Bonhams and Mecum Auctions are both gearing up for the 2018 Las Vegas motorcycle auctions. Bonahms’ one-day event happens Thursday, Jan. 25, 2018, at the Rio Hotel & Casino, while Mecum will hold an expanded five-day auction extravaganza starting on Tuesday, Jan. 23 and ending Saturday, Jan. 27, at South Point Hotel & Casino. Bonhams has yet to release a full consignment list, but in keeping with their previous Las Vegas auctions we anticipate a 250- to 300-strong list of vintage bikes. Mecum, on the other hand, plans to sell an incredible 1,750 motorcycles, a huge jump up from the 1,000 bikes consigned for last year’s four-day event. It will be interesting to see how that translates dollar-wise. Last year, Mecum reported total sales of $13.7 million. Assuming the 2018 offerings are of similar value, the potential is there for total sales topping $23 million. Bonhams’ 2017 sales were an estimated $4 million, with 240 bikes sold, but bikes at Bonhams tended to sell for more, selling at an average price of $16,667 versus the $13,700 average at Mecum.
Headlining Bonhams’ auction is the ex-Jack Ehret 1951 Vincent Black Lightning (below), which Ehret rode to take the Australian Land Speed Record in 1953 at 141.509mph. Originally owned by Australian rider Tony McAlpine, who assembled the bike himself while working at Vincent, the Ehret Vincent was clocked at 130mph running alongside — and out-accelerating — the legendary Gunga Din, perhaps the most famous of all Vincents and the test bed for the Vincent Black Shadow and Lightning. Showing 8,686 kilometers on its Smiths Chronometric speedometer (all of them race miles), the Vincent was sympathetically restored by renowned Vincent expert Patrick Godet in France and is cosmetically completely original and as last raced by Ehret. Easily the most historically important bike to be offered at the 2018 Vegas auctions, it is expected to sell for $500,000-plus.
Mecum has several headliners in its 1,750-strong portfolio, including a bike we’ve always wanted to ride, a 1980 Mystery Ship. Designed by Craig Vetter of Triumph Hurricane and Vetter Fairing fame, only 10 of the Kawasaki KZ1000-powered Mystery Ships were built, the one on offer being No. 5. One of dozens of bikes being sold from the Bob Weaver Collection, the offered Mystery Ship shows a scant 48 miles on the odometer. It’s in as-new condition, and perfect in every way. Also at Mecum is another classic we’d like to ride, a 1941 Indian Four, the last of Indian’s great inline fours and this one looking particularly grand in its two-tone peach and red color scheme.
Viewed as an indicator of vintage bike values in the U.S., the Vegas auctions are closely watched by buyers and sellers for signs of where the market is moving.