1907 Motorcycles in Milwaukee
2015 SOLD for $ 650K before fees
The city of Milwaukee has a specialty for machine tools and railways and is a natural place for such developments. For example, Merkel is a manufacturer of engines and already assembles motorcycles. Evinrude designs gas engines for automobiles.
In such a suitable environment, two very young men, William Harley and Arthur Davidson, build their first prototype of a motorized bicycle. In 1903, after two years of effort, it is a disappointment: the machine is not able to climb hills without assistance of pedals.
This failure galvanizes the inventors. Their audacity, which will be winning, is to equip their two wheelers with increasingly larger engines, ensuring forever the difference between pedal bicycle and motorcycle. In 1906, they make 50 units of their first commercial model, the Harley-Davidson strap tank.
The following year saw significant new developments, including the incorporation of the company, the expansion of the plant and the first prototype with a twin engine.
On March 21 in Las Vegas, Mecum sells a Harley-Davidson strap tank (single cylinder) made in 1907. This rare machine is in excellent original condition after being held until 1993 by the son of its first owner. It is estimated $ 800K, lot S62.
1911 Flying Merkel in the Motordrome
2015 SOLD for $ 385K before fees
His Merkel-Light model of motorcycles was popular but the glory of this brand began in 1911 when his business was bought by an Ohio company and produced the Flying Merkel for competition. This new project was certainly earlier : the Flying Merkel name had been released two years before.
The motorcycle competition develops at the same time. The first board track racing, also known as motordrome, opens near Los Angeles in 1910. Inspired by the velodrome of the bicycle racing, it is a circular track 1.6 km in circumference. In 1911, a Flying Merkel achieves a great endurance performance by running 80 Km at an average speed of 120 Km/h.
On March 21 in Las Vegas, Mecum sells a Flying Merkel also made in 1911, still in its original configuration. This remarkably authentic motorcycle has even retained its bright orange tank paint. It is estimated $ 350K, lot S79.
Competition was very tempting but the involved people did not appreciate the difficulties of funding for this activity. The fragile Los Angeles wooden track closed after a fire in 1913 and Merkel production ceased in 1915.
1915 The Speed of a Cyclone
2015 SOLD for $ 775K before fees
The Cyclone had a very new concept with an OHC (Over Head Camshaft) system that significantly reduced the number of mechanical transfers. This model was timed on track at over 170 km / h, breaking the speed record very far ahead of Indian and Excelsior. It was not until 1925 that a Brough Superior SS100 could go faster.
At all times, competition is expensive. The mechanical parts of the Cyclone were fragile. The Joerns Motor Manufacturing Company was not interested in industrialization and investment and had to cease its operations as early as 1916. No US constructor tried to continue their OHC V-engine concept that had been so promising.
Only six units of the Cyclone survive. One of them, made in 1915, painted in yellow canary which was the signature color of the brand, was bought by its current owner in 1984 in the auction of the Steve McQueen estate. This bike is estimated $ 650K for sale by Mecum in Las Vegas on March 21, lot S57.
1922 Brough in Brooklands
2012 SOLD 290 K£ including premium
George Brough wanted to be the champion of speed. He established a workshop in Nottingham and began designing the best motorcycle in the world.
In 1922, one of his machines showed promising features. He made a convincing demonstration at Brooklands, but the burst front tire sent the bike back to the workshop and the champion to the hospital.
Some changes were necessary. Now equipped with a JAP engine (manufactured by JA Prestwich in Tottenham), the same specimen was used by Brough in many trials in 1922/1923.
The new configuration enables to consider this unit as the development model of the Brough Superior SS80, where SS means Super Sports and 80 guarantees that the machine has been monitored as being able to reach 80 mph.
This heroic 1922 bike is estimated £ 250K, for sale on October 23 at Duxford by H & H Classics. It is illustrated by two old photos and a recent one in the press release shared by Auction Central News.
H & H often organizes prestigious sales of motorcycles. On October 22, 2010, this auctioneer sold for £ 286K including premium a 1929 Brough Superior SS100, from that high end model introduced to the market as early as 1924.
POST SALE COMMENT
The stories surrounding a bike have a role of utmost importance for a collectible motorcycle. This SS80 nicknamed Old Bill had all the advantages. It was sold £ 290K including premium.
1925 Grand Sport by Brough
2019 SOLD for $ 360K including premium
This new prototype becomes the first unit of the most prestigious model of the brand, the Brough Superior SS100 Alpine Grand Sport (AGS). It has been discussed previously in this column (unsold at Phillips de Pury in December 2010).
Commercial production is announced in September 1925. Compared to the basic SS100, its center of gravity is lowered and the tank volume is increased. The engine is a JAP Special designed at the request of George Brough.
The eighth AGS is purchased by T.E. Lawrence better known as Lawrence of Arabia. This is his fifth Brough. The thirteenth AGS, delivered to its first customer in November 1925, is estimated $ 350K for sale by Mecum in Las Vegas on January 25, lot F123. The twentieth, delivered to an agent in January 1926, was sold for £ 280K including premium by RM Auctions on October 31, 2012.
Another bike from the MC Collection makes its way into the top 10!— Mecum Auctions (@mecum) January 25, 2019
This 1925 Brough Superior SS100 Alpine Grand Sport sold for a hammer price of $325,000.
Check out all the details right here: https://t.co/LvyiBFyEuT#MecumMotorcycles #MecumVegas #Mecum #MecumAuctions pic.twitter.com/8pHnUzLQPO
1936 New Engines for Brough
2020 SOLD for £ 276K including premium
Brough had been using JAP engines since 1922. Due to production difficulties, he changes his supplier in 1935 for the SS80 and in 1936 for the SS100. He chooses his competitor Matchless, who had bought AJS in 1931, will buy Sunbeam in 1937 and will become AMC in 1938.
On December 11 in Bicester, Bonhams sells an SS100 assembled in 1936, lot 232 estimated £ 240K. This machine has kept its matching engine and frame. The 982 cc engine was the very first "AMC" production engine received by Brough for the SS100. It had been preceded by a single prototype. Please watch the video shared by Bonhams.
Brough remained at the top of the range. The speed record was broken in April 1937 by an SS100 equipped with a supercharged JAP engine, timed at 273 km/h. This record was broken twice before the end of the same year, by Gilera and then by BMW.
2019 SOLD for $ 420K including premium by Mecum
1939 Bespoke Bikes by Crocker
2019 SOLD for $ 700K including premium
Until the end of production in 1942 the Crocker motorcycles are produced on order, manually and individually. Then becoming a subcontractor to Douglas Aircraft for aviation parts, Crocker ceases all activity in motorcycles. He was right : times had changed and such activity was no longer viable without an actual production line.
From 1938 the two main options of the Crocker V-Twin were the displacement of the engine which could be increased on demand from 1 liter up to 1.5 liters, and the tank volume which was 2.5 gallons for the basic Small tank.
On January 25 in Las Vegas, Mecum sells a Crocker Big tank made in 1939 which has retained its original V-Twin 1 liter engine. It is estimated $ 400K, lot F 111. Please watch the video shared by the auction house.
The same sale also includes a 1937 Crocker Small tank 61-25, lot S151 estimated $ 300K, offered on January 26.
Let us remind two results obtained by Mecum on Crocker V-Twin 1 liter : $ 340K including premium on August 20, 2016 for a largely rebuilt 1938 Small tank, and $ 350K before fees on March 21, 2015 for a 1942 Big tank. Both were sold on a bill of sale.
RESULTS INCLUDING PREMIUM :
1939 : SOLD for $ 700K
1937 : SOLD for $ 420K
1942 Crocker V Twin Big Tank
2015 SOLD for $ 350K before fees by Mecum
narrated in 2016 before the sale of another bike by Mecum (see below)
Assisted by Paul Bigsby, Crocker founded in 1936 in Los Angeles a workshop to manufacture roadster bikes with his two-cylinder engine in a 45 degree V. This significant innovation makes the bike heavier but offers power and speed capable to surpass Indian and Harley Davidson.
A legend narrates that Crocker promised a money back guarantee if one of his motorcycles was overcome by another American bike. History does not seem to confirm. It would have been somehow a bluff as technologies change quickly and Crocker's V Twin had from its debut a lesser performance than the JAP engine that equipped the Brough in England.
Each Crocker V Twin motorcycle is assembled individually on customer order and two units are necessarily different. A major evolution appears in 1938 with the Big Tank option. When the brand ceases all operations in 1942, fewer than 100 Crocker V Twin motorcycles had been built. The exact figure cannot be known because of inconsistencies in assigning the serial numbers but this bike is undoubtedly of great rarity.
A V Twin with Big Tank made during the last year of the brand was sold for $ 350K before fees by Mecum on March 21, 2015, lot S69.
A Crocker made in 1938 with V Twin and Small Tank was sold for $ 340K including premium by Mecum on August 20, 2016, lot S169.
1951 Vincent and the Aussies
2018 SOLD for $ 930K including premium
Vincent HRD now takes all the financial risks to produce the fastest bike in the world. The Black Lightning is the commercial model based on the motorcycle modified for Rollie Free. 31 units are built between 1948 and 1952.
When Vincent HRD was mortgaged for the first time in 1949, the chief engineer Phil Irving returned to his native Australia where he remained the very active vice president and then president of the Vincent HRD Owners Club until he died in 1992.
This effective Australian connection attracts to Vincent HRD's factory in Stevenage an Australian biker named Tony McAlpine who was trying his luck in Europe for the 1951 season. With the help of Phil Vincent, McAlpine prepares the Black Lightning that he will bring back home. The tests are conclusive : his bike is faster than the reference machine of the factory.
The Black Lightning with its 998 cc engine is not compatible with the grand prix of the Fédération Internationale de Motocyclisme limited to 500 cc. McAlpine's bike is almost new when it arrives in Australia. McAlpine does not benefit from the efficiency of his settings : he sells it for preparing the next European season.
In 1953 Jack Ehret, third owner of that Black Lightning, pushes it up to 233 km/h, surpassing the previous Australian record by 35 km/h. Ehret maintained his Black Lightning in very good condition through a sparing use until he sold it in 1999.
This Black Lightning is for sale by Bonhams on January 25 in Las Vegas, lot 131. It had been restarted in 2014 by a specialist of the former brand. The removed parts and the original sidecar are joined to the lot.
1951 Shadows in Many Colors
2016 SOLD for $ 430K including premium
The Black Lightning is a Black Shadow stripped of the equipments required for road homologation that generate weight and loss of speed. A similar strategy was later practiced by Ferrari with cars in the Competizione variant.
The Vincent Black's (Shadow and Lightning, and later Knight and Prince) are distinguished by the black finish of their metal cases, in contrast to the fashion for chrome plated machines.
Vincent accepts special orders. On January 7 in Las Vegas, Bonhams sells a 1952 Black Shadow that includes some Black Lightning features for fenders and foot control. It is estimated $ 200K, lot 130.
With British humor, Vincent also offered in its catalog a white Black Shadow where the absence of black finish reveals the bare aluminum. Only 15 White Shadows were made and this variant is highly sought after by collectors.
The conformance with the original configuration is very important. A White Shadow made in 1950 was sold for $ 111K including premium by Bonhams on 9 May 2009. Having been twice repainted, it had a red frame. After regaining the normal condition for a White Shadow through a skillful restoration, it was sold for $ 225K including premium on January 8, 2015, also by Bonhams.
It is not so simple. The next sale in Las Vegas offers another one of the 15 White Shadows, made in 1951. It is also red painted ! The Vincent Owner's Club states that this White is the only one among all the Shadows to have been factory painted in red by Vincent. It is estimated $ 300K, lot 135.
1951 White Shadow SOLD for $ 430K including premium
Lot 130 unsold