Harley-Davidson Strap Tank
2015 SOLD for $ 650K before fees by Mecum
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. This fancy designation describes the nickel-plated steel bands suspending the fuel and oil tanks from the frame.
On March 21, 2015, Mecum sold for $ 650K before fees a Harley-Davidson strap tank (single cylinder) made in 1907, lot S62. This rare machine is in excellent unrestored condition after being held until 1993 by the son of its first owner.
2023 SOLD for $ 935K by Mecum
Less than a dozen 1908 Strap Tank bikes are surviving. One of them had been in 1941 a barn find near Milwaukee in a complete condition. It remained in Wisconsin for 66 years in the home of its happy finder.
Expertly restored, it was sold for $ 935K by Mecum on January 28, 2023, lot S174.1. Its original tank, wheels, engine belt pulley, seat cover and muffler sleeve are included with the sale.
That year saw significant new developments, including the incorporation of the company, the expansion of the plant and the first prototype with a twin engine.
SOLD! SOLD! SOLD!— Mecum Auctions (@mecum) January 29, 2023
This 1908 Harley-Davidson Strap Tank is among the oldest surviving models of this extremely rare breed.
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1911 Flying Merkel
2015 SOLD for $ 385K before fees by Mecum
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, 2015, Mecum sold for $ 385K before fees a Flying Merkel also made in 1911, still in its original configuration, lot S79. This remarkably authentic motorcycle has even retained its bright orange tank paint.
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 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 was sold for $ 775K before fees by Mecum on March 21, 2015, lot S57.
1937 Small Tank
2019 SOLD for $ 420K by Mecum
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.
On January 26, 2019, Mecum sold for $ 420K from a lower estimate of $ 300K a 1937 Crocker Small tank 61-25, lot S151. The same auction house sold a largely rebuilt 1938 Small tank V-Twin 1 liter for $ 340K on August 20, 2016, lot S169.
1939 Big Tank
2019 SOLD for $ 700K by Mecum
On January 25, 2019, Mecum sold for $ 700K 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.
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.
A V Twin with Big Tank made in 1942 was sold for $ 350K before fees by Mecum on March 21, 2015, lot S69.
1951 Black Lightning by Vincent HRD
2018 SOLD for $ 930K by Bonhams
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 was sold for $ 930K by Bonhams on January 25, 2018, 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 White Shadow by Vincent HRD
2016 SOLD for $ 430K by Bonhams
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, 2016, Bonhams listed a 1952 Black Shadow that includes some Black Lightning features for fenders and foot control. It passed, 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 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 on January 8, 2015, also by Bonhams.
It is not so simple. The 2016 sale by Bonhms 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 was sold for $ 430K from a lower estimate of $ 300K, lot 135.
1990 Harley Davidson ex Johnny Hallyday
2022 SOLD for € 470K by Artcurial
The trip of five bikers starts in February 1990. Johnny is using a brand new high end Harley-Davidson Softail Heritage 1340.
The bike is reworked in 1995 and presented to Johnny by a sponsor. The singer names it Laura Eyes as a tribute to the color of the eyes of his 12 years old beloved daughter. He rides it it in the roads of New Mexico for his English speaking clip Can't stop wanting you.
On 5, 6 and 11 September, 1998 Johnny rides that bike for entering one of the most spectacular shows in a fully filled Stade de France in a three day show attended by 240,000 spectators overall. In that event that star bike was the prize of a contest managed for Johnny's fans.
The winner kept it proudly at home until he consigned it to Artcurial. It was sold for € 470K on March 18, 2022, lot 187. 20 % of the proceeds were offered by the seller to a children's charity created by Johnny's widow.
1991 Terminator 2 Screen Used Harley Davidson
2018 SOLD for $ 480K by Profiles in History
Terminator 2, subtitled Judgment Day, is released in 1991. The most expensive film ever made at that time, it was much praised for its visual effects.
The poster features Terminator in leather attire, handsomely riding his bike and raising a shotgun from one of the most spectacular actions of the film.
The screen used motorcycle, a black 1991 Harley-Davidson Fat Boy, was sold for $ 480K on June 5, 2018 by Profiles in History, lot 2324 here linked on Heritage Auctions website. It was sold on a bill of sale and untested with 392 miles on the odometer.