Monday, April 30, 2012


This 1934 Brough Superior SS100 8/80hp 'Two of Everything' joins the list of top-selling motorcycles of all time, behind another SS100, and a Cyclone
The recent auctions at Bonhams (at Stafford) and Wolfe Industrial Auctions (Frederick County Fairgrounds, Maryland) prove deep-pocket collectors are hot for the best motorcycles, setting new records, and shifting positions in my 'Top 20' for all-time auction sales records.
This 1938 HRD-Vincent Series A Rapide now appears TWICE on my 'Top 20'
As mentioned previously, the Bonhams Stafford sale offered a unique opportunity to compare the health of the moto-collector market, as several machines had previously sold in 2008, during the heady pre-crash surge in top-tier motorcycle prices.  Regardless of Europe's fears of a foundering euro and economic stagnation, and the US' stalled economy, motorcycle collectors are feeling bullish, and have upped the ante on these very machines.
One of only ~70 built, the Series A HRD-Vincent is widely considered among the most desirable motorcycles in the world
In an unusual twist, a 1938 HRD-Vincent Series A Rapide appears TWICE on my 'Top 20', having resold after setting the benchmark for a prewar Vincent four years ago, raising that price by £25,000 this weekend.  Not exactly a stunning return on an 'investment', but given the horrific losses suffered by the real estate and financial markets since 2008, perhaps a safe bet.  [I'll include a discussion on motorcycles as 'investments' shortly, by a man who knows...]
The 'Two of Everything' SS100 of 1934 was the last of the great JAP-engined Broughs, and the most powerful
Brough Superior SS100s continue to prove that the legacy of a great showman can endure well beyond the grave.  George Brough produced beautiful motorcycles using selected components, which, while shared by other marques, were a slight upgrade from the standard fare.  Decried by some as 'bitsas', Broughs were firmly in the mainstream of motorcycle production in the 1920s and 30s, when garage-scale builders produced incredible machines from bought-in parts, and make history.  George Brough's passion for making the 'World's Fastest', whether as a standard production model or all-out Land Speed Record machine, kept his name on all motorcyclists' lips, and secured a legend.  Other producers, such as Freddie Barnes with his Zenith motorcycles, won more races or took more 'Gold Stars' at Brooklands, using similarly built-up machines, but never had the caché that Brough evoked with his exquisite eye for 'line', and the original SS100 was his masterpiece.  The 1934 'Two of Everything' 8/80hp JAP engined SS100 sold yesterday was not the most successful of the line, as JAP's latest and most powerful engine proved troublesome, and very few were built before Brough turned to AMC for his next 1000cc engine, the 'MX100', more refined than the JAP by far, but lacking a certain raciness...Broughs had capitulated the 'sporting motorcycle' stakes, in favor of 'fast touring'.
This 1903 machine in remarkably complete condition may be the oldest unrestored Indian
 In the US, what might the be oldest surviving unrestored Indian motocycle, a 1903 model, went under the gavel at $155,000 at an obscure industrial auction, which Somebody was tracking (over the phone, at least - the Indian was snagged by a New York collector named 'Georgio').  While this price doesn't reach my 'Top 20' (the bar for entry is another $100,000 higher!), it's still a very strong price for an early Indian.  Had it been a second-year Harley Davidson, the price would have been 4 times what the Indian fetched, which seems a bit unfair, as Indian predated Harley by several years.  But, survivors write history, and HD is still very much alive and well, with a 25% increase in US sales for the first quarter of 2012...
For comparison, Sotheby's is offering the only privately-owned rendition of Edvard Munch's 'The Scream' (in pastel) on Wednesday May 1st; it is expected to fetch up to $150Million
As a comparison with other markets, motorcycles are lagging in top-dollar sales increases, as the art world has repeatedly smashed sales records straight through the Great Recession, and the automotive world sees multimillion dollar cars sell nearly every weekend.  The slow uptick in top end moto prices will inevitably drag more 'common' expensive bikes upward (postwar Vincent twins, over-the-counter racers, etc), while little effect is seen on 'ordinary' high-production machines (roadster British singles and twins, American V-twins post-1916, German touring bikes, anything 'civilian' from Japan).  Motorcycle rider/collectors fear a price rise at the top will send affordable machines out of reach, but it hasn't happened yet; they're still generally cheaper than a brand new motorcycle.


OcchioLungo said...

What happened with the Windhoff? Did it fail to sell? My theory is that the more press a bike gets before auction, the less likely it is to sell... ;)

Toadeus Maximus said...

Without getting all Politicy....

This seems like a clear case of income disparity. When a small group of people are pulling down multi-million dollar a year compensation packages, they can easily buy and sell these things as if deciding between a medium or a large coffee.

The price is of little concern, they are buying bragging rights.

As always Paul, thank you for the interesting writing and distinguishing between "rider/collectors" and trinket collectors. And thank you for Munch's pastel, it's the same expression when I see what these old bikes are trading for!

I'll have to get my 88 GSXR our for a spin since that's what it's for, to ride.