What are the most expensive motorcycles ever sold?  Take a look; here are the Top 10 highest prices paid for a motorcycle, to the best of our knowledge.  A few of these are private sales, and the figures are approximations based on reports from individuals close to the sale.  It’s wise to recall that only auction sales are verifiable, a matter of public record, and auditable!  Check out our full list of the World’s Most Expensive Motorcycles.

[Profiles in HIstory]
1. The ‘Captain America’ Chopper: ~$1.3Million (private sale, 2014).  Without a doubt, the ‘Captain America’ chopper from ‘Easy Rider’ is the most famous and recognizable motorcycle in history.  Unfortunately, three of the choppers used in the film were stolen before the film was finished, including the two ‘hero’ bikes, and a ‘Billy’ stunt double.  The machine pictured was the subject of intense media scrutiny in 2014, when it appeared at a Profiles in History auction, complete with an affidavit from ‘Grizzly Adams’ (Dan Hagerty) that it was built from the remains of the last original movie bike, from wreckage he possessed after the stunt bike was blown up in the film’s climactic scene.  The original stunt bike was built by Larry Marcus under the direction of Cliff ‘Soney’ Vaughs, with (Marcus claimed) a silver spray-painted chassis, and none of the fine details required of the ‘hero’ bike ridden by Peter Fonda.  Dan Hagerty kept the remains of that chopper for decades, until finally building a replica of the ‘hero’ chopper from the parts.  But there was a problem; Hagerty had previously sold another ‘Captain America’ chopper, and given the very same affidavit of authenticity!  That machine was displayed in the Guggenheim Museum’s ‘Art of the Motorcycle’ exhibit during its Chicago iteration.  The owner of the Guggenheim machine called foul, Peter Fonda refused to certify the Profiles in History bike, a story was done in NPR about the whole mess, and although the bike was reported in the LA Times as ‘sold’ at auction for $1.65M, the bidder backed out, unsatisfied this was the real ‘Captain America’.  But, in a secret deal months later, the chopper was sold to a Billionaire memorabilia collector and philanthropist in the Seattle area, for an awful lot of money.  The bike has recently been exhibited – catch it if you can!

[Photo by Kevin Hulsey]
 2.  The 1947 ‘Bathing Suit’ Vincent: ~$1.1Million (private sale, 2011).  Old racing bikes are usually like ‘Caesar’s Axe’; authentic certainly, but they’ve had their heads replaced twice, and their handles four times.  The ex-John Edgar Vincent, developed by Rollie Free in 1947 in cooperation with the Vincent factory, is probably the second most famous motorcycle in the world, as the image of Free at the Bonneville salt flats, ‘flat out’ in his bathing suit at 150mph, is one of the most popular postcards ever reproduced!  The actual machine was retained in a slightly de-tuned, road-going form by Edgar, until he had a minor crash and stopped riding it. The bike kept most of its original parts in the following 60 years, and was restored by Herb Harris back to its Bonneville configuration.  It was eventually sold to a Hong Kong-based banker, who reportedly keeps the machine at his manse in Carmel Valley, CA.  To his great credit, he has allowed the bike to be filmed for History Channel shows with Alan deCadanet aboard at Bonneville, and is shown at motorcycle events on occasion.

3. 1925 Brough Superior SS100 Serial #001: ~$950,000

The Brough Superior marque is as blue chip as motorcycles get; any example is guaranteed to be expensive, and keep its value…probably.  The SS10o was George Brough’s masterpiece, and one of the most beautiful motorcycles ever built.  The first edition, using a JAP racing KTOR engine of 1000cc, is the most valuable of all, as it’s the rarest, lightest, and most sporting of the lot; they gradually became more ‘sports tourer’ than outright speed demon.  The final SS100s of 1935-40 were the most sedate of all, with a Matchless OHV v-twin motor not nearly as powerful as its JAP rivals, regardless it was smoother, quieter, and more reliable!  The very first SS100, serial #1, was sold by private treaty for nearly a $Million, confirming its place in the pantheon.

[Mecum Auctions]
4. 1915 Cyclone board track racer: $825,500 (Mecum auction, March 2015).  The magic of Steve McQueen propelled this 1915 Cyclone engine, housed in an Indian racing chassis, to our top auction spot.  Mecum Auctions held a special March 2015 sale at Las Vegas for the collection of legendary hoarder E.J. Cole, who had purchased the ex-McQueen Cyclone at the Imperial Palace sale of McQueen’s motorcycles back in 1984.  The sale of E.J.’s motorcycles was a big deal to enthusiasts of early American motorcycles, as his expansive collection had depth and breadth, and included some very special racing motorcycles, like this Cyclone.  Plus, it was Steve McQueens, which adds an X factor every time.

[Mecum Auctions]
5. 1906 H-D Strap-Tank: $750,000 (Mecum auction, March 2015).  The Holy Grail of Harley-Davidsons.  The ‘Strap Tank’ was H-D’s very first model, built from 1905 to 1908, and this machine was the 37th built in 1906, and the 94th Harley-Davison ever built, including the first two prototypes of 1903.  Remarkably, at over a Century old, it still retains its original factory paint and equipment, and is in remarkable condition, with all the lettering, paint, and pinstriping clearly visible.  There is no more valuable Harley-Davidson to collectors, unless the Real ‘first Harley’, serial #001, appears from the ether.  That machine was known for some time, and even offered to the factory in the 1960s, but has since disappeared, and its last known residence (in Florida) was demolished in the 199os.  It’s hoped the bike has survived, and is still being sought by earnest collectors. It’s estimated that as few as 3 original-paint Strap Tanks exist.

[Falcon Motorcycles]
6. The White Falcon: ~$675,000 (gallery sale, 2013).  Falcon Motorcycles is world renowned for building the most exquisite, technically brilliant custom motorcycles in the world.  Their ‘White’ was built by Ian Barry and his team in 2012/13, from the remains of a 1-of-10 factory racing 1967 Velocette Thruxton.  In truth, they only used most of the engine and gearbox of the Velocette, building a remarkable chassis for their creation from solid chunks of aluminum and stainless steel, hand-carved into gorgeous shapes, fitted together with ingenious technical details.  The ‘White’ was exhibited with a $750k price tag at the Kohn Gallery in Los Angeles, and the machine is rumored to have sold to a wealthy industrialist in the Pacific Northwest, for an undisclosed sum. Our estimate includes a typical 10% discount galleries offer to ‘good customers.’  Flabbergasted at this price for a custom motorcycle?  See our #1!

[MidAmerica Auctions]
7. 1914 Cyclone board track racer: $551,000 (MidAmerica auction, 2008).  The Cyclone was one of very few motorcycles built before WW2 using an overhead-camshaft V-twin motor.  It set the racing world ablaze before WW1, being the first motorcycle to lap a track at 100mph during a race, and typically taking the fastest lap honors wherever it appeared.  The design was penned by Andrew Strand, and produced by the Joerns Manufacturing Co; at its 1912 debut, it was surely the most advanced motorcycle design ever produced for sale, and the racing version was capable of 115mph, a phenomenal speed for the day.  The lubrication and metallurgy before WW1 was simply not sufficient to keep the motor cool, lubricated, and intact on a long race, and Cyclones were plagued by technical problems on the popular 100- and 200-mile races at America’s board tracks.  The company went bust in 1917, and Cyclones were never built again, but remained fixed in the imagination of collectors as the ‘ultimate’ American motorcycle.

[Bonhams]
8. 1929 Brough Superior SS100: $495,000 (Bonhams auction, 2014). The ‘Rolls Royce of Motorcycles’ had their heyday between 1925 and 1938, when Broughs (rhymes with rough) were the fastest, most expensive, and most beautiful motorcycles in the world.  Designed by George Brough, each SS100 model of from 1925-34 used a highly tuned racing JAP (Joseph A Prestwich, London) engine of 1000cc capacity, and was guaranteed to have lapped the Brooklands race bowl at 100mph.  There was nothing like it on two or four wheels, except perhaps a Bentley or Bugatti.  Brough Superior SS100s cost the equivalent of a decent house in Britain at the time, at £120, and still costs the equivalent of a house today!  The SS100s of the 1920s are the most highly coveted by collectors, and remain generally the most expensive road-going motorcycles today, barring the odd original-paint Harley-Davidson Strap Tank!

[Mecum Auctions]
9. 1912 Henderson 4: $495,000 (Mecum auction, 2017). It’s a dusty old thing with faded paint, but that’s exactly why this Henderson four-cylinder motorcycle fetched Half a Million at auction in January 2017.  There’s a big problem with collecting old motorcycles, especially as their values go sky high; it’s relatively easy to build a complete replica of an old machine, and talented hands are always available to fake the patina of age.  That said, a verifiable provenance (chain of ownership) and a genuine factory original paint job are hard to fake, so if a very rare machine like a first-year-of-production Henderson (the ‘Duesenberg of Motorcycles’) comes available, it’s worth whatever someone is willing to pay.  In this case, a Louisiana collector decided this machine had all the hallmarks of quality, and backed up his evaluation with cash.  It will probably seem cheap in ten years.

[Bonhams]
10. 1931 Brough Superior BS4: $495,000 (Bonhams auction, 2017).  The ‘Emperor of Motorcycles’ is one of the rarest production machines ever built, as only 10 of the amazing ‘three wheel’ Brough Superior with a four-cylinder Austin Sports engine were built.  George Brough was famous for his SS100 luxury models, but he outdid himself with the BS4, which stole the annual Motorcycle Show in 1931 for its gorgeous finish, and its use of close-coupled twin wheels at the back!  Using an automotive engine and gearbox (yes there’s a reverse) meant a central drive shaft, and Brough adapted to the situation by housing a final drive casing between two wheels, and no differential.  While it was always displayed with a sidecar attached, one cheeky journalist (Hubert Chantry) asked if the BS4 could be ridden solo.  ‘Of course’ was Brough’s reply, and he backed it up by letting Chantry ride the machine solo in the London-Edinburgh Trial that December!  Chantry promptly ordered one for himself, and was notorious for riding it – in reverse – around London’s Picadilly Circus. This machine was a rotten hulk discovered under a collapsed shed in Surrey, one of the ‘Bodmin Moor Broughs’, but that didn’t stop it becoming one of the Top 10 most expensive motorcycles in the world!

 

 

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