I cannot express how impressed I was attending the 2019 Mecum Motorcycle Auction, held every January in Las Vegas. The diversity, quality and quantity of bikes was unlike anything I`d ever seen. Having not attended for the prior 3 years I was pleasantly surprised by the upscale presentation and professionalism compared to the old Mid-America event. Frankly, the sheer number of rare, historical and desirable machines made picking favorites difficult. Pared down for space here’s a short list I found incredibly interesting, and three more from Nolan Woodbury mixed in. The prices are from Mecum’s website and with the normal fees attached.
Bill Ross: AJS V4 and Velocette Roarer (Sold / $82.250 and did not sell)
AJS had displayed a prototype 50-degree, 495cc V4 in 1935 and it was the sensation at the Olympia Motorcycle Show that year. Credit this stunning replica to Daniel Smith of Vancouver, Canada and the accompanying Velocette Roarer replica, circa 1939. Dan`s attention to detail was impeccable, as was his perseverance and skill in making it all happen. Rare photos and a rough drawing were studied to build the AJS; molds were fabricated, castings were poured as raw materials materialized into running replicas. Fees included, the 495cc AJS sold for $82,250. (Below far right)
Failing to meet reserve, the supercharged Velo Replica was an equally stunning execution of a one-off built by Velocette in England just before WW2. Underneath the trademark (and flawless) black and gold livery, twin counter rotating crankshafts, a supercharger, shaft final drive and more made this a unique and special piece of motorcycle art. Among the most impressive specials we’ve seen.
N. Woodbury: 1965 Dunstall Dominator (Sold, $34.010) Two ultra-rare Magni Guzzis offered at Bonhams was the primary reason I traveled to Vegas January 2019. Everything after would be cake. Sure, I knew there’s be a flood of bikes at Mecum’s South Bay basement sale, but did not anticipate the amount of serious hardware.
I would have made the trip just for this Norton Dunstall too, had I studied the mailer. Some years back I penned a report on the incredible Paul Dunstall, who according to the accompanying paperwork delivered this reworked 750 Atlas to tobacco heir Zach Reynolds. Sold in the UK and used to tour around Europe, it was eventually sold at his estate sale in 1984. Displayed in a museum since the Norton has clearly sat unused for decades, but the original Dunstall fiberglass, paintwork and lettering have (seemingly) all survived well, and the alloy fittings were pristine.
BR: 1974 Moto Guzzi 750S (Sold $13.200) Made only in 1974, this clean, mostly original model followed the 750cc V7 Sport with a production run of 948 units. Like the US import that retained the V7 Sport designation, the 750S was the last of the sporting 750s to retain the performance hi-lift, long duration camshaft developed for the V7S. Like most Euro bikes in 1974 the front brakes were Brembo discs, replacing the costlier four-shoe drum. The adjustable swan neck handlebars stayed too, giving the rider plenty of versatility and adjustment. These machines were not offered in the USA, although the Berliners brought in a few for special customers.
Well-preserved and unmolested the S was close to a factory 1974 with original paint, exhaust and trim. Unknown if the seat was swapped from the specified hump style that the Guzzi factory in Mandello attached. Maybe to accommodate a passenger? This S was absolutely well bought, and if purchased by a riding enthusiast and/or collector 2019 should be remembered as a very good year.r.
NW: 1980 Bimota SB 2 (Sold $56.650) Part of Mecum’s Motorcycle Collection of Stockholm, this Bimota SB 2 was another bike I’ve studied, but not seen in person. Consider by some as THE top Euro exotic, I couldn’t resist wrapping my hands around the Bimota’s grips, imagining what a real ride would be like. The auction description read it has been taken off the road in 1984 and recently restored. Comparing it to images of factory assembled examples, this one matches well.
Brilliantly executed by the legendary Massimo Tamburini (Ducati 916, MV F4) Bimota’s SB 2 was probably the most advanced machine available in 1977. Compact compared to its 70s contemporaries, the stout frame has adjustment for fork rake and a swingarm that pivots on outrigger bearings for perfect tension. An 810cc kit was also available for the DOHC GS750 engine too. Bold graphics cover the aluminum-reinforced fiberglass, this with a classic brown velour stitched seat. “Nothing we’ve ridden, except Suzuki’s RG500 can touch it”, wrote the editors of Cycle magazine in a 1977 test. “The cornering clearance and strength of its frame all work together to provide handling, response and stability that’s beyond our critical expertise.”
BR: Seeley 500 (Sold $11,000). Early on, a glance turned into admiration towards this Seeley 500 racer. Powered by a Matchless G50 single, British engineer/tuner/rider Colin Seeley used his frame design to fabricate the ‘Condor’ line, manufactured in the 60s and 70s. This was done after acquiring most of the racing department stock at Matchless, which had withdrawn from racing.
This example showed a Quaife close-ratio six-speed, Newby belt drive, disc brake, alloy tank and many other purposeful appointments. The nickel plated Reynolds 531 frame presented well and the bike was in `ready to race` condition. Knowing of its popularity and the following Seeley has worldwide the hammer price was certainly lower than I expected. This was well below the (perhaps optimistically) high $40s-to-$50 thousand estimate published in Mecum’s catalog.
Not being a nut and bolt original and updated in spots for competition perhaps discouraged would be collectors from writing the big check. However, for the working class, blue collar hot shot with competition in mind this was an absolute bargain. Very competitive and having won or earned many podium finishes, racers traditionally don’t do well at auction. The chassis is light, robust, effective, and considered by many as one of the best of the era. I chatted with the new owner just after the bidding ended. He was quite delighted and amazed to say the least.
NW: Honda ‘Sandcast’ 750 (Sold $17.600) Yet another exotic from Stockholm, this Swedish import 1969 Honda was billed as a cafe racer, but that misses the mark. Good thought had gone into the bike’s auction description, but this early sandcast was clearly influenced by Europe’s endurance racing scene and finished in the elaborate coachwork made popular by Fritz Egli, George Martin, Rickman and Harris. Heavily greased the Honda had received cast wheels, rear-sets, flipped-backwards forks, twin front discs and a square-section swingarm hooked to Italian shocks. It’s a guess for the engine, save for the 4-into-1 exhaust. Even the stock 28mm Keihin carbs look to have been retained, the bodies finished in a matching shade of marmalade. Regardless of the output, this is certain to be one fun rider.
Ranking among the most impressive customs I’ve seen anywhere, even these carefully aimed photos fail to display the workmanship and attention to detail this machine exudes. The fit, finish and quality of the fiberglass is upper high-end with no corners cut. The edges of the fairing are covered with a protective gasket, and every cable was routed and pinned with custom fasteners. Clearly not everyone’s cup of tea (reflected by the sale price) premium value is reserved for the factory issue. I couldn’t stop looking, as specials crafted in European ‘luxury endurance’ guise are among my favorites. Bold and exotic. Even with white upholstery.
Top Bill: Magni/Moto Guzzi Arturo 1000 (Sold $9000) Walking into the Bonham`s dimly lit auction hall, I spotted the Arturo aside a Magni Sfida, also going under the hammer later that afternoon. This Arturo 1000 is simply a stunning machine and really surprised me; as often happens after finally seeing one in person. The hand formed aluminum tank seems patterned after the 750S America and the frame tapers to perfectly blend in. Tight and tidy the shrink-wrapped, aero boxtail looks to have been purposed from a 60s MV GP racer. Premium Forcella Italia forks are fit and Magni`s signature rear swingarm adds to the wonderment. Admitting a strong bias of the allure, strength and longevity of the big valve Le Mans 1000 engine, I can only imagine how well it pairs with the amazing talent from the House of Magni.
Truly a world-class build, the Magni caused many of the 1.750-plus motorcycles offered at Bonhams and Mecum’s to fade into black and white. Magni’s Guzzi-patterned chassis and the absolute narrowness of the machine left an unforgettable impression. I realized this days later, when reflecting how many hours we spent in the company of this absolutely awe-inspiring motorcycle, named after one of the greatest and gifted motorcycle enthusiasts of all time. Bill Ross