Vintage Motorcycle Auctions and Results


The King of Cool's Vincent Comet

1953 Vincent Series C Comet

Briefly owned by legendary film star and motorcycle enthusiast Steve McQueen, this 1953 Vincent Series C Comet will be offered at Bonhams’ Oct. 6, 2018, auction at the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum. All photos by Somer Hooker.

One day back in the 1970s, I was talking with the late Gene Aucott, who was the first Vincent dealer in the U.S. Gene allowed that he had been contacted by Steve McQueen in regards to a Vincent he had purchased. Gene encouraged him to attend a rally and get more involved. Sadly, soon thereafter, McQueen developed cancer and passed away in 1980. When his estate sale was held, there was no Comet there.

The Comet

In 1987, I was at the Antique Motorcycle Club of America’s big meet in Davenport, Iowa, where I came upon Indian four expert and aficionado Earl Chalfant’s table. I happened to notice a picture of a Vincent Comet there. Of course, I inquired, and Earl told me he had traded Steve McQueen for it in the 1970s! It was then that he told me “the rest of the story.”

McQueen had gone into a vintage bike dealer in the U.K., where he spotted an early Brough Superior SS-80 and the Vincent Comet, with a sidecar on it. He bought both bikes, and with no interest in the sidecar he asked them to remove it.

There were two things about the Vincent that McQueen did not realize: First, the forks were in the wrong position; and two, one of the frame numbers was wrong for a Comet. When it arrived in California, McQueen took it for a ride and found the handling to be atrocious, so he took it to Bob Stark’s Indian shop in California and asked him to sell it. Chalfant saw the Comet at Stark’s and offered a 1939 Indian Chief in trade (later sold at McQueen’s estate sale, Lot No. 648); McQueen accepted and they traded bikes.

Memo from Robert Stark

A 1988 memo from Indian specialist and McQueen friend Robert Stark at Starklite Cycle detailing McQueen’s trade of the 1953 Vincent Comet for Earl Chalfant’s 1939 Indian Chief.

Later, Chalfant took the Comet to an antique motorcycle club meet and was riding it around when he was stopped by a couple of Vincent owners who said, “Are you trying to kill yourself?” They pointed out that the Girdraulic forks were adjusted for the sidecar position, which is why it handled poorly, and they helped him change the setting on the spot. Sadly, neither McQueen nor the dealer who sold him the bike ever appreciated how well the Vincent’s Girdraulic fork could work.

I wound up buying the Comet from Chalfant, and later sold it to a gentleman in Canada. He kept it in his dining room until 2002, but when his health began to fail he contacted me about selling it. I was able to hook him up with a museum, where it resided until 2016 when it was offered back to me when they were doing a collection rebalancing.

The Brough Superior was gifted by McQueen to Kenny Howard, aka “Von Dutch.” It changed hands from Dutch and then was later sold at a Gooding sale in 2011 at Pebble Beach (Lot No. 133). Part of the vetting was the letter from Earl Chalfant. The Brough was again sold by Gooding in 2018, again at their Pebble Beach sale.

The McQueen Comet will be featured at Bonhams’ upcoming auction at the 14th Annual Barber Vintage Festival on Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018. Also on offer will be the second-ever Vincent Black Lightning and another McQueen bike, the 1970 Husqvarna 400 Cross that McQueen owned and rode in Bruce Brown’s legendary film, On Any Sunday.

1953 Vincent Series C Comet

Prices for Series C single-cylinder Vincent Comets have historically lagged far behind the twin-cylinder C Rapides or Black Shadows, but this ex-Steve McQueen Comet will likely command a premium when it sells at Bonhams’ Barber auction Oct. 6, 2018.

John Lennon's 1969 Honda Z50A Sells for World Record Price

John Lennon's 1969 Honda Z50A

Motorcycle history was made by H&H Classics at the National Motorcycle Museum in England on March 4, 2018, when the company sold two iconic bikes for new world record prices.

H&H’s lineup of 170 bikes included a number of gems that had the place heaving despite a week of atrocious weather that had kept people at home. The biking fraternity turned up in strength to bid for John Lennon’s 1969 HondaZ50A "Monkeybike" which made $79,640.

There was huge excitement for the John Lennon Monkey-Trail bike XUC 91H when its turn came to go under the hammer.

John Lennon used the bike as a fun way of getting around his Tittenhurst Park estate in Surrey, where he lived from 1969 to 1971. Prior to the sale H&H Classics estimated that the bike would sell for $40,000 plus. It has now become the highest priced Monkeybike sold at auction.

Mark Bryan, Head of Sales for H&H Classics Motorcycle Department, said: “Naturally we were thrilled to be entrusted with the marketing and sale of this bike, given its extraordinary provenance. So to achieve this price is hugely satisfying.”

The Honda Monkey/Trail Bike XUC 91H was acquired by John Harington from Henry Graham, of Hook Hampshire, who at the time was owner of a business in Farnborough Hampshire — Motor Cycle City in around 1971.

Henry Graham said that he had bought the motorbike from John Lennon, who was living at the time at Tittenhurst Park in Sunningdale, near Ascot Berkshire.

John Harington, the current seller, had kept the bike for the past 47 years, since buying it from Mr Graham and had displayed it at various events and shows throughout that time.

Historic Pre-Production Honda CB750 Fetches Record Price

Pre-production Honda CB750

Motorcycle history was made by H&H Classics at the National Motorcycle Museum in England on March 4, 2018, when the company sold two iconic bikes for new world record prices.

H&H’s lineup of 170 bikes included a number of gems that had the place heaving despite a week of atrocious weather that had kept people at home. The biking fraternity turned up in strength to bid for John Lennon’s 1969 Honda Z50A "Monkeybike," which made $79,640, and a fascinating survivor, a pre-production Honda CB750, which reached $222,995 against a pre-sale estimate of $48,000 to $55,000.

The second historically important bike, the Honda CB750 is a very special motorcycle which collectors worldwide were clambering for. It was estimated at $48,000-$55,000 prior to the sale but in an extended bidding fight finally sold for a total of $222,995 — a new world record for this model and for a Honda road bike.

A “late” pre-production model it is one of only four built, only two are known to still exist, the other is in the U.S. and was famously sold on eBay in 2014 for a price of $148,000.

The bike for sale with H&H is a rare machine, mostly hand made in Japan around 1968. This bike came over to the UK in 1969, was registered by Honda UK and was used by them in the UK launch of the then new CB750 model. It is frame number CB750-2110.

Perhaps not surprisingly it has been in the same private collection for the past 35 years and was undergoing a restoration when the owner sadly passed away.

Head of Motorcycle Sales at H&H Classics, Mark Bryan, said of this bike: “This is one of the most historically important bikes we’ve had the pleasure to offer for sale. Referred to on its launch as the most sophisticated production bike ever. The standard bike at launch was capable of 120 mph and was equipped with non-fade front hydraulic brakes. The bike has gone onto become a true icon rated as one of the top landmarks of Japanese Automotive Technology&rdquo.;

The two missing bikes suffered sad fates. A green version of this bike went to France and was never seen again and a red one was crushed about five years ago in the U.S.

This gold bike was first shown in Europe at the Brighton Motorcycle show between April 5-12, 1969. It also appeared on the cover of Motorcycle Mechanics, May 1969.

The idea for a four-cylinder 750 wasn't even discussed until June 1968. Honda built a 750-4 test mule with a drum front brake, then the prototypes, all in just six months! This bike’s every single part is different from a production model.

Jack Ehret Vincent Sets Record at Bonhams' 2018 Las Vegas Auction

Jack Ehret Vincent Black Lightning

Sold for $929,000: Jack Ehret’s 1951 Vincent Black Lightning. Photos courtesy Bonhams.

The 1951 Vincent Black Lightning ridden by Aussie Jack Ehret in 1953 to an Australian Land Speed Record of 140.509mph sold at Bonhams’ 2018 Las Vegas Motorcycle Auction for a breath-taking $840,000 — a figure that jumps to $929,000 with buyer’s premium! In original, unrestored condition save for a recent mechanical reconditioning by Vincent specialist Patrick Godet in France.

The Vincent was just one of a number of big earners at the Jan. 25, 2018, Bonhams sale. A 1939 Brough Superior SS80 pulled in $120,500, and another Vincent, this time a 1955 Series D Black Prince, drew $104,650. Another record was the $92,000 achieved for a 1990 Honda VFR750R RC30, the most ever paid for the model.

Bonhams’ says it achieved a 75 percent sell-through on approximately 105 lots for a total of $2.86 million. That’s down from 2017’s approximately $4.5 million on 252 lots, but the average sale at the 2018 auction was much higher: $27,238 versus an average sale of $17,857 at the 2017 auction. No doubt the Ehret Vincent pulled the 2018 average up, but overall performance was good.

Other interesting sales included the $4,000 paid for a sketch drawn by Kenneth Howard — aka Von Dutch — of a “Design for Engine Double OHC Triumph” and the $26,250 paid for a circa-1910 Pierce 4-cylinder engine.

Sketch for Triumph engine

This sketch for a double overhead cam Triumph penned by Kenneth Howard — aka Von Dutch — sold for $4,000.

Circa-1910 Pierce engine

This circa-1910 Pierce 4-cylinder engine sold for $26,250.

Rare and Important Early Motorcycles to be Offered in Paris Auction at No Reserve

1930 Majestic

This circa-1930 Majestic is just one of the important early motorcycles that will be auctioned at Retromobile Paris on Feb. 10, 2018.

A collection of approximately 75 mostly pre-1914 motorcycles from the collection of Pierre Guélon will be offered at no reserve at the Artcurial Auction in conjunction with Retromobile in Paris, France, on Feb. 10, 2018. In the early ’70s Mr. Guélon was disposing of some scrap brass when he happened to notice a jumble of wheels and mechanical parts. He poked and probed through the junkyard pile and discovered they were early motorcycles. He then struck a deal with the proprietors, trading his scrap for their scrap and in the process saving one of the earliest chapters of French motorcycling. His only problem was that there was “some assembly required.” They slowly figured out what went with what and the completed motorcycles were installed in his personal collection, made available to only a select few for viewing.

1928 New motorcycle

The 1928 New Motorcycle was the creation of Frenchman Georges Roy, who was also responsible for the 1929-1933 Majestic.

Through the years, Mr. Guélon acquired some other significant motorcycles including a Brough Superior, a Norton International, and an early Harley-Davidson V-twin with a wood sidecar. The real gems are the early motorcycles, such as the 3-cylinder Anzani and the Peugeot DeDion 3-wheeler. Some early V-twins, such as a Magnot Debon and a Terrot, are also available. One standout is the fully enclosed Majestic. In addition, some 19th century French bikes will be sold. There are National Trust limitations: Any French vehicle over 75 years of age is subject to export limitations. It’s not impossible to export them, just not guaranteed. For more information and updates go to www.artcurial.com

Jalbert Collection to be Auctioned in Las Vegas

James Jalbert

An important collection of classic American motorcycles will be part of Bonhams’ world-renowned Las Vegas motorcycle auction this January. Complementing the headlining models from Britain and Italy — most notably Vincent, Brough Superior, Ducati and MV Agusta — the New England collection of Indian, Harley-Davidson, Henderson and Excelsior comes from the private collection of noted businessman James Jalbert.

Known for growing a small, family-run airport taxi service into one of the northeast’s leading transportation companies, C&J Bus Lines, Jim Jalbert’s passion for motorcycles started, like many enthusiasts, at childhood. As a collector, he focused on American motorcycles with an emphasis on the Massachusetts-made Indian marque and, at one point, saw his collection grow to more than 30 machines.

The collection, which Bonhams will have the privilege of representing, boasts examples of Indian from the 1920s up to the firm’s closing in the 1950s. Included are models of Chief, Four, Scout, Sport Scout, Prince, Arrow and US Military 741. From street and racing versions to original condition and expertly restored award-winners, the selection is impressive. Additionally, all the proceeds from the 1941 Army model will be donated to the Veterans Count charity, the philanthropic arm of Easterseals Military and Veteran Services.

Two stars of the collection that are not Indians are a 1929 Henderson Four and 1929 Excelsior Super X, both iconic and highly sought after American models from the golden age of motorcycling.

As for Harley-Davidson, represented are models that include a newly restored Servi-Car and Jim’s favorite rider, what he lovingly calls “Elvis” — a 1966 FLH Electra Glide Shovelhead. Also included from the Jalbert Collection is related memorabilia, including an original lighted Indian dealership sign. To learn more about the Jalbert Collection and other incredible motorcycles headed to the Thursday, Jan. 25 auction at the Rio Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, visit bonhams.com/vegas.

2018 Las Vegas Motorcycle Auctions Gearing Up

2018 Motorcycle Auctions

Bonhams and Mecum Auctions are both gearing up for the 2018 Las Vegas motorcycle auctions. Bonahms’ one-day event happens Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018, at the Rio Hotel & Casino, while Mecum will hold an expanded five-day auction extravaganza starting on Tuesday, Jan. 23 and ending Saturday, Jan. 27, at South Point Hotel & Casino. Bonhams has yet to release a full consignment list, but in keeping with their previous Las Vegas auctions we anticipate a 250- to 300-strong list of vintage bikes. Mecum, on the other hand, plans to sell an incredible 1,750 motorcycles, a huge jump up from the 1,000 bikes consigned for last year’s four-day event. It will be interesting to see how that translates dollar-wise. Last year, Mecum reported total sales of $13.7 million. Assuming the 2018 offerings are of similar value, the potential is there for total sales topping $23 million. Bonhams’ 2017 sales were an estimated $4 million, with 240 bikes sold, but bikes at Bonhams tended to sell for more, selling at an average price of $16,667 versus the $13,700 average at Mecum.

Headlining Bonhams’ auction is the ex-Jack Ehret 1951 Vincent Black Lightning (below), which Ehret rode to take the Australian Land Speed Record in 1953 at 141.509mph. Originally owned by Australian rider Tony McAlpine, who assembled the bike himself while working at Vincent, the Ehret Vincent was clocked at 130mph running alongside — and out-accelerating — the legendary Gunga Din, perhaps the most famous of all Vincents and the test bed for the Vincent Black Shadow and Lightning. Showing 8,686 kilometers on its Smiths Chronometric speedometer (all of them race miles), the Vincent was sympathetically restored by renowned Vincent expert Patrick Godet in France and is cosmetically completely original and as last raced by Ehret. Easily the most historically important bike to be offered at the 2018 Vegas auctions, it is expected to sell for $500,000-plus.

Black Lightning

Mecum has several headliners in its 1,750-strong portfolio, including a bike we’ve always wanted to ride, a 1980 Mystery Ship. Designed by Craig Vetter of Triumph Hurricane and Vetter Fairing fame, only 10 of the Kawasaki KZ1000-powered Mystery Ships were built, the one on offer being No. 5. One of dozens of bikes being sold from the Bob Weaver Collection, the offered Mystery Ship shows a scant 48 miles on the odometer. It’s in as-new condition, and perfect in every way. Also at Mecum is another classic we’d like to ride, a 1941 Indian Four, the last of Indian’s great inline fours and this one looking particularly grand in its two-tone peach and red color scheme.

Viewed as an indicator of vintage bike values in the U.S., the Vegas auctions are closely watched by buyers and sellers for signs of where the market is moving.







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