Mecum – Las Vegas 2021
30th. Annual Mecum Las Vegas auction
A long standing winter tradition, Mecum’s Las Vegas extravaganza has grown into the largest vintage bike show on earth. Canceling the January 2021 event at the South Point Hotel over virus-related issues, Mecum’s late April reschedule into the city’s convention center was an important element in pulling it off. Trading the amenities of a luxury hotel for an open space capable of holding 2000 (plus) motorcycles, Mecum 2021 was big and basic. No general admission or vendors, but well spaced. Rumor says Mecum will return to the South Point in 2022, but has other events listed for the downtown facility. Popular and growing, Mecum’s success proves again the enduring qualities of vintage motorcycling.
Make of it what you will, but five of the top six big-ticket bikes in 2021 were Harley Davidsons – the highest a 1907 Harley ‘strap tank’ that hammered at $297,000. Indeed, the volume of excellent and rare models from Harley, Indian, and rows of stunning Brit bikes inspired Alex and I to focus on them heavily. Categorized by whim, here’s a sample of what stood out to us. Some are show stoppers, other bikes demonstrate the incredible value found at Mecum, and the bargains aren’t always projects. Naturally, there are many beautiful machines we’re not including in this report, so for everything on auction this year and years past, register for free with your email at mecum.com. It’s a great research tool.
1971 Moto Guzzi V7 Sport (851cc – 5-speeds – $16.000 sold)
Its background and history the subject of a long study by my inner circle, it’s easy to admit this V7 Sport is the biggest reason we traveled to Mecum. The names to remember with this one are Chicago Guzzi dealer Torello Tacchi and Al Phillips – two race-minded pals who previously campaigned a 750 Ambassador. Through Tacchi’s connections the Sport was ordered from the factory to compete in the 1972 Mosport endurance series in Canada. Credit Bill Ross for recognizing the striking green and black Sport from Greg Field’s ‘Guzzi Big Twins’ book, and we’re in the process of confirming it all over again. Handbuilt in the Guzzi pattern, the 850’s extended endurance tank (with fuel gauge) straight-shot 38mm ticklers and more literally screams factory racer. Restored using various non-original items (like the clip-ons) the Sport was displayed in rider Al Phillips’ Chicago health club for years.
1926 OEC Temple Anzani Racer (996cc – 3-speeds – $100.000 did not sell)
An absolutely stunning and powerful racing machine, this Temple Anzani racer draws its roots from two old time English firms – OEC (Old Engineering Company) and Anzani Engines. Factor in legendary rider/builder Claude Temple, who in 1926 traveled to France and set a world record of 121-mph on a machine very much like this. Straight up bad ass, the mesmerizing OHV, 4-v twin fits two dual float carbs into shared intakes, exposed hairpins and the exhaust is twin-port too. Stopping to take it all in, the level of finish and application here far exceeds anything I’ve seen from the era, but the builders are remembered for their advancement. Mecum officials accurately point out the Harley fork attached to this example was the unit of choice then, the Harley part being stronger and more accurate. Almost too perfect, this machine is not a quick or easy study, so I’m not surprised it didn’t sell.
1967 BMW R69S (594cc – 4-speeds – $11.000 sold)
Everyone has favorites and I’m not saying the R69S is mine, yet the fact that BMW were building oil tight, reliable, long distance transportation in the 1930s continues to astound me. It isn’t a Slash-2, but it is really, and the very best of them with 9.5 pistons and 26mm Bing carbs. Aging well, the R69S’s jeweled castings and deep finish wasn’t cheap new, but ringing in at 1/5th the value of a ‘69 Honda 750 makes the BMW a genuine steal. This price unbalance reflects the incredible popularity of early Honda and Kawasaki fours, but I’m thinking many buyers would plan on riding the BMW. Still capable with excellent oiling and superior materials, if the purchase demanded a cross country trip I’d ride the BMW off into the sunset, money ahead.
1986 Honda VF1000F2 Bol d’Or (998cc – 5-speeds – $2200 sold)
A refined version of the V1000F, Honda was several models into its new V-four range when the F2 was released for 1985. Earning acclaim for its 750cc Interceptor, Honda realized early on the sporting limitations of the heavy, liquid-cooled package. Redone into a super sports-tourer with a 18/17” wheels, increased cooling capacity and a close-ratio transmission, the Bol d’Or was faster, more stable and easier to ride than previous V-fours. Not imported into the USA, the F2 is geared more for Autobahn streaking than 55-mph droning, but even being a little known model the Honda’s handsome lines and impressive (overbuilt?) spec sheet should translate into more than $2200 USD. That’s value for this level of specification and performance. For more on the V1000F2 and other forgotten Hondas, click here.
1972 Norton Commando 750 Hi-Rider (745cc – 4-speeds – $8800 sold)
Tapping into the custom bike craze in 1972, Norton released what some believe is its most embarrassing production motorcycle ever; the Hi Rider. Part of this reasoning comes from there being an otherwise brilliant Commando under the silly banana seat and (modest) ape hangers. Perhaps that’s why it wasn’t a big seller. As the years passed there is no doubt many binned the Hi Rider bits in a return to standard spec. Not a bad plan frankly, as the Hi Rider remains a notch or two down in value. Alex didn’t believe me when I explained Norton’s Hi Rider was a stock model, and kept doubting until he checked it for himself. The high-stepping Brit must have made an impression, considering the number of photos he took of it.
1957 Harley Davidson XL Sportster (883cc – 4-speeds – $21.450 sold)
We could have filled this entire report with just the US-made bikes we saw and admired at Mecum in 2021. Amazingly, every configuration of Knucklehead that Harley offered was available, along with pristine and correct side-valve twins, Indian Fours and Italian builds. Enduring and still popular, there’s no more recognizable name than Sportster in the USA…even if most of this praise was earned while competing against British 650s for speed superiority. As a first year model from 1957 there’s a simple elegance in the way Harley built this motorcycle. Atop the tree hides a quaint little clock and little else, the upper shock mounts rest right under the rider’s hips and the shifting is via right foot – Just like a proper Norton Atlas. It’s hard to imagine how the bike could be more elemental, yet its twinshock rear and raked tele forks set in motion a styling theme that carries on in production today.
1939 Indian Sport Scout (750cc – 4-speeds – $59.400 Sold)
When a machine stands out in a crowd of standouts, one must investigate. I’ve done little to no work or reporting on the Indian brand, but new opportunities are looming. Accenting the Sport Scout’s handsome lines and accounting for detail this is as close to perfect as any resto I’ve seen, but (again) with no experience I’m unsure what’s correct. Described as a thorough ‘nut-n-bolt’ those of us fumbling with wrenches knows what goes into that very loaded statement, so credit here is given to Mark’s Indian Parts Factory in Anaheim, California. Never being a fan of the solo-spring seat, I’ve resolved to like the arrangement here. Seeing the bike in person and noting the ergo pattern made the whole thing fit, which allowed me to once again realize how over the top this motorcycle is. Perfect as it is, I’d love a ride.
Rickman/Kawasaki 900 CR (903cc – 5-speeds – $6000 sold)
It’s anyone’s guess on the details, but I spotted this one in the sales corral and revisited it often. Billed as a ‘1973 Kawasaki 900’ in Mecum’s auction ledger, I’d wager this Rickman kit is a Craig Vetter import judging by the bodywork combo and Bassani 4-into-1 exhaust – an excellent system. Made from CoMo tube the frame looks to have been stripped and covered in black enamel, likely done because the original nickel plate was lifting or cracked. A common Rickman problem. Money and time will be required to address the Ricky’s ratty wiring, replace its missing parts and those Jimmy Carter-era Continentals. Even needing a complete tear down this unfinished Brit delivers the basics of a rapidly appreciating line of machines. Plainly the most popular special frame maker ever, this Red Ricky could be a fun ride.
1957 Aermacchi 175 (‘Chimera’ – 172cc – 4-speeds – $17.600 sold)
Once the builders of aircraft, some might suspect this Aermacchi 175 is included solely on Lino Tonti’s presence at the factory. Actually, by 1957 Tonti had moved to FB Mondial, but Harley Davidson’s 1960 buy in lasted until 1978. A horizontal ‘sloper’ with a 7.2 piston and 22mm Dellorto the 175 was mainstream Italian proddy for the era, yet the bike made waves as a futuristic design styled by Alfred Bianchi. Also available as a 250cc, the Chimera sold poorly but its mechanical underpinnings would serve in Harley Sprint form for years to come. A closer look reveals intricate aluminum body panels, the tank and seat lifting as one unit. Bold and finely crafted, note the Moto Guzzi speedo. Most Italian single enthusiasts understand what parts overlap and what is unique. No doubt the Chimera 175 lands on the far side.
Suzuki GSX-R 250 (248cc – 6-speeds – $3850 sold)
Another bit of Japanese exotica not imported into the USA, this GSX-R 250 Slingshot is a pocket superbike with impressive specifications and (finished in solid black) sinister lines. One of many machines at Mecum showing British registration, it’s powered by a 248cc, water-cooled, DOHC, 4v inline four with 12.5:1 pistons and four Mikuni BSW 27 carbs. Peak output is 45-hp at a lofty 15.000 rpm. Chassis wise, the Suzuki 250 was cutting edge using sections of cast, tube and square-section aluminum to make its twin beam frame and monoshock swingarm. Mecum surmised this GSX-R 250 might be the only example in the USA but the jury is out on whether that adds value, or detracts from it. Nevertheless, owners looking for rare or very specific models will find a home at Mecum, who seem to turn up a few machines from the ‘otherwise unavailable’ category every year. Nolan Woodbury