10 Reasons You Should Go to Bonhams’ Vegas Motorcycle Auction
If you’ve recently binge-watched Sons of Anarchy, you’ve probably dreamed of jumping on a hog, revving its engines, and zooming off into the sunset (with or without a significant other on the back.) Now, rabid fans of motorcycles can make that fantasy a reality on Jan. 26 at the Rio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, when Bonhams stages an all-encompassing auction centered on the vehicle.
There’s no shortage of high-end and affordable hogs to choose from in the auction. Two-hundred and forty-one of the lots will feature complete bikes, with an additional six including posters, manuals, and pool-table lamps for a moto-themed man cave bar or to decorate a garage. Here are 10 of the finds at the auction that get us particularly revved up.
1912 Flying Merkel Belt Drive V-Twin – This one is less for the Danzig-listening, all-black-leather-clad rider than it is for the vintage collector, but it’s no less a gem of the road that deserves an addition to this list. One of the earliest motorcycle models from American manufacturer Joseph Merkel, who likely inspired the guys behind the Harley, this model’s known by its “Flying” moniker. That’s because two years earlier, one Maldwyn Jones became the national dirt track champion on a similar bike. Sure, it sort of looks like a hopped up Schwinn 10-speed, but the motorcycle had to start somewhere, didn’t it? Pre-auction estimate: $135,000–$150,000. Get more info on it here.
1914 Douglas 2 3/4 HP – Another early entry in the history of the motorcycle, this model was notably owned and operated by a man who lived on West 9th Street in New York City in 1919. (You can’t help but imagine him whizzing by the horse-drawn buggies of the era.) Later, it would be owned by Sebring Raceway founder Alec Ullmann, as well as be a part of the famed Larz Anderson Auto Museum, the oldest automobile collection in American history. Pre-auction estimate: $12,000–$18,000. For more info, click here.
1929 Excelsior Super X With Sidecar – To a layperson, this vehicle may look like crap, but as its auctioneer notes, “survivor” vehicles—ones that have their original, unrestored look—have become wildly popular among bike enthusiasts. The Super X is actually the brainchild of a former Harley-Davidson assistant chief engineer, who designed it as an unauthorized side-project. He ended up pitching the idea to competitor Excelsior and getting it made. (It’s unclear whether he eventually resigned or got the axe, but he didn’t stay around the company much longer.) The sidecar, on the other hand, is brought to you by an Australian engineer, who emigrated to the U.S. and soon became one of the preeminent sidecar manufacturers over here. Pre-auction estimate: $40,000–$50,000. Get more info on it here.
1932 Harley-Davidson VL ‘Bobber’ – If you’re wondering what it means to be “bobbed,” it’s the motorcyclist’s equivalent to a boxer doing everything to make weight. That is, stripping away all the fat (i.e. unnecessary, heavy accessories) in order to increase the bike’s speed. The VL was also relatively affordable in the early ’30s, making it a Depression-era favorite. For more on this survivor model, which lived out a chunk of its life in a barn, click here.
1936 Crocker ‘Hemi Head’ – If Sons of Anarchy were an actual real-life motorcycle gang, some of its riders would probably own Crockers like this one. Known for their gritty ride and overall badassery (they could reach 110 mph), they’re also extremely rare, as less than 75 of the bikes were ever produced. They’re often seen as the “Holy Grail” of American motorcycles—and the $500,000–$600,000 pre-auction estimate makes sense. This specific one, “Crocker No. 8,” is being offered up by the Wheels Through Time Museum in Maggie Valley, North Carolina. For more on the motorcycle, click here.
1958 Ducati 125 GP – We admit it: We’re suckers for the red finish, but this model has a winning racing history to boot (so, clearly, you should trust our eye). A sister model to the 100 Gran Sport, the 125 made its official racing debut in July 1956 at the Swedish Grand Prix, lapping the entire field and zooming off to victory. It can be yours for $100,000–$130,000 in its restored glory. For more info on it, click here.
1973 Ducati 750cc Works Endurance Racing Motorcycle – In 1972, Ducati won its first major World Superbike title on an Imola 200. But this follow-up, with a new V-twin engine and lighter body, meant to be a step up from the Imola, didn’t make the grade in the 24-hour Bol d’Or endurance race (which featured terrible riding conditions that year). It was retired with only six in existence. This ultra-rare bike will put you back $100,000–$140,000, but it’s still in working order, so it could easily fulfill your need for speed. For more information, click here.
1973 Pannonia 250cc T5 With Duna Sidecar – This Hungarian bike—which actually sold in the millions between ’54 and ’75—is hard to find over in the West. The majority were sold in Russia and Poland, and it’s unclear how many are still up and running over there. The banana-yellow, sidecar-armed motorcycle is a sleek counterpoint to that scruffy survivor-grade ’29 Excelsior. Thankfully, this one will only cost you between $8,000–$10,000. For more info on it, click here.
2007 Honda CBR1000RR Custom – This is as modern as we’ll get on our list, but we didn’t include it for the emerald green finish or because it won a number of internationally rated races. This 2007 Honda’s on our list, because it was originally built for one of the best modern drummers out there: Travis Barker, of Blink-182 fame. The bike has even been a model, gracing the cover of 2Wheel Tuner magazine. It doesn’t come cheap, though. The pre-auction estimate is set at $16,000–$20,000. For more info on it, click here.
‘Indian at Arpajon’ – Lastly, here’s a piece of the non-metal motorcycle memorabilia. It’s an original painting depicting American motorcycle racing pioneer Paul Anderson’s speed record attempt on an Indian motorcycle at Arpajon, France, in 1925. The artist? Robert Carter, basically the Norman Rockwell of vintage motorcycle and car ads. (Visit his site for more on his work here.) Estimated price: $6,000–$8,000. Learn more about it here.
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