Bonhams today captured the world record for a motorcycle at auction when it sold a 1951 Vincent Black Lightning for $929,000 at the Rio Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas. One of just 30 Black Lightnings made, the completely original and unrestored Vincent set an Australian speed record in 1953 when Jack Ehret rode it to an average speed of 141.5 mph.
The bike was purchased by telephone by an Australian and will be returned to the country where it became famous.
The new record, which surpasses the $825,500 paid for the ex-Steve McQueen 1915 Cyclone board track racer in March 2015, gives Bonhams the world record at auction for both cars and motorcycles, as it also sold the $38.1 million Ferrari 250 GTO in August, 2014.
The Vincent Black Lightning was imported new into Australia by Tony McAlpine. At the time of its build, another well-known Vincent nicknamed "Gunga Din" was undergoing work in the factory. Upon completion of both, the two machines were contested at an airfield where it was said that McAlpine's bike was a clear 30 yards ahead of Gunga Din, and factory records later indicated speeds in excess of 130 mph in third gear.
Once the Black Lightning was acquired by Jack Ehret, it took many race victories across Australia and become renowned around the globe.
"Rollie Free and Marty Dickerson, both legends in the Vincent universe, knew of this motorcycle and Ehret's acclaim," says Ben Walker, Bonhams Head of Motorcycling. "After the 'Bathing Suit Bike' ridden by Free, the Ehret bike is likely the most important Black Lightning in existence and is one of the world's most desirable machines."
The bike was sold in original, unrestored and running condition and was recommissioned by famous Vincent tuner and restorer Patrick Godet.
We'll be updating our listing of the top 100 most expensive motorcycles again shortly.
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