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! There are rumors of other private sales over $1M, of Honda RC166 racers et al, but I have no information on these: if you do, feel free to send a note! Check out our full list of the World’s Most Expensive Motorcycles – the Top 100 sold at auction.

1. The ‘Captain America’ Chopper: ~$1.3Million (private sale, 2014)

[Profiles in History]
 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!

2. 1970 ‘Triple Crown Special’ gold-plated Speedway Champion winner – $1,260,700

Ivan Mauger is the widely considered the greatest Speedway racer in history, having won the Speedway Individual World Championship 6 times (and 2nd place 4 times), taken the Long Track World Champion 4 times (and twice runner-up), and the Pairs Championship once (with 5 runner-ups).  On the verge of winning his 3rd World Championship title in in a row in 1970 – nicknamed the ‘Triple Crown’ – two American arch-fans (George Wenn and Ray Bokelman) promised that if Ivan won his third World Final at Wrocław (Poland), they would have his winning bike gold-plated. Mauger won the race, and the bike was taken to the USA to be gold-plated, and was dubbed ‘Triple Crown Special’.  Mauger recently sold all his motorcycles and memorabilia, and in a private sale, the Canterbury Museum in New Zealand purchased the gold-plated Speedway racer (plus assorted memorabilia) on Aug. 4, 2017 for  NZ$1.8M – about $1,26o,700 on the day, making it the second most expensive motorcycle sale known to date.

 3.  The 1947 ‘Bathing Suit’ Vincent: ~$1.1Million (private sale, 2011)

[Photo by Kevin Hulsey]
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.

4. 1936 Crocker Big Twin Serial #1: ~$1Million

Al Crocker’s V-twin was the fastest production motorcycle in the world in 1936, not that there was much production: it’s estimated less than 75 were built between 1936-43.  The Crocker predated the Harley-Davidson Knucklehead as the first OHV V-twin built for the street in the USA, and it was probably 20mph faster than a standard Knuck, especially if the customer ordered the full 100ci engine capacity available (they were usually 61ci – 1000cc).  Al Crocker offered a money-back guarantee to any Crocker owner who was beaten by an Indian or Harley-Davidson, and there was never a need to make such a refund.  Crockers have only grown in demand, with prices topping $600k in 2019.  But Serial #1, the very first Crocker Big Twin, apparently sold to a California collector for a cool $1Million a few years back.  I’ve heard the rumor from Those Who Know, and the purported owner could certainly afford that – he has quite a few Crockers in his warehouse! (Sorry – no photo available)

5. 1925 Brough Superior SS100 Serial #001: ~$950,000

[Bonhams Auctions]

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.

6. 1951 Vincent Black Lightning – $929,000 (Bonhams, Jan 25 2018, Las Vegas)

[Bonhams Auctions]
Jack Ehret’s Vincent Black Lightning is the most famous of a very famous breed, the 33 Lightnings built by the Vincent factory for racing only.  Many people think the ‘Rollie Free’ bike is a Lightning, but it was built before the factory came up with the model, so it’s actually highly modified Black Shadow.  This is the real deal, with solid gold competition history, including an Australian national speed record at over 141mph. A real Lightning hasn’t sold at auction since 2010, so the eyes of the world were on this sale, and two determined bidders pushed the price up, and up, and up during the auction, becoming the worl’ds most expensive motorcycle ever sold at a public auction…and eventually this prize went right back to Australia!

7. 1915 Cyclone board track racer – $825,500 (Mecum auction, March 2015)

[Mecum Auctions]
The magic of Steve McQueen propelled this 1915 Cyclone engine, housed in an Indian racing chassis, to the previous 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.

8. 1906 H-D ‘Strap-Tank’ – $750,000 (Mecum Auctions, March 2015)

[Mecum Auctions]
 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.

9. 1939 Crocker ‘Big Tank’ – $704,000

[Mecum Auctions]
The top-selling motorcycle at the 2019 Las Vegas vintage motorcycle auctions was a shocker – a ’39 Crocker selling for twice the nearest auction price for any Crocker.  Crocker prices had been hovering at the $350k range for ten years, and perhaps it was simply time for an update…but what an update! This was a spectacular machine, formerly the property of the MC Collection of Sweden, which sold in rapid bidding at the Mecum Las Vegas Sale in January 2019.

10. 1954 AJS E95 Porcupine – $687k (Bonhams private sale)



 AJS built some revolutionary racers in the 1930s thru ’50s, before succumbing to economic downturns, and being sold by parent company AMC.  In the 1930s their V-4 DOHC racer, in both air- and water-cooled forms, produced awesome power but were 100lbs heavier than their competition.  The far simpler post-War E90 ‘Porcupine’ racers were laid-down parallel twins with DOHC cylinder heads, and a modern chassis with a double-loop welded tube frame, and an all-magnesium engine.  The E90 was good enough to win the inaugural 500cc World Championship in 1949, but was improved in 1952 with cylinders tilted upward at 45deg, a new/longer oil sump, a pressed-up crankshaft with one-piece connecting rods with bushings for a high-pressure oiling system.  Rod Coleman was their star rider, and found the bike far faster than the Nortons, and the equal of the new World Champion Gilera 4-cylinder machines.  The E95s were further improved in 1954, and made 2nd place in 2 GPs, but AJS pulled the plug on racing that year, after 4 E95 Porcupines were built.  This machine hailed from Team Obsolete, and failed to sell at auction, but was later reportedly sold via private treaty to an unknown buyer.

11. The White Falcon: ~$675,000 (gallery sale, 2013)


[Falcon Motorcycles]
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!

12. 1914 Cyclone board track racer: $551,000 (MidAmerica auction, 2008) 

[MidAmerica Auctions]
 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.

13 (tied): 1913 Cyclone Roadster: ~$500,000 (private sale – 2019)

Dug out of a Fresno home, and according to the story, in storage since the 1970s, our tied-for-13th place Cyclones were purchased as a pair in dilapidated condition, although some restoration work had been done on both.  The engines were both quite worn, showing significant evidence of use (and not new repro).  This rare Cyclone road model came with its original leaf-spring suspension at both the front and rear ends, which is significantly different than the totally rigid-chassis racers.  With a short leading link up front, the forks are similar in principle to an Indian fork of the era, but are unique to Cyclone.  The rear suspension predates Indian’s introduction of a leaf-sprung rear end, although with no ‘guide’ at the top of the triangulated swingarm, the handling must have been interesting.  When found, items like the clutch were missing from this machine, which was otherwise very complete.  Both machines are in running condition now.

13 (tied): 1914 Cyclone Racer: ~$500,000 (private sale – 2019)

[Deutsches Zweirad Museum]

This 1913 7H.P. Twin Cylinder Stripped Stock model Cyclone is set up much like Jim Lattin’s legendary original-paint 1915 Cyclone racer – the only one known in original paint – this machine also uses an Indian racing fork.  At some point a ‘patina’ paint scheme was added although decades after its application it has become double-patinated with time and shop wear.

14. 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!


Paul d’Orléans is the founder of TheVintagent.com. He is an author, photographer, filmmaker, museum curator, event organizer, and public speaker. Check out his Author Page, Instagram, and Facebook.


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