1909 Wagner on the block at Pebble Beach

| 7/21/2010 4:40:18 PM

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1909 Wagner 442cc single

1909 Wagner to be auction by MidAmerica Auctions at Pebble Beach Aug. 13-15, 2010.

Here’s something you don’t — and won’t — see every day; a 1909 Wagner. Built by the Wagner Motorcycle Co. in Saint Paul, Minn., it’s a 442cc belt-drive single and likely one of only a handful in existence. The bike, an unrestored original that’s been in the same family since the teens, will be auctioned this year by MidAmerica Auctions August 13-15 during the annual Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance.

This is the second year for motorcycles at Pebble Beach, and the second year for MidAmerica to hold a motorcycle auction at the prestigious event, a previously car-centric celebration of vintage machinery. Last year’s MidAmerica auction (go here to see our story on the 2009 event) featured 84 motorcycles, of which 44, or 54 percent, sold. So far, MidAmerica has 81 bikes consigned, almost even with last year’s offering. Although last year’s performance was considered acceptable for a first-time auction, it was hardly a home run, so it’ll be interesting to see what the action’s like this year. Overall, the auction scene has been pretty lively this year. Although average bikes are somewhat cheap, good bikes are still getting top dollar, belying the seemingly depressed economy.

The Wagner is a particularly rare machine as Minnesota-based Wagner supposedly built few motorcycles during its 1901-1914 production. Motorcycle historian Jerry Hatfield’s Standard Catalog of American Motorcycles, 1898-1981, says an estimated 8,500 single-cylinder machines rolled out of the factory. Although Wagner motorcycles were fairly typical of the time with inlet-over-exhaust engines featuring splash lubrication and, mostly, belt drive (there were some chain-drive models), they did produce a few real oddities, such as single- and twin-engined tandems.

The Wagner on offer is claimed original, purchased in the teens by the grandfather of the current owner; the grandfather is said to have used it riding around the family vineyards in California’s Rancho Cucamonga area. It’s been stored inside since the 1950s, and nothing’s been done to it since, which means it may still be wearing it’s original dirt! We’ll keep you posted on auction results following the Pebble Beach event, which happens August 13,-15. — Richard Backus

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