Thursday, January 6, 2011


Reportage on-the-fly at Las Vegas, where Bonhams and MidAmerica are holding the largest vintage motorcycle auction weekend in the world.  Bonhams comes up today, with their biggest US motorcycle auction ever, with 221 bikes plus automobilia.  Several grand-slam bikes are included, a few of which are highlighted below.

1939 R51RS 'au jus'...perhaps the only opportunity in our lifetime to buy a genuine, documented, original condition pre-war BMW Rennsport.  It may be the only original-condition early RS anywhere?
Interesting mix of Lodge pink racing plugs in the cylinder heads, and Bosch waiting in the spare plug/wrench holder above the gearbox.  Note gold-painted magnesium Bosch magneto body
Irresistible.  The saddle is a Dunlop Drylastic (rubber), while the two 'pads' are leather and very stiff.  TLC required, although the bike has been ridden in the last 5 years.
Scrutineering ribbons from Daytona, 1951 and '52, present and intact.
Original Weinmann aluminum flangeless rims; Germany's answer to Borrani/Rudge flanged alloy rims.  They were butted together at the seam, and rivetted!  I've never heard of a failure, and these were raced on the dirt tracks of the US for 8 seasons.
The only documented original 1901 Indian Camelback I've ever seen.  There are so many replicas of early American motorcycles, it has become a minefield to find a real one.  It is the third prototype Indian, that is, among the first three Indians ever built!
Steve Huntzinger did the restoration, which he says was a tragedy as the bike was in good condition with original paint before another restorer laid hands on it.  Steve fixed what was wrong, and says only a few nuts needed replacing - all else was as the bike left the factory.  It has had four owners in 110 years, including Otis Chandler.
The Excelsior Board Track racer which is mostly in original condition, although the wheels and fenders were replaced, then artfully 'antiqued' to match the  bike.  Which of course cast the whole bike into question - what is one to do?  The owner claims the core of the machine is 'as found'.
Another documented original super-rare machine, the world's first production motorcycle, the Hildebrand and Wolfmuller of 1894/5.  The engine and frame are from different years, which means someone blew up their engine over 100 years ago.  This bike has been in the same family for 60 years, and was restored in the 1960s.  A few bits are missing (like the ignition intake, etc), but what is present is in excellent condition.  Some of the parts are unrestored.
Direct drive, four overhead valves per cylinder - an amazing machine.
Lineup of early American racing machines, many from the Gene Baron collection.
Finally, a Münch Mammut!  A fine late example of the sports version, with 1200cc NSU TTS fuel-injected motor.  This 1973 'Einspritzer' has 23,000 miles.
Impressive complication.
This Harley Davidson Peashooter was found in a mine in Western Australia.  The original owner had a mining operation, and it was convenient dry storage....after finding the machine difficult to start and a long way from the nearest H-D dealer, it was crated and parked near the men's washroom in the mine.  Someone heard about it in the 1940s and rescued the bike.  It is fully documented by the HD factory as delivered to Perth in 1929.  Letters from HD in the 1950s about this Peashooter are included in the sale.
Wonderful patina, and barely used.  Direct drive, bicycle pedals fixed near the rear axle, short stub exhausts; the real deal.
This must be the best Peashooter in the world - what could be better?  100% original condition.
One of 12 'Chinese Red' Vincent Series C Touring Rapides built with a black frame.  This is a two-owner, original paint machine, with a smidge of extra period chrome, but otherwise completely as it left the Vincent factory in 1952.  Found in Fresno, CA.
 Many years of washing have eroded the transfers...

(The altered format for this post is courtesy my SmartPhone)