedown” miles since. It is one of five genuine Vincent Black Shadows going to auction in Las Vegas in 2020, and several of them are stunners.
The 1953 Vincent Black Shadow going to auction as Lot F202 by Mecum in particular is a two-time winner at The Quail, an honor unique to this bike, having won once at the Quail bike event, and once at the Quail Car event. Expect stellar prices for at least two of this year’s Black Shadows.
1911 Pierce Arrow Four (696cc)
Auctioneer: Mecum | January 24, 2020 | Mecum Lot S138
Our estimate: $175,000 plus
This 109-year-old motorcycle is one of less than 500 Pierce four-cylinder motorcycles produced between 1909 and 1914, the first 500 American four-cylinder motorcycles made. It is in perfect running order, and most remarkably, that’s the original paint! Accordingly, this is a very special motorcycle because original paint and time-induced patina is like gold to the serious collector. Authenticity is the key and this bike is hence very difficult to value. It’ll definitely go past the $175,000 mark, but just how high it will go depends on how many people really want it. In 2017 at this very same Mecum Las Vegas auction, a 1912 Henderson Four with original paint blew past all estimates and sold for $539,000. The thing about original paint authenticity is that it is ultra-rare, and can sometimes cause a bidding war because there won’t be another as good as this.
1911 Flying Merkel 1000cc V-Twin
Auctioneer: Mecum | January 23, 2020 | Mecum Lot F167
Our estimate: around $150,000 |
For a company that only produced motorcycles from 1911 to 1915, Flying Merkel has carved itself a disproportionate share of the world collector bike marketplace. The record price for a a Flying Merkel V-twin is $423,500 set at the EJ Cole Collection sale in 2015 for an original as-raced 1911 Board Track Racer, but there have been many sales of Flying Merkel V-twin road bikes over $100,000, with the highest being $192,500 for a 1914 Flying Merkel V-twin road bike at Monterey 2015, $176,000 for a 1914 Flying Merkel V-twin road bike at Monterey 2019, and $168,247 (£104,540) for a 1914 Flying Merkel 980cc V-twin at Bonhams Autumn Stafford Sale in 2014.
1990 Honda VFR750 RC30 (750cc)
Auctioneer: Bonhams | January 23, 2020 | Lot 139
Estimate: $75,000 to $85,000
Auction DescriptionOther Honda VFR750 RC30s on sale during Las Vegas Auctions: Mecum Lot W303, Mecum Lot F182, Mecum Lot F225, Mecum Lot S163.1
The VRF750R (RC30) was built for world superbike homologation purposes, and it won two world superbike championships without Honda having to even enter a team – it simply provided them to private teams who did the rest.
Only 3,000 RC30 machines were ever produced, but they almost all went racing, so if you want one of these bikes for your collection, consider how many are still extant, and how many remain even vaguely original and unmolested.
The bike pictured at the top of this RC30 segment is Bonhams’ Lot 139 which is estimated at around $80,000, but there are five RC30s going to auction in Vegas this year and the bike with the greatest expectations is Mecum Lot W303 (pictured directly above) which might just push past the model auction record of $121,000.
1992 Honda NR750 (RC40)
Auctioneer: Mecum | January 25, 2020 | Lot S134
Our estimate: $100,000 plus |
In 1992/93, Honda produced 322 RVF750 (RC40) machines, selling them to the public at JP¥5,000,000 (US$40,000) and finding them very difficult to sell at that price, despite the extraordinary engineering which they embodied. This was the bike built to justify all the expense of the NR500 racer and its V4/V8 oval piston technologies. The technologies (essentially two cylinders in one and the inherent efficiencies) appeared at first to be viable, but internal decisions within Honda have since shown that to be a fallacy (or was it). This bike has oval pistons! Check out Alan Cathcart’s summation of this “extraordinary” motorcycle. This is not a race homologation special but a technological marvel – the only bikes ever produced for sale with oval pistons, two conrods per piston, eight valves per cylinder ... and the only ones that will ever be produced. This is technological history … and there will not be a lot more coming to auction.
1931 Indian 101 Crocker OHV
Auctioneer: Mecum | January 23, 2020 | Lot T268
Our Estimate: $90,000 plus
Other Indian 101 Crocker OHV Conversions on sale during 2020 Las Vegas Auctions: 1929 Indian 101 Crocker OHV
Prior to building speedway engines and his subsequent run of approximately 100 V-twin motorcycles, Albert Crocker was an Indian dealer with a fascination for speedway racing, and hence horsepower. In a move that was to be the first step towards building his own entire motorcycle, Crocker built a small number of OHV conversion kits for Indian 101 Scout engines, giving them enough horsepower to be competitive against all comers. Produced in two runs by Albert Crocker, the first run of Crockers conversion kit for the 101 Scout has a cast iron head, with Crocker switching to aluminum alloy for the second run of cylinder heads.
In the early 1990s, master motorcycle builder Gwen Banquer obtained one of Crocker’s latter alloy conversion kits on loan and copied it, producing a limited series of only seven engines using Crocker’s design. It's estimated that perhaps 24 of the OHV kits were originally produced by Crocker in the 1926 to 1932 period, with another seven from Banquer between 1996 and 2005.
The astonishing thing about these two motorcycles is that it is not known if they are original Crocker conversions or a Banquer conversion, though the general state of the second motorcycle indicates the heads have been in place for a long time and seen a lot of use which suggests they may be the real deal.
Either way, both these bikes are very valuable motorcycles, and if either is a Crocker original, then it is even more-so! All of the Crocker OHV conversions that have come to auction in the last decade appear to be the work of Gwen Banquer: 1929 Indian-Crocker 45ci Overhead-Valve Conversion sold by Bonhams for $93,600 (San Francisco, 2007); 1929 Indian-Crocker 45ci Overhead-Valve Conversion sold by Bonhams for $64,350 (San Francisco, 2008); 1933 Indian-Crocker 45ci OHV Speedway Racing Motorcycle offered by Bonhams on an estimate of $ 70,000 to $90,000 (passed in, Monterey, 2011); 1929 Indian-Crocker 45ci Overhead-Valve Conversion offered by Bonhams on an estimate of $ 70,000 to $90,000 (passed in, Las Vegas, 2015); and 1929 Indian-Crocker 45ci Overhead-Valve Conversion offered by Bonhams on an estimate of $65,000 to $75,000 (passed in, Las Vegas, 2016).
1918 Harley-Davidson 60.33ci Model 18J
Auctioneer: Bonhams | January 23, 2020 | Lot 161
Official estimate: $80,000 to $90,000
As we have written many times, authenticity is key to the value of any object at auction, and for a 102-year-old motorcycle, there is no greater testimony to this than original paint. The auction description quite rightfully claims that this is “one of the finest original Harleys in the world.” The bike also has an intact and original H-D decal on the steering head, and comes with its original, factory-installed headlamp, taillight, horn, and luggage rack. The H-D stamped leather saddle is also the genuine article and the bike is fitted with original factory options such as the Stewart 75-mph speedometer and drive gear, tank-mounted toolbox and frame-mounted tire pump. This 1918 model suffered from a problematic ignition, and most were replaced in period. This bike's ignition was updated in the late 1920s or early 1930s, and a factory tank-top ammeter and bracket were added at that time.
1994 Harley-Davidson VR1000 Road Racer
Auctioneer: Mecum | January 24, 2020 | F126
Our estimate: $85,000 to $95,000 |
In 1994, with a view to developing expertise with modern high performance engines, and promoting the Harley-Davidson brand, the factory produced 50 of these 1994 VR1000 Road Racers, with 25 outfitted for the street and 25 for the track. The specs are quite impressive, with a 996cc water-cooled 8-valve DOHC 60-degree V-twin producing 135 hp at 10,000 rpm, and a price tag at the time of $49,490. That may seem like a lot, but it was the first liquid-cooled Harley and it was essentially a prototype of sorts for the V-Rod street bike produced from 2011 onwards.This is one of the 25 factory road racers and it was maintained and restored by Gemini Racing, one of the companies used by the Harley-Davidson VR1000 Superbike racing program (1995-2001) as a design and development resource. The track results of the bike were less than impressive, with the rider of this bike, Pascal Picotte, being one of the lesser lights of a star-studded team that included Miguel Duhamel, Doug Chandler, and World Superbike champion Scott Russell. Between them all, over seven years, this bike performed best with a pole position and a handful of podiums.
1972 Ducati 750 Sport Z
Auctioneer: Mecum | January 25, 2020 | Lot S162.1
Our estimate: $85,000
This 1972 special is believed to be one of the development prototypes for the Ducati 750 Sport that went on sale in the fall of 1972. Approximately 50 early production 750 Sports are known as Z-stripes for their distinctive tank graphics, and the one-off wears Spaggiari's signature on the seat shell and a side cover signed by Fabio Taglioni himself.
1963 Honda CR93 Street Version
Auctioneer: Mecum | January 25, 2020 | Lot S163
Our estimate: $85,000 plus
This is an absolute gem of a motorcycle from the most important motorcycle brand in history. Honda’s initial racing efforts saw it win the world 125cc championship in 1961 and 1962 and the growing success and reputation of the marque convinced the factory to produce around 200 production racers so that the Honda name would begin appearing in racing at a national and club level across Europe and America. Unlike the CR92 road bike before it, the CR93 engine is as sophisticated a 125 as had ever existed outside a factory prototype at the time, with twin overhead camshafts driven by six straight-cut gears, and acting on four valves per cylinder. The engine could rev to 12,500 rpm, though there are some who claim 14,000 rpm is completely safe in order to access the 21 hp on tap at those engine speeds. Of the 200 produced, only a handful of those bikes were sold in road trim, and given its place in Honda’s illustrious racing history, and the hundreds of races these bikes won worldwide, and tens of thousands of hardcore racing converts to the Honda brand, this bike is pure gold. Though it came up against the initial two-stroke hordes of the time, which had greater outright horsepower, the CR93 was extremely reliable, handled well, and won many a race of attrition. This bike is completely original, has never been restored, has just 2,653 km on the clock, and still wears its original tires. The Honda name is belatedly beginning to gain respect on the auction block, and any original CR93 will be a star a decade or two from now.
1910 Harley-Davidson 30ci Model 6A Single
Auctioneer: Bonhams | January 23, 2020 | Lot 159
Official estimate: $85,000 to $95,000
Built the same year that Harley-Davidson’s “bar and shield” logo was first used, this 110-year-old 500cc single is a piece of history, and was featured in American Iron’s Special Issue entitled “American Glory 110 years of Harley Davidson History.”
1941 Indian 45ci Big Base Scout Experimental Racing Motorcycle
Auctioneer: Bonhams | January 23, 2020 | Lot 156
Official estimate: $80,000 to $90,000
The Indian Big Base Scout racer is one of those mythical beasts that has a reputation far greater than the numbers in which it was produced. Two batches of Big Base engines were produced by the factory for its racing needs, with the initial batch of 13 prototype 'EXP' engines cast by Bob Hallowell in 1939, and a second batch of around 50 produced post war in 1948. In total, only around 60 Big Base engines were ever created, and this is one of the original 13 bikes made pre-war.
1905 Indian Single
Auctioneer: Mecum | January 25, 2020 | Lot S140
Our estimate: around $90,000
Auction DescriptionOther Indian Camelback singles on sale during Las Vegas Auctions: Mecum Lot F190
The Camelback was Indian’s very first model and a near-replica of Carl Oscar Hedstrom’s first prototype motorcycle of 1901. This 1905 Indian “Camelback” Single has had only two owners from new, and has been restored to exceptional condition. The record price for an Indian Camelback was fetched by Gooding & Company in 2006 when the 1901 prototype was sold for $165,000 at the sale of the Otis Chandler Collection. Curiously, the bike was again auctioned in Las Vegas in 2011 by Bonhams, where it sold for US$133,500.
1974 MV Agusta 750S America
Auctioneer: Bonhams | January 23, 2020 | Lot 136
Official estimate: $75,000 to $ 80,000
The 1974 MV Agusta 750S offered by Bonhams is the fully faired model at top left. This machine comes from the collection of a well known car collector who set out 15 years ago to buy what he thought were the most iconic motorcycles of the 1970's and 1980's and set out to find the ones in the best original or restored conditions. All his motorcycles were maintained by the Guzzi Doctor in Illinois and have been kept in a climate-controlled environment set at 65F. This bike appears to be in near perfect original condition. Bearing in mind last year’s prices, it will be interesting to see how the models fare at auction.
1912 Indian Tourist Trophy
Auctioneer: Mecum | January 24, 2020 | Lot F170
Our estimate: around $75,000
In 1911, Indian decided to contest the important Isle of Man Tourist Trophy. The event saw Indian send its best rider in the form of Jake de Rosier, adding the three best British riders available to the team. De Rosier’s entry was the first American entry in the race and his status as the world’s first “factory rider” had everyone paying attention. The IOM course was in just its fifth year and 1911 was the first time the seven-mile slog up Snaefell from Ramsey to the Bungalow had been added to complete the full 37½-mile Mountain Circuit. Much of the course was still unpaved and the slippery, muddy and rough course suited the “colonial machinery.” De Rosier crashed six times in practice and although he led the first lap, he crashed again and finished well down the field. The British riders did an admirable job though and when Charlie Collier’s leading Matchless was disqualified for refueling outside the pit area, the Indian team finished 1-2-3 in the Senior event. Though motorsport was still in its infancy, the publicity machine was put to work and replica Indian models were created, and this bike is one of the rare survivors – an all-original 1000cc V-twin with two-speed gearbox built to commemorate Indian’s first international victory.
1987 Ducati Desmo Montjuich Prototype 750 F1
Auctioneer: Mecum | January 25, 2020 | Lot S161.1 Estimate: around $70,000
This 1987 Ducati 750 F1 Montjuich is a rare example of one of the most highly sought-after of all Ducatis. While each of the 200 Montjuichs built came with a nameplate for display of its production number, this test bike sent to “Cycle World” magazine features a numberless plate, meaning it was built prior to production of the limited 200.
This bike is from the Musee L'Epopee de la Moto Collection and comes with documentation that includes the road test of the bike by Cycle World, and the story of this bike being ridden to a 100-mph win in “La Carrera Costa a Costa” on public roads in Mexico. There's something quite special about reading a road test and knowing that it was your bike!
1929 Brough Superior 680 OHV Project
Auctioneer: Bonhams | January 23, 2020 | Lot 174
Estimate: US$ 60,000 - US$ 80,000
There are many who swear by the handling of the Brough-Superior 680 OHV as it is a much smaller bike than the SS80 and SS100, not to mention being considerably cheaper at the time, and subsequently at auction. It will still lope along at 75 mph, and it is a Brough Superior, one of the finest motorcycle marques of history. This was George Brough’s effort to create an “entry level” Brough-Superior.
1900 De Dion Bouton Tricycle
Auctioneer: Mecum | January 24, 2020 | Lot F191
One hundred and twenty years ago, this was the most plentiful individual model on European roads and De Dion Bouton was the powerhouse of the global automotive industry. In 1900, the year this tricycle was built, De Dion-Bouton was the largest automobile manufacturer in the world, producing 400 cars and 3,200 engines, 2,800 of which it supplied to other manufacturers for use in their cars. The company could not keep up with the demand for its wares, of which this model was the most popular, but its engines were so reliable that there was massive unfulfilled potential. In order to cater for this insatiable demand, it began offering licenses for other automobile companies to produce the engine and this resulted in widespread adoption of Georges Bouton’s engine. Within a few years, 180 different car manufacturers were using De Dion Bouton engines. This tricycle, with its simple, rugged design, ultra light weight, and a reliable engine was one of many De Dion models to enjoy racing success. Indeed, De Dion’s early racing success was one of the many reasons so many people sought to use their engines. At this price, the tricycle is a very affordable artifact of history. It is a perfect specimen of the Bugatti Veyron of 120 years ago.
1951 Harley-Davidson 45ci WRTT Factory Racing Motorcycle
Auctioneer: Bonhams | January 23, 2020 | Lot 155
Estimate: US$ 60,000 - US$ 70,000
Dale Walksler of the Wheels Through Time Museum says that this WRTT 45ci Class C racer might just be the nicest and most correct WRTT in the world! It is a very fast 1951 Harley-Davidson 45 ci factory racer race-prepped just as it would have been in 1951.
Auctioneer: Mecum | January 25, 2020 | Lot S157
Our estimate: $45,000 to $50,000
The thought of cutting up a near-sacred object like a Vincent Rapide or Black Shadow may seem outrageous today, but it would have seemed like the most obvious thing to do in the mid-1950s when Vincent was known as producing the fastest bikes in the world, and Norton’s “featherbed” frame was a household term. The most famous Norvin in history is that of John Surtees, who was the very first to put a 1,000cc Vincent V-twin motor in a Norton Manx chassis. Surtees wanted to build an unlimited class bike with more power than a 500cc single, and when World Sidecar Champion Eric Oliver decided to build a Cooper Formula 3 car using a Manx engine, Surtees purchased the remaining Manx Norton rolling-chassis and began building and installing a potent Vincent engine. He never got to race the Norvin, as he was signed by the Norton factory team before it was ready and his career then took him onwards to MV Agusta. News of Surtees build became common knowledge due to the British motorcycle press and many Norvins were built from that point forward, using Norton featherbed frames from the International, ES2 or from the Norton twins. This Norvin was built in period using a 1951 Rapide engine and 1954 Norton Wideline Featherbed frame. It has been in the vendor’s possession since 1968, and it has a fresh engine with modern pistons, a modern clutch, uprated 12V alternator system with electronic ignition, flat-slide carburetors and Grimeca four-leading-shoe front brakes.
1969 Honda CB750 "Sandcast"
Auctioneer: Mecum | January 24, 2020 | Lot F234
Our estimate: around $35,000
It may seem astonishing today to think that Honda wasn’t certain its CB750 would be a “killer app” when it was released in 1969, but that is most definitely the case. When a Honda CB750 is referred to as a “sandcast model” it means it is one of the 7,414 CB750s built before the Honda factory felt confident enough in its new model to invest in new molds for die-casting. Models built prior to August 1969 were not actually cast in sand, but in steel molds – they just look like they were cast in sand because the crankcase surface is rough. A CB750 with an engine number of CB750E-1007414 or lower is a “Sandcast” model and because the Honda CB750 is one of history’s landmark motorcycles, and changed the motorcycle world as we know it, these models are highly sought-after and command a premium at auction. Last year saw three “sandcast CB750” Hondas on offer in Vegas and they sold for $35,200, $27,500 and $19,800, respectively. The $35,200 price is actually a bargain as the bike had been restored to new condition by Vic World Motorcycles, a company specializing in the restoration of just Sandcast CB750s, and so good at it that Honda gave the company the job of restoring the CB750 in the foyer of its world headquarters in Japan. The minimum you’ll pay for a CB750 restored by Vic World is $37,500, and for some earlier VIN numbers, it costs a lot more. This year there are six “sandcast” models on offer. The record for a Honda CB750 was paid in 2018 when a pre-production (one of four built and two extant) Honda CB750 built for promotional purposes in 1968 fetched £161,000 (US$263,725). The only other known Honda CB750 Prototype (the other one still extant one of the four) sold for $148,100 on eBay in February, 2014. Apparently, none of the parts of a standard CB750 fit those two prototype machines – they really were one-offs (or four-offs as the case may be).
For those who don’t need the “sandcast” imprimatur, there’s also a very early diecast 1969 Honda CB750 K0 on offer, and it is in absolutely mint condition, having recently undergone a nut-and-bolt restoration. It may well sell for more than some of the sandcast models.
1952 Honda Cub-F
Auctioneer: Mecum | January 25, 2020 | Lot S165
Our estimate: $20,000 -$25,000
It’s a perfect example of Honda’s first commercial product, produced at the very beginnings of the motorcycle industry in Japan. The Honda E-Type and F-type motorized bicycle conversions were marketed to Japan’s 50,000 bicycle shops, sidestepping motorcycle dealers and establishing the volume required for Honda to begin its own motorcycle production. In the summer of 1952, Honda employed the famous Nichigeki female dance troupe to ride Cub F-types in a parade through Tokyo dressed in uniforms emblazoned with CUB to show that women could ride the peppy motorized machine with ease. Remarkably, the 50cc engine is a two-stroke running gasoline/oil premix went into the white canteen-style tank, and with its sleek engine design and teardrop red-painted cover, the Cub F-type was also known as the red engine with the white tank. The bicycle upon which the F-Type Cub is mounted is a National, one of Matsushita Electric Industrial Company’s many brands. Matsushita later rebranded as Panasonic.
1913 NUT 1,000cc OHV Racing Motorcycle
Auctioneer: Bonhams | January 23, 2020 | Lot 176
Estimate: $50,000 to $60,000
This bike is not just a rarity because there are few other examples, but a rarity in that the craftsmanship stands out for the era. This 1913 Nut OHV Racer uses an OHV JAP 90 bore 1,000cc V-twin with Philipson variable speed governor pulley. The bike underwent a comprehensive restoration in 2019 with the engine's barrels and heads re-nickel plated, and new fresh pistons and valves installed.
1976 Yamaha TZ750C
Auctioneer: Bonhams | January 23, 2020 | Lot 145
Estimate: $50,000 to $60,000
Auction DescriptionOne of the most fearsome and dominant over-the-counter racing machines ever produced, the TZ700 and its subsequent TZ750 iteration were conceived as two TZ350 motors conjoined. It won its first race in the hands of Giacomo Agostini in the1974 Daytona 200, and just kept winning. Starting in 1974, it won the Daytona 200 nine consecutive times and along the way democratized unlimited class racing. The C-model TZ750 on offer here was restored by the late Stephen Wright. Wright is best known for his immaculate, award-winning restorations of early classics. Showing Wright's unerring attention to detail, this TZ was taken back to as-delivered condition, from the hard-to-source original slab-sided expansion chambers right to down to OEM nuts, bolts and washers.
1947 Vincent-HRD Rapide Series-B Hill Climber
Auctioneer: Bonhams | January 23, 2020 | Lot 168
Estimate: US$ 50,000 - US$ 60,000
This Vincent-engined behemoth 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 go to the buyer. Remarkably, the beast has gone through the auction process twice previously without selling, at Vegas in 2017 when bidding went to $67,500, then again in 2018, when bidding only reached $45,000.
Riding this would have been very interesting indeed, and would have required industrial-sized cojones. The above images show both Beese Wendt and Glen Kyle riding it in period above. The 1000cc Vincent engine is modified considerably, runs on nitro methane, and flames belch from those straight-through exhausts at every gear change. Note the size of the rear sprocket, and the position of the footpegs.
1953 Triumph 650cc Drag Racing Motorcycle
Auctioneer: Bonhams | January 23, 2020 | Lot 170
Estimate: $40,000 to $50,000
This bike is the bike on which multiple National drag racing champion Bobby Sirkegian ran a 10.50 ET at 128 mph in the 1950s. It’s a piece of history, having been restored by Bobby to its current pristine state, and has previously been to auction in 2015 and 2017, when it sold for $19,000 and $25,000, respectively. Both those prices seem too cheap for what it is.
Ex Jack Surtees Vincent-HRD 998cc Rapide Series-B Rapide Project
Auctioneer: Bonhams | January 23, 2020 | Lot 164
Estimate: $40,000 to $60,000 |
John Surtees is motorsport royalty, having won world championships on both two and four wheels. Interestingly, as the son of racer Jack Surtees, John had his first competitive outing as a passenger in his father’s Vincent grasstracker at the age of 14 in a 'speed trial' at Trent Park in Enfield, North London, only to be disqualified because he was too young. This Vincent-HRD Series-B Rapide Project is believed to have the same motor used in John’s sidecar debut, and is the ex-Surtees family motorcycle. There’s a lot of investigation required to flesh out the story of this motorcycle fully, but this bike is a genuine piece of motorcycling history and could easily go for much more than the Bonhams estimate.
1955 Matchless 498cc G45 Racing Motorcycle
Auctioneer: Bonhams | January 23, 2020 | Lot 169
Estimate: $ 35,000 to $ 45,000
Around 80 Matchless G45s were built and less than half are extant. This G45 was commissioned in 1955 and sent to South Africa where it is believed to have been raced by Borro 'Beppe' Castellani, a seven-time South African road racing champion. Archive material is hard to find on the bike, but six time world champ Jim Redman mentions Beppe in his autobiography: “For the time being, the most important thing for me was to win the 1957 500cc Championship in South Africa but, unfortunately, I was beaten by Beppe Castellani, the current South African Champion, untouchable at the time.” There’s undoubtedly a story to be uncovered with this bike, and it looks likely to enhance its value if it is uncovered, because at least one of those seven title wins would have been on this bike, most likely more than one. A winning provenance does a lot for a bike’s value.
1939 Matchless 982cc Model X
Auctioneer: Bonhams | January 23, 2020 | Lot 167
Our estimate: $35,000 to $45,000
Matchless is one of those legendary brands of yesteryear which one day will be successfully revived. For now, we can only look back on the company’s achievements and this bike was one such achievement. By 1939, the 982cc motor from this Model X was also being used by Morgan’s three-wheeled trike which proudly displayed the engine between its front wheels, and by no less a marque than Brough-Superior. There are less than 100 of these bikes known to still exist. Accordingly, if it sells within the range we expect, it’s a bargain.
1989 Krauser BMW MKM1000
Auctioneer: Mecum | January 24, 2020 | Lot F220
Estimate: Mecum has not posted guidelines
Mike Krauser did a lot of things to a high level, including winning the German sidecar racing championship four years in a row, then running racing teams for the BMW Factory, then building luggage for motorcycles, then doing a deal with BMW so he could make his own motorcycles. The bikes used just BMW parts and running gear, plus an entire R100RS drive train – Krauser made the birdcage frame and sometimes rebuilt the motors with four-valve heads. In the end, Krauser built over 200 complete motorcycles and they were … well, very BMW-like except they were much lighter and faster and handled much better than a BMW R100RS, which was excellent to begin with. They are rare, just a dozen were ever imported into the United States, and Krauser was fully accredited as a motorcycle manufacturer in Germany. BMW’s obviously warm relationship with Krauser in supplying 99% of the motorcycle and allowing it to be sold as a Krauser speaks volumes for Krauser’s integrity.
1988 Bimota DB1 SR (750cc)
Auctioneer: Mecum | January 23, 2020 | Lot T38
Our estimate: around $20,000 |
There are many injustices in the world, and the lack of respect shown Bimota on the auction block is one of them. This DB1 SR is rare, beautiful, beautifully made, cost a lot of money new, and had sensational reviews from the media in its day. This is one of history’s best-balanced motorcycles and Bimotas, for some completely inexplicable reason, have never attracted high prices on the auction block. Perhaps it is because they publicly went broke on so many occasions? Perhaps it is because they sold their motorcycles in “kit” form too, but Bimota was a successful manufacturer of exquisite motorcycles and this model was one of its finest. In terms of bang per buck, at the prices it will probably sell for, this is one of the bargains of the week.
1980 Kawasaki Mystery Ship
Auctioneer: Bonhams | January 23, 2020 | Lot 203
Estimate: $25,000 to $ 35,000
American designer Craig Vetter was inducted into the AMA Hall of Fame in 1999. He is best known for his Windjammer fairings, sleek frame-mounted fiberglass bodywork that kickstarted the luxury touring market back in the 1970s. Vetter is also known for designing the Triumph Hurricane 750 X-75, and the Kawasaki Mystery Ship, a limited edition 200 unit run of Kawasaki KZ1000 bikes based on the 1978 AMA Superbike Championship-winning Kawasaki KZ1000 of Reg Pridmore. Pridmore rode for Team Vetter, so all the latest performance knowhow was shoehorned into the bike. Only 10 bikes were built before Vetter, an adventuresome fellow at the best of times, lunched himself in a hang gliding accident and the project ran out of steam while he convalesced. Vetter’s web site is worth a look.
This bike is a perfect specimen of Vetter’s work. Buyers of the Mystery Ship could choose between four stages of Yoshimura R&D engine tune, or they could go full-house and opt for a $1,700 RC Engineering turbocharger setup that bumped horsepower by 40 percent. Only two Mystery Ships were so equipped, one for RC Engineering boss Russ Collins, and this machine. It rolls on spun-aluminum wheels, another factory option. Finished in "Dino Red," no. 6 is exactly as ordered and delivered, amazingly with just 2 miles on the odometer. It’s quite a bargain if it sells within guidelines.
2000 Mule Harley-Davidson 1,200cc Street Tracker
Auctioneer: Bonhams | January 23, 2020 | Lot 185
Estimate: $25,000 to $ 28,000
Some people have a knack for being able to turn a great bike into an awesome bike, and street-tracker builder Richard Pollock is one such person. The veteran of over 150 motorcycle builds, Pollock created this Mule Harley-Davidson 1,200cc Street Tracker 20 years ago and it has since done just 1,000 miles. The second and current owner acquired the Mule in 2014 and returned it to Pollock for a tune-up and some updates, namely Mikuni HSR42 carbs, a ceramic-coated megaphone exhaust and a Storz shift kit that converted the gear change from race-style back to conventional one-down/four-up. At that time the bike was treated to new paint in gray and metallic silver with red pinstriping.
1999 Confederate 113ci Hellcat
Auctioneer: Bonhams | January 23, 2020 | Lot 186
Estimate: $15,000 to $20,000 |
Confederate motorcycles are now heading for an ‘industrial art’ category that is unmatched in the motorcycle industry, and the company got its start with this bike. My money is on Confederate motorcycles becoming incredibly valuable at some point in the future. This is an insane price for the quality and heritage being built by Confederate and its later sibling, Curtiss. It is in original condition, and has just 200 miles on the clock from new. Buy!
1973 Yamaha TD-4 Concept
Auctioneer: Mecum | January 24, 2020 | Lot F224
Our estimate: $12,000 to $15,000
Prior to the advent of Suzuki’s RG500 four-cylinder two-stroke, Yamaha’s RZ500 four-cylinder two-stroke and Honda’s NS400R three-cylinder two-stroke in the mid-1980s, people had been building café racers from Yamaha’s two-cylinder two-strokes for more than a decade. Of all of the Yamaha twin café racers we’ve ever seen, this looks the most convincing. The engine is an RD400 bored to 427cc with a special crankshaft that’s safe to 10,000 RPM (that’s 500 RPM above TZ350 redline) with an electronic ignition system, TZ350 fairing and tank … muffled expansion chambers.
1957 Honda ME-250 Dream
Auctioneer: Mecum | January 24, 2020 | Lot F184
Our estimate: $22,000 to $25,000
An unrestored, very original, Honda Dream 250cc single from 63 years ago. This was Honda’s first world class motorcycle and this is an ultra-rare original condition example. As an investment at this price, you can’t go wrong.
1986 Laverda SFC 1000
Auctioneer: Mecum | January 25, 2020 | Lot S178
Our estimate: $25,000 to $30,000
The last of the esteemed Laverda three-cylinder line, this 1986 Laverda SFC 1000 is still in its crate, never having been started. The SFC 1000 was named after the original twin-cylinder SFC production racer of the 1970s and uses the 1000cc Corsa motor in the racing SFC racing livery to deliver a factory café racer of stunning performance and looks.
1977 Yamaha TZ350D
Auctioneer: Mecum | January 24, 2020 | Lot F148
Our estimate: $15,000
The TZ350 was a giant-killer from its very first outing in 1973 when the new model debuted with a 1-2-3 finish in the Daytona 200, beating out a field of 750 class machinery. Over the next decade, machines such as this made up entire fields at club racing level and most of the fields at Grand Prix level. The TZ350 won numerous 500, 750 and Unlimited races, fighting well above its weight zone. Giacomo Agostini remarkably rode the Yamaha TZ350 to its maiden World 350cc Championship after he had won six consecutive 350cc Championships (1968-1973) on the 350cc MV Agusta.
1994 Century 1,646cc V-Twin Chief Prototype
Auctioneer: Bonhams | January 23, 2020 | Lot 184
Bonhams’ estimate: $12,000 to $15,000
One of just two prototypes built for what was ultimately an aborted attempt to revive the Indian brand in the 1990s, the prototype's 60-degree V-twin powerplant was CNC-machined from billet aluminum, running a 100 x 100mm bore-and-stroke for a displacement of 100 cubic inches (1646cc). The engine employed three valves (two intake, one exhaust) per cylinder and produced 98 hp at 5,600 rpm. At the estimated price, this spectacular and near-unique motorcycle would be a bargain. The other prototype is in the National Motorcycle Museum.
1948 Marman Twin
Auctioneer: Mecum | January 22, 2020 | Lot W53
Our estimate: $8,000 to $10,000
Every art form has its zenith, and the zenith for motorized bicycles is arguably this twin-cylinder Marman, which was the unlikely marriage of a horizontally-opposed two-stroke engine in a bicycle frame, with a logo that looks at first glance to read “Madman”. The engine was designed as a cheapie for pulling target aircraft drones during WW2 and repurposed. In true it-could-only-happen-in-America fashion, the product was conceived and the company was owned by the fourth of the Marx Brothers, Zeppo Marx. It’s true!
1983 Benelli 900 Sei
Auctioneer: Mecum | January 23, 2020 | Lot T245
Our estimate: $14,000
Other Six cylinder Benelli motorcycles on sale during Las Vegas Auctions: 1983 Benelli 900 Sei
Six cylinder motorcycles are in abundance this year in Vegas, with two Benelli 900cc Sei models the rarest of them all. The Benelli 750 Sei was the first production 6-cylinder motorcycle, with the engine reportedly based on a Honda CB500/4 and two cylinders added. With angular bodywork by Ghia and six chromed mufflers, it produced a reliable and smooth 76 hp. Production began in 1973, and 3,200 were sold before the 900 Sei was introduced in 1979. Less than 2,000 of the 900 Sei were built, with only 80 sent to the U.S. The red bike pictured comes from the George Schott Collection, and has just 5,000 original miles, though the second Benelli Sei on offer in Vegas this year has a celebrity provenance in that it was the favorite motorcycle of J Geils, of the J. Geils Band, and sold at auction three years ago for $15,000. Our guess is that a price closer to $10,000 would pick up a good Benelli Sei, which represents excellent value as the model is extremely reliable and sweet to ride.
1969 Honda Z50 Mini Trail Steve McQueen
Auctioneer: Mecum | January 24, 2020 | Lot F185.1
Our estimate: $65,000 to $75,000 |
Anything that Steve McQueen ever touched seems to be worth at least 100 times more than it would have been if he hadn’t. There are hundreds of examples of this ‘midas touch’ at auction and we’ve been documenting such examples (from $40,000 t-shirts to $250,000 jackets to $1 million race suits) for 20 years. This bike may take the world record price for a Honda Monkey Bike at auction, but Steve is up against another auction block superstar in Beatle and music legend, John Lennon. A 1969 Honda Z50A owned by John Lennon and ridden by Lennon and his son Julian sold for £57,500 (US$94,187) in 2018 to become one of the 10 most expensive Japanese motorcycles ever sold at auction and the most expensive Honda Monkey bike in history. Little Julian inspired several famous Beatles songs, including "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" (1967), "Hey Jude" (1968) and "Good Night." This bike is more than just a bike used by McQueen. It was given to his young co-star Mitch Vogel who played McQueen’s teenage accomplice Lucius McCaslin in the 1969 feature film, The Reivers. The bike was customized just for then 13-year-old Mitch, and shows a lot of customization (engine engraving, tank engraving) at the hands of Kenny Howard aka Von Dutch.
Von Dutch and McQueen have collaborated on many bikes, and many of their bikes have previously sold for remarkable amounts at auction, as they combine the artistry of Von Dutch and the star power of McQueen.