Motorcycle Classics Blogs > Black Side Down

Supercharged Vincent brings record price but misses pre-sale estimates

by Richard Backus


Tags: Supercharged Vincent, Reg Dearden, Bonhams auction,

Dearden supercharged Vincent
English motorcycle dealer Reg Dearden commissioned Vincent to build him this one-off supercharged Vincent Black Lightning in 1950 to break the world speed record. The bike never made a single run. 

The supercharged ex-Reg Dearden Vincent Black Lightning sold for $383,400 at Bonham’s Stafford, England, auction Oct. 19. Some serious coin, to be sure, but well short of pre-sale estimates that predicted the bike selling at closer to $500,000. But even if it didn’t hit estimates, the final price still ranks as an all-time record high for a British bike sold at auction.

So why didn’t it sell for more? Auction watcher Paul d’Orleans thinks it simply comes down to poor marketing by Bonhams. Among issues limiting the final price, he notes a poorly prepared sales catalog that failed to bring out the Vincent’s special nature. Additionally, d’Orleans thinks Bonhams simply failed to appreciate the unique nature of the machine and the challenge of selling it in tough economic times.

Marty Dickerson's Blue Bike
Marty Dickerson's "Blue Bike" 

Bonhams held its annual auction at the Petersen Automotive Museum in Los Angeles Oct. 25, where the headliner was yet another Vincent, Marty Dickerson’s “Blue Bike,” developed and ridden by Dickerson over a 50-year period. Pre-sale estimates suggested a selling price pushing $500,000 (we figured it might go for around $250,000), but the bike failed to sell at all, as did a number of other high-profile bikes including a 1974 Ducati 750SS Imola Replica and a 1952 Vincent Rapide. Like the Stafford auction, we have to wonder if the current economic conditions are causing buyers at the high end to be a bit more circumspect in their purchases.

McQueen's passport
Steve and Neile McQueen's Chinese visas from 1975 sold for $9,000 

Then again, economic woes didn’t stop somebody from shelling out $9,000 (!) for Steve McQueen’s 1975 passport and Chinese visa or $2,500 for a letter from President Lyndon Johnson to McQueen. Interest in anything McQueen has been on the up tick, but the prices paid for pieces of McQueen memorabilia were pretty amazing, including $1,020 for a birthday card and note written by McQueen. Go figure.  – Richard Backus