Tuesday, January 08, 2013


Top draw for the 2013 Las Vegas auction scene will be this 1939/51 BMW RS255 Supercharged Rennsport, built by Walter Zeller at the BMW factory, from authentic spares, being sold by Bonhams
While I'm no particular fan of the city itself, the annual Las Vegas vintage motorcycle auction weekend is a must-attend for anyone looking to buy bikes or automobilia, but more importantly is the single largest gathering of hardcore vintage bike enthusiasts from around the globe.  The long weekend for 2013 has calmed down dramatically since last year, as the angry upstart RM Auctions, who vowed to 'put MidAmerica out of business', was itself roundly whipped after boasting they would dominate the market of its two rivals, MidAmerica and Bonhams.
This 1973 MV 750GT is one of 71 MV Agustas on sale at MidAmerica; the Gary Kohs collection, to be sold individually.  While Agostini wannabes rush to 750 Sport and Americas, I think this GT is superb.
Anyone present at last year's mad circus of time-slot competing cattle-calls was either dizzy from trying to do it all, or taking advantage of RM's dismal sales results to take home truckloads of cheap machines.  If you're hoping for a repeat of last year's bargains, I'm afraid your cash-cow has wandered home, after a major re-think of its vintage bike strategy.  RM sells bikes well when mixed in with their successful car auctions, but the super-aggressive 'I'll shout you dead' squat directly on MidAmerica's auction dates (and a rumored attempt to steal away MidAmerica's venue itself!), combined with their flooding the weekend with another 700+ bikes (many of which were owned by the auction house... in which case, does that not make them a Dealer, who auctions their wares?) netted them a whopping cash loss, estimated by some to be well over $.5M...or even much more.
A 1930 Böhmerland in original paint, with sidecar!  At Bonhams...
Things are back to the 'new normal' at Las Vegas in 2013: Bonhams will sell 170 bikes plus their usual excellent selection of Automobilia on Thursday Jan 10th, and MidAmerican will sell a bumper crop of 600 machines between Thursday evening the 10th, and Saturday the 12th.  That's nearly 700 vintage motorcycles for sale over 3 days; there's no place on earth you'll find such a huge selection of machines.
An incredible consignment; Four BMW Rennsports, and a Matchless G50 with serious Isle of Man history, at Bonhams
Highlights?  Bonhams has consigned a collection of 19 cutaway engines - a quirky collectible, but undoubtedly cool.  The big hitters this year are all racing machines, with FOUR BMW Rennsport racers, including a supercharged 1939 RS255 -just like Georg Meier's '39 TT winner- which was assembled at the BMW factory using all-original parts.  It doesn't get much better than that, and where will you find another?  Unobtanium...but one's for sale at Bonhams.  Other cool track stars include a '67 BSA A50R with sterling US race credentials, a 1960 Matchless G50 with lots of Isle of Man history, and a 1970 BSA Rob North Rocket 3 racer, one of 11 ex-Works originals, which dominated Daytona in '71.  Plus the usual assortment of excellent exotics Bonhams is known for; a Mars, some original-paint fantastica (Alldays and Onions, HD Peashooter, a unique LEO, and a Böhmerland!), a European collection of lightweight bikes, plus one machine I'm personally fascinated by, which I won't mention, as I want it!
The ex-Steve McQueen, restored by Bud Ekins, 1938 Triumph Speed Twin at MidAmerica
MidAmerica has, as usual, outdone themselves with consignments (both auction houses have 20% more bikes than last year, perhaps a remnant of last year's 'king tide'); their big coup is the Gary Kohs collection of 72 MV Agustas.  Gary has come to his senses after two failed attempts to sell the collection entier, and the bikes will be sold individually...so if you've ever wanted one of Count Domenico's fiery racers, talk to your bank this week (Bonhams has a 'Squalo' as well).  A surprise entry is Jeff Decker's famous custom Vincent, subject of a Cycle World article I wrote last year.  And with hundreds of entries, a deep array of postwar British and American bikes are available.
The ex-Steve McQueen '70 Husqvarna 400 Cross, at Bonhams
Both Bonhams and MidAmerica have 'Steve McQueen' bikes for sale, which always bring a premium; Bonhams has a 1970 Husqvarna 400 Cross owned by Steve and as used in 'On Any Sunday' (but not THE bike), and MidAmerica has a Bud Ekins-restored '38 Triumph Speed Twin, which he sold to Steve.  I haven't heard the best feedback about Bud's restorations mechanically...but the provenance is solid gold.
MV Agusta Bialbero DOHC 125cc racer at MidAmerica
If you can't be there in person, check out the respective auction websites, to see what might tempt you.  Both auctions take online bids, phone bids, bids by mail or carrier pigeon...just get in touch with them if you see something you need.  And if you're there, say hi.
1967 BSA A50R road-racer, which had tremendous success on California tracks.  Bonhams
Click here for the Bonhams auction website.

Click here for the MidAmerica auction website.
Another stellar BSA racer; a one-of-11 factory 1970 'Rob North' Rocket 3.  At Bonhams.
Jeff Decker's 'Lightning' Vincent, for sale at MidAmerica.  Check out the Cycle World.com article I wrote about this machine...


Anonymous said...

I will be at both Vegas auctions, there's a chance I will have room for a bike or two in the truck coming home if anyone needs transport back to Georgia. Viva Las Vegas!
- John Landstrom

Anonymous said...

Be aware of the Germans around. Have heard they are coming this year en masse. Just watch out for Beer drinking guys. ;)

- Thomas Patt

Anonymous said...

Cut throat business?, NOT in M/Cing... ;)

- Chris Captain Combat

GuitarSlinger said...

I'm really surprised Jeff is willing to let go of his custom Vincent . Thats one beautiful bike despite what the numbers matching bunch might think

Anonymous said...

Looking at that assembled BMW RS 255 Kompressor, they must have had those pipes glowing hot to get "blue" that far back. Run hard, lean, or timing difficulties.


Anonymous said...

The Bohmerland seems to have the rear part of the touring frame(with the tubes parallel to the ground)and the front part of the sport model's frame(tubes straight from head stock to where the rear wheel axle would be)complete with the strange "clip ons".
How you can reach those handlebars sitting on this"double seat"is anybody's guess.
Kostas Fifas.

Anonymous said...

Beware of any Bud Ekins restored motorcycle. Bud never worked on any bikes he sold. His minimum wage employees did all the work. What work was done is cosmetic only. Expect lots of body filler under the paint and a clapped out motor. He did not expect any one to ride the bikes he "restored". I have worked on six bikes he sold all died after only a few miles. The condition in the motors and gear boxes was horrible.