Las Vegas is the playground for those who like to drink hard and place bets... Neither of which are a part of my life anymore so why am I here? Well, for the avid vintage bike collector (and for the record I barely call myself more than a small time scavenger) - the new year kicks off in the city of sin with a double header of auction-powerhouses, Bonhams and Mid America Auctions- albeit last years party was crashed by RM/Auctions America, leading to one of the strongest buyers market I've ever witnessed, but thats a story for another time.
|The RS225 Kompressor|
This year, Bonhms featured several highly-hyped BMW Rennsports, including an RS255 fitted with a factory super charger or "Kompressor" like the one ridden to the IOM TT victory in 1939 by Georg Meier. While the Rennsport offered by Bohnams was not the bike which was piloted by the first non-Brit TT winner, the factory components used to assemble this machine are original and quite simply, unobtainable. Prices were speculated to hit the half million dollar mark, and fell short by only twenty grand. Three other Rennsports were offered as well as other notable bikes with race history including an original 1970 Rob North framed BSA Rocket III which failed to meet reserve (of six figures) and a 1960 Matchless G-50 that was just shy of $60k. Apparently those with money are still spending it on necessities like collectable motorcycles.
|Rob North Framed BSA Rocket III|
Now no way am I in the league with aforementioned buyers, but i do get a kick out of seeing how the other half lives. The 1952 Vincent Black Shadow that brought a hefty $134,800 is not on my current want list or even dream list - possibly beyond-my-wildest-dream-list, but for now I like going to high ticket sales to get good stories and meet good people. So who are the people that go to an event like Bonhams or MMA? Everyone who loves 2 wheels. Museum curators to garage dwellers, race team owners and former pro racers to privateers who look back on their track-days as the best times of their lives. Yes there are jerks who buy that "old-ass board tracker" for their office to impress their buddies, but there are also the common guys who built, restored and traded their way up from humble beginnings.
You don't need deep pockets to get a kick out of the auctions, especially if you're open minded and enjoy meeting people of all backgrounds - ok I love judging people whom I don't know -- so I guess there's that too (like the aforementioned asshole who just wants office status... yeah that guy). For me it's all about the thrill of what MIGHT happen in Vegas. Sales in the volatile moto-market can sometimes break records and other times fall short leading to the bargain of a lifetime. You just never know whats going to happen and unless you're present, and if you don't play the game then you can only revel in other peoples "what happened in Vegas" stories. Last year I dragged home a crusty 1956 plunger-framed Triumph T-20 in its original paint and probably it's original oil as most of the engine was frozen. The price, even with shipping was well below what I felt to be market value. It's not the most desirable Triumph, but it's unusual in the States and it's interesting to me as I have a thing for the little 200 singles.
It's the love for motorcycles and the history of the sport that draws us all to that blazing oasis in the desert. Raise your bidders paddle and you get a true adrenaline rush from the prospect of a deal you might be getting - perhaps this is the humble beginnings to that unobtainable collection you never dreamt of owning. Be careful as you can quickly find yourself in a bidding war with the guy across the room who also needs that bike. You might just end up paying twice it's value. Its all a gamble I guess - so yeah, scratch that from the list of things I no longer partake in... Whatever, it's Vegas.
|1934 Harley 34B Single|
|1929 Magnat Debon 350cc|
|HMW cutaway engine|
|1938 Rudge 250 Special|
|1958 Triumph Thunderbird albeit wrong color|
|51 Triumph 6T Drag Racer|
|1950 Phelon & Moore Panther 600cc|