Monday, November 30, 2009


In what must be regarded as a marketing coup, Bonham's auction house held a sale (11/28/09) of the Willy Neutkens BMW collection at the actual BMW factory Museum in Munich (see my post on the new Museum here).

Neutkins was well-known in BMW circles as a focussed and dedicated collector, to the point of earning a place in the Guinnesss Book of Records as the holder of the largest private single-make collection of motorcycles in the world. He had an example of just about every production Bavarian flat-twin, from the earliest R32 to the end of the 'air-head' era, and developed a special relationship with the Factory over the years, using their archives and expertise to assure his restorations were accurate to the nut.

That doesn't mean the machines were 100% original, and a few examples of his collection had mis-matched frames and engines (eg, I heard from one collector of an R12 frame/R17 engine combo, etc), but for the most part it seemed his bikes were solid, and what a shopping experience it must have been for bidders! Pre-war BMWs especially are difficult to source nowadays, and an accurate restoration even more so. The combination created an air of excitement around the world for flat-twin enthusiasts, and the bidding reflected such.

The auction was a total sell-out, with BMW itself (Welt und Classiche - now combined under the direction of Karl Baumer) out-bidding my friend Yves on the ex-Works ISDT '53 R67/2 (seen below), which ranks among collectors as one of the most desireable 'street' BMWs.

Here's the Bonham's summary:
A clear highlight of the sale was the 1924 BMW 493cc R32 (Lot 40) which was at the heart of a five way bidding battle between three continents, eventually realising Euro 109,250 against a pre-sale estimate of Euro 33,000 – 45,000.

Bids also came from the BMW Museum, host of today’s sale, which secured the Ex-Works ISDT 1953 BMW 594cc R67/2 – Lot 76 - for Euro 26,450 (estimate Euro 19,000 - 22,000). This historic competition machine beautifully complements the other motorcycles in their own impressive collection.

One of the sale’s most emotional and charming purchases involved a lady bidder who secured the 1982 BMW 649cc R65LS (Lot 23) for Euro 2,530. Having bought the motorcycle when it was new – proceeding to cover an incredible 170,000km over 14 years on Continental tours – she was delighted to be reunited with it so many years later.

In all, over 320 customers had registered to bid, making this one of the most successful sales for the Bonhams motorcycle department.

Malcolm Barber, Bonhams CEO and auctioneer on the day commented, “The BMW archivists, directors and management team at the Museum worked closely with our company following instructions from the Neutkens family to market and offer their collection for sale. The combined strengths of our respective companies ensured full marketing, an informative catalogue and a perfect setting to obtain this fabulous result.”

Fred Jakobs, BMW’s Archivist for motorcycles at the museum commented, “I was delighted with the outcome of today’s sale, it was a pleasure for my company to work closely with Bonhams, they presented a first class auction. We too were delighted to have acquired the Ex-Works, ISDT, 1953 BMW R67/2BMW for our collection. It has come home and will be on display here at the museum next year it is the grandfather of our Enduro bikes”.

Many thanks to Yves J. Hayat for the photos!


Anonymous said...

There was a long discussion on the /2yahoo group were people were on both sides of the value and prices reached at the auction. Those felt that the prices were out of line, and those that said that BMW was finally getting its due recognition.
As one who has spent some time around the auction block, would you say that BMW has been short changed in value, or in line with expectations?
Tim Stafford has had great success with some beautiful examples at auction here in the states, but some BMW owners feel that the bikes they spend so much time and energy on do not seem to match up with similar brands that have sold for similar dollars. Vincents, Brough, and the likes have enjoyed money like this for years, Is BMW finally getting its due?

Anonymous said...

Hi Paul,
Is that a spare carb slide I am seeing in your pic of the R67?
Looks like they hang in little brackets bolted to the xmsn case.
Was that for ISDT spares rules?

vintagent said...

Regarding BMW prices, at auction and otherwise...generally high prices reflect actual rarity combined with perceived value. As old motorcycles are essentially obsolete hunks of metal, their status as objets d'art or collectibles will vary with the cultural 'conversation' about them. Thus, bikes which are not necessarily rare (eg, postwar Vincents @ 15,000 or so produced) may have terrific cultural importance. All that period advertising really paid off in the long term - just ask George Brough. While Brough Superiors really ARE rare, their top-of-the-heap value has a lot to do with our agreement that they're special, and worthy of veneration. Which, in our late-Capitalist society, means large sums of money thrown in their direction.

Very few BMWs are rare - most models were quite successful and had healthy production runs. The RACING machines are very rare, and their prices have always reflected this.

Have production BMWs been under-valued at auction? Yes and no; really good pre-'55 machines are difficult to find, and have probably been a bit cheap, given their quality, technical prowess, and advanced specification. Pressed-steel frame and earlier flat-tank models have definitely been undervalued. They are superb machines.
Regarding post-'55 machines; no, they aren't undervalued. BMW made a whole lot of these bikes, they aren't rare at all, and top prices for these will only be reached for a truly exceptional restoration.

I've owned quite a few vintage BMWs; '28 R63 (search my site for pix), '38 R51, '39 R71, plus a whole lot of postwar models (something like 12 Earles fork machines, singles and twins of all capacities and spec). I've been watching prices carefully for about 25 years, and these are the conclusions I've drawn.

Anonymous said...

Hello Mr. d'Orléans:
Thank you for the terrific blog; always succinct and delightful! Thanks for your time and consideration (and kudos again for the BMW auction coverage!)
--Greg G
Long Beach, Cal.

YJH said...

Hi Ric
ISDT is for International Six Days of Trial

Frank Sider said...

Hi Paul
as you see our friend YJH is still crasy about those BMW ...
Hope you're going well and see you soon... i hope.

motorcycle spares said...

i just bought my thruxton a few weeks ago and am already bit by the modding bug. have done some head work on motors in the past and am considering picking up an extra motor to build up. i see things about some motors being 270 and others being 360. i had assumed that the the pistons would have been in a 180 firing order, but not sure what the difference is b/w the 2 motors. also there is a motor for sale on ebay that i'm considering bidding on. i don't think that the guy knows exactly what it is. the motor is listed as coming from a 2002 bonneville america and as an 800. i would imagine it's a 790. i don't want to bid on it if it won't work in my 2006 thruxton application. btw my plan for now is p&p head with the 790 cams and a 904 kit. am going to stick with the stock cvk carbs and will be fitting either a set of preds or emgo shorties from specialty spares. thanks in advance for the help.