2018 Las Vegas
2018 LAS VEGAS MOTORCYCLE AUCTION WEEK IS A BLAST!
I've been covering these Las Vegas auctions for this website for years. I've sold a few bikes here also, over the years. It all started with MidAmerica Auctions when they first came to Vegas in 1992 with a small one-day classic motorcycle sale. Over the years it slowly grew in size and reputation. By around 2010 it had grown to 3-days and around 700 bikes. The gettin' was so good that it attracted other auction houses. Bonhams was first with a one-day sale on Thursday night of auction week every year, and they worked out a cooperative arrangement with MidAmerica who would take a break on Thursday evening, so that they wouldn't compete with one another. Bonham's sale has never grown past one day and a maximum of around 200 bikes or so. This year it was more like 100. Then in 2012 RM Auctions showed up and played some pretty aggressive hardball in an effort to take MidAmerica, basically a family business, out of the game. It got a little ugly, but MidAmerica, and their strong fan base prevailed (it pays to have a good reputation). RM never returned, and a couple of years later, MidAmerica sold their business to classic car auction giant Mecum Auctions. Mecum has brought their glitz, glamour and professionalism to 2018 Las Vegas Motorcycle Auction Week, as they have for the last 4 years, during which time they've grown it to 5 days and this year a staggering 1,750 bikes! Wow!
2018 Las Vegas Motorcycle Auction Week:
MECUM BRINGS 1,750 BIKES TO VEGAS
Tuesday-Saturday, Jan 23-27, 2018
You've got to hand it to Mecum. Years of experience really pays off, and it shows in the level of organization, seemingly endless high-energy, and yet a calm professionalism that permeates the whole atmosphere. Like the bikes being arranged with in logical order under huge signs showing what day they'll be running. And plenty of room between bikes (most of them anyway). It takes an army of people to get all those bikes in place, them moved across the auction block at just the right time, them moved back into place again. But they get it all done, with ease. It helps that they do indeed have an army. The auction itself started out a little slow, with fairly soft bidding, but they generally run the lower-priced, less-desirable early in the week, which started for Mecum on Tuesday, January 23, 2018. The big action was expected for Friday, January 26, and Saturday, the 27th. We will publish the auction results shortly. For me, this 2018 Las Vegas Motorcycle Auction Week was like the world's largest motorcycle show. And you can really literally see it all, from brass-era antiques to modern machines to racing bikes to classics, and everything in between. I took sets of pictures of almost 200 classic British bikes, and tons of other cool stuff. And had some fun in Las Vegas while I was at it.
ABOVE, BELOW & BOTTOM: Just a few small slices of the hundreds & hundreds of bikes on display of every make, model, year, type & condition. Well organized in chronological order, they took up two of these huge rooms plus a few more smaller, but still big rooms. There were gorgeous bikes everywhere. Some went cheap & some went for crazy money. It's an auction, after all.
2018 Las Vegas Motorcycle Auction Week:
BONHAMS GOES FOR QUALITY OVER QUANTITY
Thursday, Jan 25, 2018
Bonham's is the oldest auction house in the world today, having been established in 1693. No one else comes close. And they bring their decidedly British style to Las Vegas every year, conducting their auction in a slow, measured pitch more akin to a stuffy art auction you see in the movies. But buyers love the slower, less stressful pace, and it must work because they sell a lot of motorcycles, and cars, and art, and just about everything else of value that you can think of. In fact, the week before 2018 Las Vegas Motorcycle Auction Week, I was in Scottsdale covering Classic Car Auction Week
where I attended Bonham's classic car auction they had there, with some of the most gorgeous Ferraris, Jaguars and air-cooled Porches I've ever seen. A week later, Bonham's was in Las Vegas with around 100 gorgeous hand-picked bikes for sale. Not knocking Mecum's sale (above), they had bikes in a mix of conditions, including project bikes, and even salvage-titled wrecks. They also had some show-winners, and everything in between. Bonham's had many fewer than Mecum, but every bike was the equivalent of the best that Mecum had. Nothing but the best. Loads of Indians and old Harleys, lots of European bikes (mostly Italian and BMWs), and very few British bikes. This fits the pattern over these last few years that the inventory of British bikes is dwindling, while American bikes, European bikes, and Japanese bikes are growing in market share (although this Bonhams sale had few Japanese bikes). We will publish the auction results very soon. While I was there to photograph Brit bikes, I found myself taken by the beauty of the Indian motorcycle. I took full sets of pictures of nearly all of them, just because I liked them so much. And of course, Indians have a weird connection to British bikes anyway, right?
ABOVE & BELOW: Lots of antique American bikes lined the room, mostly Harleys and Indians. There were also tons of European bikes, led by the Italians and the Bimmers.
We covered 2018 Las Vegas Motorcycle Auction Week with LIVE FEEDS on our Facebook Page
all week long from the auctions. They're still there. Visit our page, check out the videos, and "Like" them. Thanks.
So, let's see some bikes, already!
Some of Mecum's Brit bikes:
ABOVE: This 1938 Norton ES2 International sold for $16,500.
BELOW: This 1948 Sunbeam S7 sold for $8,250.
ABOVE: This 1949 Matchless G80S sold for $17,600.
BELOW: This is a 1950 AJS 7R 'Boy Racer', and this one sold for $30,500.
ABOVE: This gorgeous engine is part of a 1951 Ariel 350 that sold for $8,525.
BELOW: And this lovely engine belongs to a 1951 BSA Gold Star that fetched $20,000 even.
ABOVE: There were more Sunbeams than I've ever seen in one place before. This one's a 1951 S7 and yes, they're all the same hospital-green.
BELOW: This 1951 Triumph 500 Speed Twin sold for $13,200.
ABOVE: This 1953 AJS Model 18C sold for $8,800.
BELOW: This 1955 Ariel Red Hunter sold for $12,100.
ABOVE: 1955 Triumph TR5.
BELOW: 1956 Triumph TRW. The TRW was a flathead (side valve) twin.
ABOVE: The Huntmaster was Ariel's 650 twin. This rare 1958 Ariel Huntmaster sold for a mere $4,950.
BELOW: This fully-restored 1958 Ariel Square Four failed to sell.
ABOVE: This 1961 Matchless G12 650 twin went for $12,100. A '58 Huntmaster 650 twin sold for just $4,950 at the same sale! You never know what's going to happen at an auction.
BELOW: A classic "Bathtub Triumph", this 1961 Triumph 3TA Twenty One 350 twin sold for $16,500. That's considerably more than most of the 650 Bonnevilles that sold at 2018 Las Vegas Motorcycle Auction Week.
ABOVE: This 1962 Norton Dominator 88 sold for $14,850.
BELOW: This is one of the last Bathtub Triumphs, and the first year for unit construction. This is a 1963 Triumph 6T Thunderbird, and it sold for a whopping $14,300. Bathtub bikes are increasing in value today. Designed to deal with the wet weather in England, Americans never liked them much when new, and stripped the bodywork off. That makes an original Bathtub Triumph with all its sheetmetal in place hard to find, and buyers are recognizing that fact today.
ABOVE: Norton built an excellent line of middleweight bikes in the early 60s. This 1964 Norton 400 Electro is a fine example. A 400cc parallel twin, OHV but with the cam set high in the crankcase to shorten the pushrods. And electric start. Holy cow! Someone should have told Triumph. This lovely machine sold for just $2,970. Talk about a steal!
BELOW: As the market over-saturated with Triumphs, BSAs have grown in popularity and value. This 1967 BSA A65 Lightning sold for $11,000.
ABOVE: This gorgeous, fully-restored 1967 Triumph Bonneville sold for $9,000. I'm sure it cost much more than that to restore it to this condition.
BELOW: This looks like your typical BSA 650 right? It's not. It's the 500 version, the Royal Star. This 1967 BSA A50 Royal Star went for $8,800. Gorgeous bike.
ABOVE: A fine example of that weird relationship that Indian had with British bikes. This is a 1970 Indian-Velo 500. Floyd Clymer (of the repair manuals) bought the Indian name out of bankruptcy in the 60s & started dropping British motorcycle engines into Italian-built frames, and sold them as Indians. The first used a Royal Enfield 750 Interceptor engine, few were sold. Next, he stuffed a Velocette 500 Venom engine into the Italian frame, and they came out great. They were beautiful, well-made bikes that were light, handled well and were pretty fast. Unfortunately, they were also very expensive and so failed in the marketplace. This one sold for $30,000. Wow!
BELOW: This had to be the deal of the entire week. This impeccable 1970 Triumph Bonneville sold for just...are you ready for this?...$6,050!!! Being in the right place at the right time is everything in an auction.
ABOVE: Talk about rare, this is a 1971 BSA A70 Lightning. What's so rare about that? It's not a 650cc A65, it's a 750cc A70...and it has a 5-speed. BSA made very few of them, then closed their doors in 1972. Super rare indeed, it sold for $16,000.
BELOW: This is a 1971 Rickman-Honda 750 Cafe Racer. Rickmans are gaining in popularity & trading value these days. This lovely example sold for $12,100.
ABOVE: As you would expect, there we plenty of luscious Norton Commandos on hand. This 1974 Norton Commando Roadster sold for $14,300.
BELOW: This 1970 Commando 750S sold for $13,200 (I know, it's out of order).
ABOVE: One of my favorite bikes, the 1973 Triumph Bonneville. First year for the 750, first year for the standard 5-speed, and first year for the front disk brake. And they still shifted on the right, as God intended. This one sold for $7,700.
BELOW: There is nothing prettier than a 1973 Triumph X-75 Hurricane, especially that lovely body & paint scheme. This one sold for $28,050.
ABOVE: Another of my personal favorites (as you may be able to tell, I judge them by how they are to ride, I don't place my bikes in a display case). The 1974 Triumph Trident was the last before they changed the bike completely into the T160, in its final year 1975. But this nice 1974 T150 Trident sold for just $6,050. I think they're under-valued in the market today. But that's likely to change. Only 27,000 triples were built total, between BSA & Triumph. Nice buy on a nice bike.
BELOW: This 1982 Triumph Bonneville Electro was one of the last Meriden-built bikes. They managed to get a few 1983 models out before they folded up their tent. The Electro was so-called because it had an electric starter. It was built by Lucas, so it didn't always work, but it was long-overdue. And way too late to save the company. This one sold for $8,000.
MORE TO COME...SHORTLY
I took literally thousands of pictures of hundreds of bikes. I'm going through them now, and will be publishing more and more of them as I get them processed. So keep coming back to this page as I will be adding lots more content in the next few days and weeks.
Check out these BOOKS on
CLASSIC BRITISH MOTORCYCLES
Classic British Motorcycles
Classic British Motorcycles: The Cutting Edge- Road Bikes, 1950 to 1975
Classic British Bikes: The golden age of the British motorcycle, featuring 100 machines shown in over 200 photographs
The Complete British Motorcycle: The Classics from 1907 to the Present
Motorcycling in the '50s (Veloce Classic Reprint)
Classic British Motor Cycles
Classic British Motor Cycles: Final Years
Whatever Happened to the British Motorcycle Industry?
Classic British Bikes
Save the Triumph Bonneville: The Inside Story of the Meriden Workers' Co-op
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