Sunday, April 27, 2014


The twice-annual Bonhams sale at the enormous Stafford motorcycle show is always a bellweather auction, big enough, and with enough variety of machinery, to give a true indication of how the collector's motorcycle market is behaving.  Coming 5 months after the world's largest vintage bike sale by Bonhams and MidAmerica at Las Vegas, Stafford always brings out some of the best machines in the world, and thus sees some of the highest prices paid for motorcycles, anywhere. This year's roster of top Stafford sales is an interesting list, with a few unexpected names popping over the $100k mark, but I'll take the big fish in order.
One for the Vintagent's 'Top 20' auction sales, displacing...yet another SS100 for the #6 spot of Most Expensive Motorcycles in the World...
The top of the list is, as usual, a Brough Superior SS100, in this case a 1939 MX-engined model, which normally don't top price lists, being considered less collectible than the JAP-engined SS100s of the '20s and early '30s, when they could genuinely lay claim to being the fastest motorcycles in the world.  When George Brough grew fed up with his racing JAP engine's lack of development for a road-worthy motorcycle by 1934, he began using the more civilized 990cc engines from AMC, in both sidevalve (SS80) and OHV configurations (SS100).  This particular machine broke the boundaries for an MX100, being formerly the personal property of George Brough himself...and if you're going to spend a wad on a Brough Superior, you might as well buy George's!  It sold for £253,500  ($426,100).  That places it on the #6 spot of my 'Top 20' most expensive motorcycles in the auction anyway.  After speaking with the new owner, I was assured he was prepared to pay 'much more' for a bike George was documented as having ridden and competed in the Edinburgh Trial upon.  So there's room for more growth at the top, but it will take more than one arch-enthusiast to get there...
Surprise of the day; a low mileage MV Agusta 750S 
Second billing goes, surprisingly, to a 1972 MV Agusta 750S, in lovely low-mileage condition (6500 miles on the clock).  Selling for a whopping £85,500 ($143,713), which is about double what I considered the going rate, the MV 750s have always seemed more collectible than rideable, as they're plenty common in people's living rooms, but not so much on the road... that's my personal 30-year survey.  They're undeniably gorgeous, and I've ridden a couple...but I think a Ducati 900SS is a better bike - faster and more nimble.  Ducati didn't win 63 World Championships with exotic 4-cylinder DOHC racers, the MV wins as the stuff of dreams.
Original-paint 1914 Henderson...and my, how 100 years gives a beating to a paint job
Next up is a genuine rarity; an original paint 1914 Henderson 4-cylinder, which sold for £79,900 ($134,300).  The early 'long frame' Henderson is one of the most coveted of American motorcycles, considered a two-wheeled Deusenberg, being durable, fast, and very beautiful.  This particular machine was originally imported to Oslo, Norway, and clearly stored well.  This price reflects what it would likely fetch in the USA.
Very nice Series C Vincent Black Shadow
This 1953 Vincent Series C Black Shadow sold for £70,940 ($119,240), which is pretty much the global price for an immaculate 'C' Shadow.  This machine was originally sold to the Indian Sales Corp in San Francisco, and I wish I'd found it there!
The ultra-rare Bimota HB-1, one of 9 kits sold
The first of my 'also rans' in the 'I need to spend more than $100grand or I can't go home' category is a surprise: the first Honda-Bimota teamup, the HB-1 of 1975, Bimota's very first model, and one of only ten built between the first prototype Honda-based Bimota racer, and this machine in 1975.  Nine were sold as kits only, including this one, as Bimota weren't interested in selling complete road machines at the time (and sadly, are no longer doing thus today).  This HB-1 has an engine pumped up to 970cc, and I'm sure it still flies, although I doubt it will see much café racer time on the streets, having just been purchased for £57,500 ($96,650).
An all original 1939 Brough Superior SS80 with petrol tube sidecar
The last of the big sellers was another Brough Superior, this time a late SS80 with AMC engine and a Brough petrol-tube sidecar, as originally specified.  It's believed this machine is all original, and is in lovely shape.  It sold for £55,200 ($92,783).
If you needed an Ugly, er, Egli-Vincent, this one with new crankcases could have been yours for a bid over $33,827...
Lest you think it was all crazy money at Stafford, a perusal of the catalog shows the vast majority of machines sold were affordable, and some were downright cheap.  Just don't expect to find a big British twin for easy money nowadays - not even a Hesketh...

By the way, the 1929 Ex-Works TT Scott I featured a few weeks ago sold for £31,050 ($52,300).


Anonymous said...

To me, the Bimota HB1 is the surprise high sale. Is this not a world record price for any Bimota?

Patrick said...

Hi Paul,

Brough's Brough...

For that price, I do hope George actually put his bum on it and rode it, not just the usual GB tax dodge so he could sell a brand new bike as a second hand one (with, obviously, less taxation...) by registering it to himself first... ;-)

And what is it these days that a pile of sh*te with a good name on it can fetch zillions... Has any sense completely left the room while fashion and hype takes over???

I pity the modern and young collector...


Lewis said...

I just looked through the auction catalog and you are right there is a lot of fabulous stuff for easy money.

Even adding on a grand or so for shipping to the midwest USA I saw some really interesting stuff in the $12,000 range and some insanely fun stuff for under $3000.

You should do an article on the best bang for you buck vintage bikes.

Anonymous said...

Dear Paul,

I hope this finds you well. I've just read your Stafford report and as usual, I think your observations are right on the money. I wasn't able to attend due to an injury sustained whilst attempting to kick into life a certain recalcitrant bevel drive twin of Italian origin. Ah the joys of middle age.

Anyway, a couple of thoughts. The £70k shadow appeared to have non numbered crank cases, so either this bike was expensive or the one owner supposedly numbers matching bike sold by H&H last Thursday at £82k was cheap. On the MV, perhaps rarity plays its part too, but as far as I could see this staggeringly pricy example had the wrong exhausts (too widely spaced apart, looked like patterns made up possibly using original end plates) and a badly recovered and thus wrongly shaped seat. As for Italian mileage...

FYI my 100 is hopefully weeks if not days away from the completion of its gentle recommissioning, a tidy bonniksen time and trip sits in my kitchen cupboard, as the waiting cherry to drop on top of the finished cake. Pity I won't be able to kick her over for a few weeks.

All the best,

Peter Bullard

PS I own the ex London Racing motorcycle show/ Dixon Racing Bimota SB2 1977. Less rare than the HB1 but hardly commonplace at 140 examples completed. Given the pedigree (Tamburini's first road bike etc) and its technical innovation, I think they're under appreciated. So whilst none of us really gains from rampant price inflation, I was in some senses pleased to see the HB1 given some recognition. I think NGK Sparkright's piece in Bike Magazine in period put it all perfectly when he summed up that whilst paying dearly for the privilege, the buyer was "getting something marvellous for his money." Or something like that. Anyway, it seems no one was listening. I've owned mine since 1982, aside from a short break in the late 80s... And used to ride it to work...But that's another story.