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Circa-1895 Hildebrand & Wolfmüller motorcycle sells for $132,000!

by Richard Backus

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1895 Hildebrand & Wolfmuller - 2
Circa 1895 Hildebrand & Wolfmüller sold at Bonhams' Stafford auction April 25 for $131,866, almost double pre-sale estimates. 

One of the few surviving Hildebrand & Wolfmüller motorcycles, the world’s first production motorcycle, sold for £86,200 – $131,866 at current exchange – at Bonhams' April 25 auction, held during the annual International Classic Motorcycle Show at Stafford, England. The amount was close to double of most pre-sale estimates, which had the bike’s value pegged at $65,000 to perhaps $100,000.

Manufactured in Germany and built under license in France between 1894 and 1897, the Hildebrand & Wolfmüller is significant as the first powered two-wheeler to enter series production, and is the first such machine to which the name “motorcycle” (motorrad in German) was ever applied. Power was from a 2-cylinder, water-cooled 4-stroke engine displacing 1,488cc and producing 2.5hp at 240rpm. It was, until not too long ago, the largest production motorcycle built.

The “barn find” example that sold, a circa 1895 model, had been in the ownership of the vendor’s family in the USA since at least the early 1930s, which is when it last ran. Presented in original, unrestored condition, the machine returned home, selling to a private collector in Germany.


Other stars of the show included a 1938 Brough Superior SS100, which brought a stunning $241,281, almost $50,000 more than estimated. Restored, it hasn’t been licensed since 1959. A 500cc 1935 AJS Model 10 drew $25,500, double the pre-sale estimate, and a 1982 Suzuki GS1000G with only 1,937 miles on the clock hammered at $4,925, a relative bargain it seems compared with some of the other top money grabbers.

An interesting sale full of fascinating machines drawing top dollar, the Bonhams' Stafford sale shows the market for classic bikes is not only strong, but growing. Go here to view full results from the Bonhams sale. – Richard Backus