Sunday, April 13, 2008


The late Brian Verrall of Verrall's Motorcycles had an extensive personal bike collection, which was quietly tucked away from his shop, but accessible if you asked nicely. His wife, Margaret, has asked Bonham's to sell the collection; talk to your bank manager before the Sept. 1, 2008 auction at their New Bond Street flagship location.

Some of the 25 motorcycles to be auctioned include (with estimates):
- 1938 Brough Superior SS100 with MX (Matchless) engine (£90-110,000)
- 1939 HRD Series A Rapide (£120-150,000)
- 1914 Matchless 990cc Model 8B with sidecar (£18-22,000)
- 1927 Zenith 8/45 KTOR JAP engined Brooklands racing motorcycle (£120-150,000)

I've seen all of the machines on sale, they're the cream of the crop of 60 years' motorcycle trading. Brian had at least two more SS100's, from the 1920's (see lineup pic - the '39 is at the rear), which might not appear in the auction (they're more dramatic and valuable than the '39 mentioned). The Zenith outfit pictured was purchased from Steve Hazelton of Australia ca.2001 (I was buying lots of bikes from Steve at the time; I don' t think he is in the business any more), for A$100k - that was $52,000US at the time! Lovely machine, it has strutted Druid sidecar racing forks, and I think the chair is a Swallow racing model - note padding over the wheel for 'monkey' antics while racing). Brian also collected early bicycles, such as the 'penny farthings' pictured, and Pioneer machines, such as the 3-wheeler at the background of the fourth photo, and the ca 1898 Crescent lashup in pic 6). Pic 4 also shows an AJS TT model with bolted-up pannier petrol tank, webbed crankcases, leather toolbox, and 'George Dance' kneegrips - ultra rare works racer from ca '26.

The estimates above are Bonham's, and note how both the HRD v-twin and Zenith v-twin far exceed the value of the Brough SS100 - this is the first time I've seen such a published comparison from a major auction house. Brough is no longer king! It's about time as well; Zeniths had a much more successful racing history in the 1920's than Brough, and frankly by the 30's, BS was only involved in record-breaking with very specialized, supercharged machinery. The Matchless 990cc engine used by BS from 1934 was totally unsuitable for racing or sporting work, as it had a very awkward 3-lobe camshaft for four pushrods, which makes tuning the engine difficult. An excellent touring motor though; smooth, robust and attractive - I used to own one. The HRD pointed the way to a future for v-twins, while George Brough by the '30's was coasting on past glories from the late 'teens and 20's; his motorcycles had become, like a Rolls Royce, and expensive luxury machine, but no sportster (and no decent brakes either!).

I'm on record as believing that sporting success still determines values for motorcycles, even 60 years after the make has disappeared. These auction estimates seem to bear this out - in the last 4 years, the values of underappreciated racing machines (such as Zenith and Douglas - see Brian's '28 Douglas SW5 racer) have skyrocketed. Interestingly, this has happened without any 'push' from the press; I've seen no uptick in the number of articles about Zeniths or Douglas (there has been a spate of HRD interest from Classic Motorcycle). It seems collectors have begun to shift their views independently, or perhaps we're just witnessing the zeitgeist shifting.


Dale said...

Check out the Monday edition online now has another auction, this one in South Africa. Selling a 1955 AJS, a 1929 Norton and a 1961 Honda Dream. Oh - and some of those 4 wheel things also. I also saw a hupmobile on the auction list.

Anonymous said...

hi paul, this may be of interest to your readers on this wonderful site..

I have decided to sell another of my prized machines & when Brian came
out & bought the zenith, he loved this bike.. I have put it on ebay today
after trying to have bonhams (in australia)didn’t have much interest & it
will be interesting to see just how powerful the internet really is..
havent spoken for a while.. How yr doing? you are welcome to use & file
the pics
Regards Steve Hazelton