Nearly 2000 bikes!
2020 Mecum Auction
January 21-26, Las Vegas Nevada
Dreaming about the next motorcycle is a popular pastime for many riders, especially those of us geared towards classic models. For that obviously large demographic, few places are better equipped to make those wishes a reality than Mecum’s winter extravaganza in Las Vegas. Splashed under a warm Nevada sun, the amenities provided by hosting South Point round out the experience with easy access, garage parking, cozy rooms, 24-hour food – even a discounted rate booking through Mecum’s website. It’s a fabulous place to spend a week, or more. Back to the bikes, some feel gambling a bid for an unknown motorcycle the riskiest of all, but Mecum’s selection, quality, and presentation tilt the odds.
Officially documented as a working vacation, son Alexander Woodbury and I moved into the action early Thursday, already two-days behind. Helping us catch up was so Cal racer Bill Ross, who pointed out the storage where the sold machines were kept. The dimly lit images from that location are some of my favorites from this trip. I’ve written several auction reports over the years but never bothered with exact attendance numbers or the high rollers. Suffice to say the crowds flowed along and the facility is extremely well organized. As per our tradition, here’s three favorites from Alex and myself with some thoughts on each. Truth is, there were so many standouts this year the gallery at the bottom isn’t big enough to show them all. Log in with your email at mecum.com to check prices on the machines you’re following. NDW
Alexander Woodbury: Moto Guzzi Le Mans CX100 (Lot #S276, sold, $6050.00)
“Go For What You Know”
The title of Pat Travers live 79’ release and the phrase my inner voice kept repeating when asked, “So, what’s your favorite thing here?” The answer is one I can no longer fight, and that answer is Moto Guzzi’s CX100 Le Mans.
1981 brought a number of changes across big twin production, and this particular issue lacks little in originality. Per request from importer Berliner for a liter-sized Le Mans, this 949cc twin fits OEM round- slide PHFs Dell’Ortos, undisturbed in the factory airbox. Other clues to the vintage include air-dampener forks and the updated fairing brackets that made the long legged traveler easier to live with. This, in its original finish, capped with US regulated speedometer, headlight and gasket. Lot #S276 features what will always be this author’s first motorcycle; a 1981 CX100 Le Mans; and therefore my “favorite thing here”.
Nolan Woodbury: BMW K1 (Lot #W31, sold, $2750.00)
I went into Mecum 2020 determinant to find three real world riders. See, I don’t know what your world is like, but mine runs 100-miles of straight, beat up desert freeway in every direction. Throw in the fact it’s either freezing ass or boiling oil and that disqualifies the old-timers. For those not interested in history or trends, motorcycling’s middle class consists of machines not old enough to be collectible, yet may have some age-related questions. No question, these mid-class bargains are Mecum’s best kept secret.
Exhibit A: BMW’s 1000cc K1 – a bike fully capable of blasting across the rough, with enough left over to have fun on the rest. The first K1s in red or blue with yellow (shown) are blobs and thus ignored, even though I admired the 16v engine (good) and ABS brakes (bad). More subtle, this later-1991 K-Gun turns my head, and a memorable riding experience still fuels the fantasy. With perfect ergos and slab-searing gearing it’s the ultimate credit card tourer. Besides, it’s a Brick – what doesn’t work will be fixed, and all the more affordable here, coming at the cost of an average transmission rebuild. Deep sigh. Mecum’s flaunted photos of this 7000K original on the webs last fall, and it was even better in person. This one got away.
AW: Kawasaki KZ1100R ELR (Lot S287, $14,000, did not sell)
“Everything you need to be a winner on the road”
A bump of the elbow towards my pop as auction-goers wander by, “I could see you piling up a ton of miles on one of these” I think out loud. Smiling, he nods, knowing well that I know of his respect for the big ‘Zed’.
I’m told this Kawasaki ELR wasn’t a US import, but a case of auction overload keeps us from checking. Still, in a sea of 2000 motorcycles of seemingly every make and model, only a select few check all three boxes of performance, ease of service, and reliability when miles away from Mrs. Merry’s lovingly made spaghetti (punctuated with a slice of blueberry pie). No matter what country it was destined to reach, the Z-four’s mix of speed and toughness is legend. As my old man spins the wheel of time, he finds a way to offset the years with joyous two-wheel miles. While his lungs take the shape of Mandello’s wind tunnel, his heart yearns for the occasional switch and I see him grinning, ear to ear, on this stunning ELR replica.
NW: 1983 CB1100F (Lot F1.9, sold, $9.900)
“Canadian import or Super Bol d’Or?”
Alex wasn’t yet born when I crossed the plains on a big-inch Japanese superbike. Frankly, the memories might be sweeter than the actual experience. Filled with pride, my 1983 1100F was the first new anything I’d bought; markedly superior to the burned-out double-cam 750 I traded in. Sure, the Suzuki is faster and probably the GPz too, but I was hooked on Honda’s Bol d’Or style before I knew what that was. I also wasn’t yet aware of the full-slam 1100R or this, the naked version, and there remains (surprisingly) few details on Honda’s biggest air-cooled four to date.
In stunning original condition, this Canadian import is largely based on the 1100F ‘Super Bol D’Or’, which grew from the 900cc varient. These retain the 900’s round lamp, clocks, grabrail, ‘boomerang’ Comstars and Honda’s optional ‘Sport Control’ bars and footpegs. Looking the bike over several times, I couldn’t figure how the US-style tank transfers and missing ‘Super Bol D’Or script figured in, until returning home and searching some files. Confirmed as a mix of the Euro/UK/USA versions, Canadian 1100F’s fit a km/h speedo and ‘North American’ graphics. A quick and stylish ride, I’m not surprised the flashy 16v speedster generated such impressive coin. Say all you want about the old world classics, but this motorcycle stands out.
AW: 1980 Laverda 350 Zeta (Lot #W30, sold, $5500.00)
Side one, track one of Gordon Lightfoot’s 1973 masterpiece Sundown – a record I often turn to while packing my last belongings for a trip to Billoni’s or perhaps a freeze-out in some remote national park. I was Informed a transformation to 500cc is easy, but I’ve learned what is and what isn’t. The “Little Jota” whispers promise yet offers little to my current circumstance. One-hundred-plus miles must pass before I can even begin to think about loading my pegs for a change of direction, and I suspect this might shoot BBs out the intakes flogging down the I-10. Even so, a young man can dream – dream of a point in time, far off in the distance. Maybe along Arizona’s rim country, maybe elsewhere. Maybe somewhere the music leads, where a light and nimble machine like the Zeta would help offset my years like the great men before me have done.
NW: 1983 Ducati 900 S2 (Lot #S259, $30.000 did not sell)
“Brand new, never ridden, kickstart Desmo”
Okay, so a vintage Desmo isn’t the best choice for freeway hammering, nor does it offer the comfort of the other machines I’ve shown here. But wow, do they make an impression. All of the 750/860cc Ducati twins share the same narrow, raked pose, and the bike’s handling is a reflection of that. Done right, the L-twin is a delightfully engaging ride – sometimes painful, but always thrilling and packed with championship heritage. At least, on a road with lots of sweepers. This vintage Bologna experience doesn’t come cheaply as auction veterans know, and of the 1750-plus machines I witnessed this year, one star shined the brightest.
Offered for bid with a hefty reserve, the sellers claim this Ducati has never been put on the road, still wearing its original everything. Judging on visuals alone, I believe it. Criticized by some for its ‘big battery’ electric start frame and extra glitter, the 900 S2 is a stand alone Super Sport, different from all other SS variations. Purists should like that this is (reportedly) 1 of 180 S2s with kick-only starting, but the absolute newness of this stunning motorcycle caused me to come back time and again for more photos. I’m not surprised it didn’t sell but more surprised someone didn’t succumb to temptation and take it for a spin. I would have.
Honorable mention: 1972 Moto Guzzi V7 Sport (Lot #F279, sold, $15.500)
Best of Show: Crated 1987 Moto Guzzi Le Mans 1000 SE (Lot #F196, sold, $22.000)