Las Vegas Motorcycle Auction

Firm prices and solid sales at the 2013 Vegas motorcycle auctions.

| May/June 2013

Prices have returned to pre-recession levels with strong demand and a high percentage of motorcycles sold. That’s the best news to come out of this January’s Bonhams and MidAmerica Las Vegas motorcycle Auctions.  

However, one of last year’s auctioneers stayed away: significantly absent in 2013 was RM Auctions. A new contender in 2012, RM attempted to take on the established auctions toe-to-toe, scheduling their sales on the same days as Vegas veteran MidAmerica, which returned this year for its 22nd Vegas motorcycle auction. So with only two auctions this year, dedicated attendees were able to enjoy a more relaxed weekend, being able to get from the Bonhams auction at Bally’s to the MidAmerica at South Point without missing more than a few “memorabilia” items.

Bonhams auctions

Headlining the Bonhams auction, their third at Vegas, was a collection of four overhead cam BMW Rennsport racers, the prize of which was a Walter Zeller-built RS255 using a post-World War II chassis, but with a prewar supercharged engine of the type that won the 1939 Isle of Man TT for Georg Meier. Though it failed to meet the reserve estimate of more than half a million dollars, a sale was agreed to after the Bonhams auction — for $480,000 including buyer’s premium! The RS255 is expected to be on future display in Virgil Elings’ Solvang Vintage Motorcycle Museum in Solvang, California.

At the other end of the scale, bidders were paying big bucks for cutaway display engines: there were 11 on offer, one of which, an NSU single, sold for $2,375. No doubt most were heading for museums. But complete motorcycles were, of course, what most people came to bid on. Bonhams listed around 180 machines for sale, and if the RS255 seemed a little spendy, there were at least 20 complete bikes that sold for less than $1,000, mostly small Hondas and esoteric European mopeds.

Bonhams seems to have an inside track on unrestored barn finds, and a number of exotic early motorcycles went under the hammer, including a 1903 Alldays & Onions single, a 1911 Pope model H, a 1929 30ci Harley-Davidson “Peashooter” and a gloriously crusty 1923 Douglas 750cc OHV flat twin racer. It’s not widely appreciated that the “fore-and-aft” “Duggies” were very successful in the inter-war years in offroad competition, especially grass track and speedway. This important and rare machine sold for a bargain $32,000. Two other Douglases were on offer: a 1953 MkV and a 1955 Dragonfly. Though the Dragonfly model is better known, the MkV is a more ingenious and sophisticated package with torsion bar suspension and a lighter frame. Yet the more conventional Dragonfly, at $17,250, made twice the MkV’s price.

A couple of other machines that caught my attention included a 1971 BSA A70L Lightning 750 and a 1972 Laverda “SFC.” The A70L was a homologation special version of the oil-in-frame A65L Lightning. Just 204 A70s were made, and they’re worth considerably more than a production A65L of the same year. External differences are few, so an unscrupulous seller could “dress up” an A65 to make a few more dollars. But this A70L came from the Laurence Lattin collection, meaning it arrived with decent provenance, and appeared to be correct and original. In need of a lot of TLC, it sold for just $12,650 to an enthusiastic buyer and will no doubt become the base for a profitable restoration.

Ride 'Em, Don't Hide 'Em Getaway

Classic Motorcycle Touring and Events.

The latest classic motorcycle events and tours.