One of the largest collections of classic motorcycles in the world will go to auction in Paris later this week, and auction records look sure to fall.
The private collection of nearly 100 MV Agustas was assembled by an Italian family and it contains several previously unseen prototypes obtained directly from the factory, several different versions of the MV Agusta 750 S that broke auction records just two weeks ago, and several of the famous racing motorcycles that built the MV Agusta name.
The buying tastes of the public are changing in every genre of the auction world, and in the collectible motorcycle arena that taste is quickly moving towards more modern motorcycles, with 1970s Ducati, Honda, Munch, Laverda and MV Agusta all breaking marque records repeatedly in recent times.
Given these recent events, this collection of rare prototype, road and racing MV Agusta motorcycles to be auctioned in Paris later this week will almost certainly raise the bar higher again ... maybe much higher.
Recent marketplace movements
The 2019 Las Vegas Motorcycle Auctions last week saw the record for a 1970s road motorcycle jump to $247,500 with the sale of a 1975 Ducati 750 Super Sports.
This eclipsed the $216,951 (£154,940) paid for a 1970 Münch TTS Mammut last year, which had been the previous 1970s road bike record, but most importantly, it raised the Ducati 750SS model record price by a full 40 percent from the previous high of $176,000.
The most relevant results pertaining to this week's auctions at Retromobile in Paris though, were the sales of the two most sought-after roadgoing models from Italy's MV Agusta.
Both 750 models set new records with a 1978 MV Agusta Sport America selling for $126,500 (above left) and an original 1973 MV Agusta 750 Sport fetching $137,500 (above right).
MV Agusta (the MV stands for Meccanica Verghera) is the most storied and celebrated Italian motorcycle marque, having been created from the family's pioneering aviation business by motorcycle enthusiast Count Domenico Agusta in 1945. The Count died in 1971 and the company lost its guiding force, finally retiring from racing in 1976 with 270 Grand Prix wins, 38 World Rider Titles and 37 World Constructor Championships to its credit.
Honda has now surpassed those Grand Prix win numbers, but for several decades, MV Agusta's distinctive silver and red machinery dominated Grand Prix racing, piloted by legendary names such as Giacomo Agostini, Mike Hailwood, John Surtees, Phil Read and Gary Hocking.
Domination is a term that is relative. Mercedes-Benz currently dominates Formula One racing, having won five years in a row with its Silver Arrows, Lewis Hamilton and Nico Rosberg. Before Mercedes-Benz, Red Bull dominated for four consecutive years with Sebastien Vettel and the Renault-engined RB cars of Adrian Newey.
MV Agusta dominated motorcycle racing on a different level – one that seems almost preposterous in any world championship arena. It won the world 500cc championship (the world's most important motorcycle class – now MotoGP) every year from 1958 to 1974 –that's 17 consecutive years. From 1968 to 1973, it also won an unbroken string of six world 350cc titles at the same time. There is no car racing equivalent for the dominance of MV Agusta in motorcycle racing. In its entire history, Ferrari has won just 16 F1 constructor titles – MV Agusta won more championships than that consecutively.
Had Count Agusta lived another decade, one wonders what further heights might have been achieved for both the racing and roadgoing motorcycles of MV Agusta. Above is a rare image of the 1971 six-cylinder MV Agusta 500cc racer under development at the time of the Count's death. It sadly never saw the racetrack in open competition.
One of the six MV Agusta 750 S motorcycles on offer at Artcurial's Rétromobile MV Agusta Collection Sale on Saturday, February 9, 2019.
MV Agusta 750 Sport
The MV Agusta 750 Sport was the closest any MV Agusta road bike came to the fire engine red racers that won all those world championships and as we survey the bikes in Artcurial's Paris Expo Porte de Versailles preview, the auction price record for an MV Agusta road bike stands at $137,500 for the original 750S and $126,500 for the subsequent 750S America.
In period, the MV Agusta 750S was the most expensive motorcycle on the market. The four-cylinder Honda CB750 sold for $2,190, while the MV Agusta had a sticker price of $6,500 – just shy of three times the freight of the far more prominent Honda superbike.
Prototype MV Agusta 750S Road bikes
The two most interesting motorcycles on offer in Paris are both prototypes, with the most complete development machine of the two being the above fuel injected 750 prototype from 1975. The intention was to develop this prototype into a production motorcycle.
The bike uses the same 750 motor but has an entirely new chromoly frame with air forks, a monoshock rear suspension, fairing and single-piece tank/seat unit. It apparently made 90 hp, and is the only known fuel injection prototype.
The bike will go to auction with an official estimate of €140,000 to €220,000, but most importantly, it will sell without reserve, meaning it will be sold regardless of the high bid.
The other prototype is undoubtedly the most exotic roadgoing motorcycle to have come out of MV Agusta during the company's first incarnation, which finished in 1980.
The engine displaces 830cc and is fitted with a turbocharging system. Initial problems with the cylinder head overheating were solved by plasma coating the head, pistons and exhaust valves. The intake valves and conrods were made of titanium and the redline was set at 10,000 rpm. The engine produced around 150 hp in this configuration, which makes this somewhat of a unicorn – a 300 km/h motorcycle from the mid-seventies.
Though the official estimate is the same as the fuel-injected prototype above, at €140,000 to €220,000. We think this will become the most valuable motorcycle sold during the auction and bidding might go well past the upper limit.
Apart from the two prototype 750 machines, there are four 750S machines on offer at Artcurial's Rétromobile MV Agusta Collection Sale on Saturday, February 9, 2019.
Perhaps the most interesting of the remaining four bikes is this John Surtees tribute bike (above), which is based on a 750 S motor and frame, and is believed to have been one of five constructed by legendary MV Agusta race engineer Arturo Magni. Surtees won the 500cc motorcycle World Championship riding MV Agustas in 1956, 1958, 1959 and 1960, then went car racing and won the Formula One World Championship in a Ferrari in 1964, becoming the only person to have won pinnacle World Championships on both two and four wheels. Magni began as chief mechanic for the racing team in 1950 after a stint at Gilera, then became director of the MV Agusta racing department, and hence he was responsible for the construction and fettling of all the world championship machines. He was the only person associated with all those 250, 350 and 500cc world titles.
The bike incorporates Magni's proprietary chain drive conversion, a 300 mm Fontana drum brake, 48 mm Marzocchi forks and four Dell'Orto SSI 29 carburetors. It is no longer a road bike, as all lights and registration requirements have been removed in the construction, but is still estimated to fetch close to the current record auction price for a 750 S, with an estimate set at €75,000 to €120,000.
Beyond the special bikes above, there are three more 750 S machines (one is a display machine only), plus a number of race replicas and smaller capacity prototypes set to sell on Saturday.
The entire lot listing for the MV Agusta Collection sale and all auction descriptions can be found here.
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