2020 MECUM MOTORCYLE AUCTION: WHERE FORGOTTEN DREAMS ARE FOUND
By Mark Donaldson
Commonality, it brings us together when we share a same passion as others. For me it is motorcycles, all motorcycles but especially motocross bikes. Near the end of each January there are 2 motorcycle auctions held in Las Vegas, the Mecum Motorcycle Auction, which now stretches for 6 days and the Bonham’s Auction which is a one day affair. Each venue is unique to itself. Mecum is a high energy show that is loud with a fast pace and Bonham’s is “English proper” that can at times, almost put you to sleep with the steady no hurry approach. These events bring together a vast array of motorcycles, (Mecum alone had over 1800 bikes cross the auction block, ranging from pristine examples to “why would anyone want to buy that) and motorcycle collectors from all over the world. Friendships are built over the years with people that attend from all over the world and Las Vegas is the perfect place to catch up with these friends and fellow collectors, both during the auction and in the evenings.
American SWM importer Pete Vetrano had a friend go to the Mecum Auction to bid on a 1980 SWM RS440GS Enduro. Pete told his buddy, don’t bid more than $2800. Late that day his friend called and said, “Great news! I got you the 1980 SWM 440 for only $3500.”
Famous SoCal motocross racer Greg Groom, best known for the “Greg Groom Creative Line Award,” found this 1981 Benelli four-cylinder 250cc street bike at an estate sale. He offered $800 and they took it. It sold at Mecums for $16,000.
Some would ask “why would I buy a motorcycle at a live auction?”. Auctions allow you to see a broad selection of makes and models of motorcycles in one place, with some being brands you have never seen or heard of. No matter what make and model there are usually multiple experts in that brand attending the auction. Sometimes bikes can be misrepresented, some knowingly and others unintentional, and this is where the experts are are more than willing to share their expertise. With the technology of being able to watch the auction either on a television broadcast or live online, most of the motorcycles look fantastic under the lights on stage but sometimes upon closer inspection they do not look nearly as good in person. For the most part, these auctions will give you a very good basis on what the collector value of motorcycles are. Values of certain makes and models can vary from year to year but if your research is carried out diligently collector motorcycles can be very good investments.
Gerrit Wolsink brought over three bikes from Europe. This 1965 CZ 360 twin-pipe brought the most coin at $16,500. It is good to see the “dentist” attend the auction each year. There were seven CZ’s for sale at this past weekend.
This 1966 Suzuki RA125 was a prototype machine that never saw production. It featured a rotary valve, 125cc, two-stroke engine with a 24mm Mikuni carb. It has a four-speed transmission with neutral on the top and fourth on the bottom. The side-mounted carb resulted in an unsightly air filter canister. It sold for $27,500.
This beautiful 1968 Ossa Stiletto sold for a solid $12,100 without an exhaust pipe. On Mecum’s website it is shown (above) with a dented pipe hanging down underneath the bike. I wondered if the new owner was aware it was “pipeless” when he bid on the motorcycle.
This 1973 Hodaka Combat Wombat was the motocross version of the Hodaka Wombat 125 enduro bike. The Combat Wombat was replaced in 1974 by the orange-tanked Super Combat 125. This 1973 model sold for $5775 and was in ready-to-ride condition.
Over the past few years with the Mecum Auction stretching over more days we have seen an increase in the number of motocross bikes crossing the auction block with this year being the largest number ever. Low volume models or models that were not very popular when new seem to be commanding higher values. Below is a recap of the some of the sales at this year’s auctions. You can log onto the motorcycle auction section of mecum.com or bonhams.com (Bonhams only had 1 motocross bike this year— a 1973 Montesa Cappra 250 that did not reach its reserve price) to view the prices the collectors paid for the motorcycles. The prices quoted on the websites will include a buyers premium (each auction house charges a different percentage) on each bike sold.
There were seven Harley Davidson MX250’s including a flat tracker, but the one to have is this 1975 MX-250 with Kayaba forks in place of traditional rear shock absorbers. Only 65 of these Italian Aermacchi-built machines were imported. This one was stated to be one of the original test bikes with feedback to Harley-Davidson. One fortunate bidder paid $23,100.00 to be the new caretaker.
This is not Steve McQueen’s Rickman Triumph. It is a modern replica built in England in recent years. This Steve McQueen Desert Racer faithfully adopts the authentic parts, look and craftsmanship of the real thing. When the replica was first introduced over a decade ago the going price was $18,750 dollars. This one sold for $14,300 in Las Vegas.