Thursday, January 16, 2014


The first shocker of the week; a factory mis-match, original-paint 1940 Harley EL Knucklehead fetched $159k at Bonhams
There are several de facto motorcycle conventions around the world, but none quite like the annual Las Vegas motorcycle auction week in early January.  There isn't a swap meet or evening entertainment, not a banquet or panel discussion or even art show, although elements of all these can be found at Vegas.  The focus is the auctions, even though hundreds of people arrive with no intention of bidding on anything, content to meet friends from distant places.  Some buy bikes they weren't expecting, some take home bikes they expected to sell...such is the unpredictable mystery of the auction process.
Hello handsome!  Tight quarters at Bonhams as the crowd filled up walkways and every seat was taken.
What can we glean from this year's auctions?  The #1 trend I spotted this year was a solidification of prices for up-and-coming bikes, some of which have now truly entered the big time...and I'm talking about Harley Knuckleheads.  A world record price was set for an H-D EL at Bonhams on Thursday, when an unusual original-paint 1940 Knuck, with a factory mismatch of paint scheme, engine, gearbox, forks, and other parts sold for $159k.
A few of the Silverman Museum Ducatis; green-frame 750SS, a pair of F1s, and a round-case 750Sport
Two days later, this record was broken at the Mecum/MidAmerica auction, when an essentially perfect 1936 Knucklehead - the coveted first-year model - from the George Pardos collection sold for $165k.  Both of these prices are double what the best Knucks typically fetch, and will certainly thrill those who already have them in their garages...and bring despair to those who'd love to own a 'Knuck'.  Fear not, there are too many EL's out there for them all to become financially unreachable ...just don't count on adding a '36 to your collection cheaply.  And anyway, they're still a heck of a lot cheaper than a Crocker.
King of the Knucks.  George Pardos' 1936 first-year, perfect EL Knucklehead fetched $165k
There were no 'Top 20' additions from Vegas, but a total of 15 motorcycles sold at or above the $100k mark, and their variety is instructive.  In descending order, the top prices: #1 was a fine and very rare example of Harley's first ever V-twin, a 1911 Model 7D Twin from the Pardos collection, which fetched $260k.  Next in line was an equally rare BMW R37, the factory's first OHV sports machine from 1925, which sold for $200k.  A zero-mile 1978 Ducati NCR racer from the Silverman Museum sold for $175k, and an immaculate first-year '36 Harley EL Knucklehead from the Pardos collection made $165k.  The factory mismatch 1940 original-paint EL made $159k,  while a restored '74 Ducati 750SS hit $137k. The magic names of Steve McQueen and Von Dutch shot an Indian Chief and sidecar to $126k, and a BMW RS54 Rennsport racer sold for $126k, while a Vincent Black Prince went for $125k.
It's about the people you meet.  Shinya Kimura and Ayu with a Von Dutch-painted Triumph TR5 
If you had $100,000 and needed to spend it all, you could have purchased a 1938 Brough Superior SS80, an ex-Works racing '72 BSA/Triumph triple in a Rob North frame, several antique Harleys from the Pardos collection (a JDH twin-cam, and a 1914 and '15 twin), a 1951 Vincent Series C Black Shadow, and a 1909 Harley single-cylinder.
Asking $100k, getting $95k, but after the fees, it's all the same.  A 1938 Brough Superior SS80 with Matchless MX sidevalve engine, nicely restored.
The Silverman Museum collection of Ducatis made an amazing impression at Bonhams, but included only the twin-cylinder Ducs from the museum; the singles will be auctioned off later, undoubtedly with a few of the unsold twins.  While the lineup was impressive, few Ducatis have reached into $100k+ territory, and fewer still above that (a pair of ex-factory racers inhabit my 'Top 20'); even fairly rare production and road racers are still relatively affordable.
On display, an ex-Evel Knievel Harley Sportster
2014 was the year of the Harley at Las Vegas; it seemed of all marques present that H-D generally had the strongest sales and the highest prices... a result skewed by the inclusion of the George Pardos collection of 'first-year' models, which came to Vegas in a bunch.  They represented one man's 20-year effort to create a collection with a very particular focus... an extremely rare situation!  Very few collectors bring such discipline and clarity of intention to their motorcycle habit.  The rest of us buy whatever seduces us...

Mark Upham, Conrad Leach, and Jared Zaugg confer
Six is better than four is better than three is better than...
The Ducati 750SS which sold for $137,000 at Bonhams
Breathing room of a 250cc Aermacchi two-stroke racer
An ex-Team Obsolete AJS 7R, complete with spares kit
A much-discussed BMW /2 chopper - $3500 takes it!
One of a pair of BMW RS54 Rennsports at Bonhams
Pushing the Brough amid the gaudy lights of Vegas
The all carbon-fiber Brough Superior racer
Filmmaker Bryan Carroll discusses his novel distribution strategy for his film 'Why We Ride'
The local high school football teams helped out with pushing duties at MidAmerica/Mecum, here with a BSA A65 sidecar racer which sold for $7000.  Must be present to win!
Chris Carter explains the kickstart mechanism of his lollipop-shiny 1911ish New Era
A rare 500cc Cotton-JAP roadster from the mid-30s
Jeff Decker's long-in-the-making sculpture of TE Lawrence aboard his SS100 Brough
Fantastic T-shirt spotting at Vegas
Wanna buy a Duc?
Yoshi Kosaka with Evel
Mike Fitzsimons, who recently sold Brough Superior SS100 Serial #1 for an undisclosed sum...

Sid Chantland enjoys his purchase of a rare movie poster
Gordon McCall gets the lowdown on a BSA Gold Star DBD34 from Barry Porter
A rare Grindlay Peerless with Rudge Python engine
George Hamilton as Evel Knievel, and Sue 'Lolita' Lyon...what a pair

In Jeff Deckerland....
Jeff Decker explains his process in casting up bronze and stainless steel for his TE Lawrence project
Jeff Decker's wax model of a single-cylinder Cyclone board track racer
Authentic Harley KR750 dirt track racer

A Laverda (or American Eagle) with fiberglass unibody - unique!
Malcolm Barber of Bonhams discusses the 1950 Isle of Man TT winning Vincent Rapide
The ex-Steve McQueen, restored by Von Dutch Indian 'big twin' Chief with Princess sidecar, which sold for $126k
Triumph Metisse with aging fiberglass...
Rare Nor-Vel; featherbed with KSS Velocette engine
Hungarian Pannonia two-stroke with Flash Gordon sidecar
I'm not a big fan of Japanese four-cylinder superbikes, but this Bimota SB2 was simply too outrageously 1970s to ignore
Testa Rossa!
Rob Ianucci of Team Obsolete, with an R7 AJS for sale from his collection
A packed sale room at Bonhams
Need a Salisbury scooter?  Need another?
More great T-shirts!
Just another Brough SS100 with JAP KTOR engine...
If you need Steve McQueen's jacket from 'Bullit', Bonhams has you covered.
TE Lawrence, as seen by Jeff Decker
Triumph Tiger Cub flat-tracker with a lot of very trick parts...
Serial #2 BSA/Triumph triple racer in a Rob North frame, sold for $95k
Nifty Harley WR750 flat tracker with serious patina
Team England support!


David King said...

Excellent! Wish I could have attended...always have 2015 to look forward to.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the LV report, Paul. Lurking in the background of your photo of the Bonhams RS54 Rennsport (lot 329) I spotted the legendary "Gold Star in a box." No, actually it was the GB500 TT Honda in a box, which sold for--if I have it right--$13,800 US. That's a record for the model, I believe. The two other GB500s that were up, with Mid-America, are listed in the results at $8,000 and $10,000, the latter for the personal vehicle of a AHMC executive V-P, both at approx. 4000 miles on the clock. A personal favorite of mine, GB prices have been creeping up steadily over the years. It's a little surprising how many of them come on the market. Makes me regret having passed, twelve or so years ago, on a pristine example stashed away in the back of a Philadelphia area Honda dealer with 2,500 miles on the clock and an asking price of less than that in dollars. Ah well....Even at 10 or 13 K today, the GB's a bargain for those of us who'll never get any closer to one of Rob Ianucci's 7Rs.


Anonymous said...

When i read this commentary on the attendees:
" intention of bidding on anything, content to meet friends from distant places. Some buy bikes they weren't expecting, some take home bikes they expected to sell...such is the unpredictable mystery of the auction process...."

I was thinking to myself more like... most really don't know or care about what it is they're looking at or even buying. They're simply spending time at the latest social event, that just happens to dabble in the stuff that, for some of us, has been at the center of our lives.

Although they'll go on to other things in time. However, during that time frame they will have destroyed vintage MC as an affordable hobby for those of us who probably won't outlive their interest cycle.

The result of an increasingly overpopulated world.


Moto Messiah said...

Nice photos of the 900ss

Cheers Mate