Though Bonhams’ annual Las Vegas auction isn’t as overwhelming as Mecum’s Sin City sale in terms of sheer volume, the elite auction house’s event at the Rio boasts a stellar collection: some of the  most unique and sought-after motorcycles in existence. Regardless what era or genre of scoot you might fancy, there’s guaranteed to be something for everyone at this year’s Bonhams Vegas sale. With several hundred lots to choose from, we can’t dive into every specimen going under the hammer this month, so let’s unpack my  ten favorite examples from Bonham’s Jan. 24th Las Vegas 2019 Auction:

1. 1989 Magni Moto Guzzi Sfida

Arturo Magni, while former head of MV Agusta’s race shop, applied his skills to many other makes [Bonhams]
After cutting his teeth at Gilera’s race department for three years, Italian motorcycle legend, Arturo Magni, accepted a position heading up MV Agusta’s race program. Magni spent a quarter-century with MV, during which time he secured a whopping 75-world championship titles for the Varese marque. After MV shut down its race department, Magni took the wealth of knowledge he amassed with company and in 1975 started his own moto-operation. With some help from his sons, Magni began transforming MV Agusta road bikes into bonafide racers, eventually developing his own frames — chrome-molybdenum and tig-welded steel tube units — to wrap around four-cylinder MV mills.

Looking fast because it is fast, a Magni Moto Guzzi is a rare and gorgeously built cafe racer [Bonhams]
In the years that followed the Magni Company went on to introduce a multitude of different models, using engines from other various manufacturers like Honda, BMW, Suzuki, then finally in 1985, Moto Guzzi. In 1989, after releasing several Guzzi-based bikes, the Magni Co. launched the Sfida (Italian for “Challenge”). Powered by an air-cooled, four-stroke 90-degree traverse, OHC, 948.8cc, V-twin (that reportedly made between 85-90hp), the Sfida was fed via a pair of 40mm Dell’Orto carbs (though some were supposedly fuel-injected), and married to a five-speed transmission. Wrapped around the MG lump is a chromoly frame that’s been paired with 40mm adjustable Ceriani forks up front, and Magni’s “parallelogrammo” rear suspension out back. Additional highlights include Brembo braking hardware and spoked EPM rims.

Need proof that it’s a genuine Magni? You could ask them directly, but this VIN stamp should suffice.  Built by a legend, with more World Championships under his belt than any other human in any field of sport or motorsport. [Bonhams]

Tipping the scales at just 427.6lbs (194kgs) dry, the Sfida — like the Arturo 1000 and Classico 1000 — was adorned in retro-themed bodywork inspired by the Italian racers of the 1960s, complete with hand-hammered aluminum tank, a la MV and Gilera’s fuel-cell’s from back in the day. Further complimenting the hand-formed tank is an equally attractive half-cafe-fairing and a humped monoposto tail. Expected to bring in somewhere between $15-20K, this particular Magni Moto Guzzi left the shop in 1989, and remains in pristine, all original condition to this day.

2. 1926 Triumph Model P

The 1926 Triumph Model P is a picture of reliable simplicity [Bonhams]

After the conclusion of the first World War, Triumph returned to full-time civilian scoot production. Taking advantage of the reputation the brand earned with soldiers during the war, the British marque decided to introduce a new utilitarian, barebones, side-valve single-cylinder model in 1924, with the Model P. Though the Model P didn’t boast any technological or mechanical innovations — or really any bells and whistles for that matter — the bike’s £42 MSRP made it a wildly popular offering, greatly undercutting competitors’ budget models.

The Model P’s 500cc sidevavle motor was unstressed and earned the company a reputation for building dependable machines.  Note the bulbous silencer body beneath the footrest, and Triumph’s double-barrel carburetor, in which the fuel flow and air flow are controlled by two separate levers. [Bonhams]
Despite its affordable price-tag, the Model P was a pretty decent performer, which practically guaranteed its success. In fact, the Model P was such a good seller, that Triumph wasn’t quite ready for the wave of orders that rushed in following the side-valve single’s release. Eventually the marque setup a haphazard assembly line and was able to pump out the backlogged orders, resulting in a nice profit for the company, and playing an important role in the outfit’s transition to mass production.

A 500cc machine with barely over 240lbs weight is possible with a minimal open frame, and simple mudguards. [Bonhams]
This particular 1926 Model P — which is fitted with optional acetylene light — has previously undergone an “amateur restoration” before winding up at Oklahoma’s Seaba Station Motorcycle Museum where it has remain for the last decade or so. Expected to bring in between $6-8K, this charming British single is a gorgeous example of a pre-Great Depression model, when motorcycles were still evolving from pedal-powered bicycles.

3. Ex-McQueen 1971 Husqvarna 250 Cross

Steve’s 250 Husky, for real. [Bonhams]

When Torsten Hallman introduced America to lightweight Swedish machinery in 1966 it forever altered the landscape of off-road competition in the States. Hallman spent a season traveling around the US and competing in various races aboard a Husqvarna — all of which he won. Because of the Swede’s success, other riders quickly took notice of the nimble dirt-goer, one of whom was actor and moto-legend Steve McQueen.

What the people want: Steve McQueen on a Husqvarna! [Heinz Kluetmeier/Sports Illustrated/Getty Image]
McQueen was supposedly introduced to Husky’s bikes during the filming of On Any Sunday, and from that time forward the filmstar and avid rider always had numerous Huskys in his personal stable. McQueen also famously rode a Husqvarna in the 1971 hit movie, as well as on the cover of a Sports Illustrated later that same year.

The Husqvarna 250 Cross was the best motocrosser in the world, which is why Steve McQueen bought them! The stickers are ‘as per Steve’… [Bonhams]
Though this particular example isn’t the legendary 400 Cross previously owned by McQueen, it is a genuine ex-McQueen Husky 250 Cross, purchased brand new by his production company, Solar Productions in ’71 before later trading hands and undergoing a major restoration. The sale of this bike includes a collection of paperwork on the two-wheeler, authenticating its prior ownership. Expected to fetch between $50-60K, this 1971 Husqvarna 250 Cross is an iconic bike from one of motorcycling’s biggest celebrities of all time. This same auction will also see an ex-McQueen 1938 Triumph 5T Speed Twin — expected to take in between $55-65K — cross the block.

4. 1941 Indian 741B Scout

The cool and compact Indian Scout in its final incarnation [Bonhams]

Though motorcycles had seen action in military conflicts in a limited capacity, it wasn’t until the first World War that motorized two-wheelers were utilized on a mass-scale, and by the time the Second World War rolled around, motorcycles were commonplace on the battlefield. Despite bikes leaving riders woefully exposed, motorcycles were often still the best choice for carrying out tasks like recon, delivering sensitive intel, or just shlepping wounded soldiers or supplies through harsh terrains.

We love the metallic green paint on this 741 Scout! [Bonhams]
At the outbreak of the Second World War, the US military commissioned a series of motorcycle prototypes from various US manufacturers. Despite Harley’s WLA objectively being the scoot of choice amongst US armed forces, Indian nonetheless attempted to grab a piece of that lucrative pie, so the Springfield-based firm lightly modified its existing Sport Scout to create the 640B. Unfortunately, it was widely considered under-powered, so Indian went back to the drawing board and developed a second militarized model; the 741B Scout.

Cutting a slim profile with an open cradle frame, the Indian 741 Scout [Bonhams]
The newer model was powered by the 30.50ci (500cc) V-Twin used in the marque’s previous generation Junior Scout. In order to make the 450lb 741B more suitable to military applications, its compression was lowered, an over-sized sand and water-resistant air-filter was tacked on, girder forks were lengthened to bolster ground clearance (and to provide ample mounting points for rifle scabbards and radio kits), saddle bags were added to the mix, and a perforated shield was attached to the righthand-side of the engine in order to minimize radio interference from the coil ignition. Of the more than 40,000 bikes and sidecar to leave the Indian Motocycle factory — which earned an “E” pennant from the Army-Navy Production Board for the marque’s stellar work — from ’39 through ’45, some 35,000 of those units were supposedly 741Bs.

While civilianized (or painted for the groove army), this 741 Scout retains its excellent mil-spec air cleaner setup [Bonhams]
This particular civilianized 741B Indian has undergone an extensive restoration, though unlike original war Indian examples — which left the factory without baring any company badges or emblems (aside from an information plate) —this ’41 Scout has been hit with a coat of metallic Las Vegas Green, finished off with gold Indian logos on the tank. This is also seemingly one of rare war Indians that was purchased by non-US allied forces, which is presumably how this bike wound up in New Zealand. This 1941 Indian 741B Scout is expected to go for between $12-15K when it takes its turn under the hammer.

5. 1958 Moto Parilla 250 Gran Sport

A wonderful piece of racing history, with a full dustbin fairing, banned later that year from GP competition [Bonhams]

Moto Parilla first came on the scene in a post-war Italy in ’46, debuting its inaugural offering, a quarter-liter, four-stroke single-cylinder racer with overhead camshaft. In the years that followed the Italian outfit improved on its existing designs, tinkering with the machines and squeezing out more and more power. In ’53 Parilla unveiled its first high-camshaft engine model, before proceeding to release a range of “camme rialzata” bikes ranging in displacement from 125-350cc’s.

A very famous racing marque in its day, whose legacy is nearly forgotten today. The period-correct AMA sticker is a nice touch. [Bonhams]
The company continued to improve the high-cam models, with the 250 version putting down a cool 26 horses (at 9,500rpm) by 1960. Despite their age, these peppy singles remained competitive, prompting Parilla to keep versions of the high-cam in production (for a total of 15 years) until the company finally went under in ’67.

Looking mean and fast standing still, in the late 1950s all of Italy aspired for a bike like this Parilla Gran Sport [Bonhams]
This 250 Gran Sport specimen is a 1958 model year, and appears to have undergone an extensive restoration. The camme rialzata 250 lump hides behind a beautiful, handmade, aluminum, full “dustbin” style fairing — complimented by matching aluminum cafe hump. The rims are also aluminum units. Decorating the hand-formed bodywork is an attractive paint scheme — a combination of gloss red and exposed, polished metal — adorned in racing numbers and a variety of stickers and decals.

6. 1949 Salsbury Model 85

Built courtesy the excess capacity of the aircraft industry, the Salisbury was a very advanced scooter, with a modern shape, and a host of innovations that made it easy to drive. Today, they’re rare and coveted by scooter fans. [Bonhams]

In 1936 E. Foster Salsbury introduced the Salsbury Aero Model Motor Glide, a cleverly designed scooter with its drivetrain stuffed under the seat. Only a couple dozen examples were manufactured before Salsbury pulled the cover off a new groundbreaking model in ’38 that featured a CVT (or constantly variable transmission), as well as a host of other features implemented in an effort to entice car owners to two-wheeled travel.

The ubiquitous, remarkably reliable Briggs&Stratton sidevalve motor, which is here combined with a variable-drive system of Foster Salisbury’s invention. [Bonhams]
Dubbed the Salsbury 50 and 60, the new models were engineered specifically with ease-of-use in mind, making the Salsbury scoots a markedly more attractive offering to the average car owner than the average, manual transmission two-wheeler would. In ’47 the marque took things one step further with the introduction of the Super Scooter Model 85. Also known as the “Imperial Rocket”, the new machine featured car-style, foot-controlled gas and brake pedals, along with bodywork capped in chrome-plated, spring steel bumpers, and an enclosed engine that shielded the rider from the collection of greasy mechanical parts under the arm-chair cushion that Salsbury passed off as the Model 85’s saddle.

Looking to the future! while the future for the Salisbury scooter wasn’t long, the ideas it pioneered became industry standards in a few decades [Bonhams]
At the heart of the Imperial Rocket was a 6hp fan-cooled, four-stroke, 320cc single-cylinder engine capable of getting the scooter up to approximately 50mph. The 85’s unique bodywork was inspired by the aviation designs E. Foster Salsbury did during WW2. After producing somewhere between 700 and 1,000 units, the company was forced to close its doors for good in ’48, however scooter units continued to be sold through 1950. This particular 1949 Salsbury Model 85 has received a gorgeous restoration, and is expected to bring in between $8-10K when it goes under the hammer later this month.

7. 1989 Gilera 500 Nuovo GBM Saturno


As big 1980s singles go, the Gilera Saturno was the hottest of them all [Bonhams]

Born out of a joint effort between Gilera and Japan’s Itochu Corporation (commonly known as “C. Itoh & Co.” in English), the Nuovo Saturno was a result of dropping the Italian marque’s newly designed single (first seen in ’85 on the 350 Dakota) into a lightweight sport chassis, adding Marzocchi suspenders, Marvic rims, and Brembo brakes, fore and aft, then finishing off the package with a cafe tail, sporty tank, and a half-fairing – penned by Japanese designer, H Hagiwara and Gilera’s Sandro Colombo.

Fantastic cockpit for the GB version of the nuovo Saturno, and all-black finish for the TT [Bonhams]
Not unlike the Western motorcycle market today, 1980s Japan had a distinct appreciation for classic and retro-themed offerings, so when it came time to debut the cafe’d thumper in ’87, the company opted to revive its famed “Saturno” moniker, capitalizing on the island’s love for the classic 1940’s model. While the model’s initial release was limited to the far east, the stylish single’s success prompted the firm to begin offering the Nuovo Saturno in other markets including Europe. Despite becoming available in most major markets, the half-liter half-naked only remained in production for less than half-a-decade, making surviving specimens fairly rare.

Slim and light, with tremendous tuning potential, or you could simply enjoy the 43 rear-wheel HP. [Bonhams]
The nimble little runner yielded 43hp, which admittedly isn’t much, though the bike’s sub-320lb weight still ultimately afforded it a top-speed of 115mph. Despite its alluring appearance and a relatively advanced power plant — water-cooling, dual exhaust ports, toothed-belt-driven double-overhead camshafts, four-valve cylinder head, forged piston, single-piece crank, etc — surprisingly few units ever left the factory, with only a fraction of said units officially exported to foreign shores, making examples exceedingly rare. Even more seldom found are special limited edition models, such as this 1989 GBM-spec Nuovo Saturno which was released to celebrate the TT. Originally from Japan by way of New Zealand, this half-liter specimen appears to be all original, wearing its factory paint, and lovely dual-can under-tail pipes, half-fairing with headlight bubble and transparent hand-shields. Despite leaving the factory almost thirty-years-ago, this bone-stock two-wheeler arguably looks more like a one-off Italian cafe racer than it does an unmolested factory offering.

8. 1970 Cushman Car with 1946 Cushman “Husky” Model 53A

Hands down, the #1 stealer of hearts at Las Vegas this year, the Cushman-powered carnival car with trailer and scooter. In red! [Bonhams]

Founded in Lincoln, Nebraska in 1903, the Cushman Scooter Company first got its start producing farm equipment and two-stroke boat motors before later expanding into an array of additional applications, including scooters and minibikes. In 1922 the American outfit introduced the “Husky” engine; an air-cooled, four-stroke, horizontal-shaft single. In 1936 Cushman decided to develop a small scooter around the Husky engine in an effort to sell more of its Husky mills, resulting in the Cushman Auto-Glide.

The Cushman Husky Model 53A on its custom trailer. [Bonhams]
Additional motorized two-wheelers followed, including popular models like the Eagle, Truckster, and the 53A — the latter of which is the example seen on the trailer above (or below?). Powered by Cushman’s Husky engine, this particular pocket-sized scoot has undergone a complete restoration. Pulling the 1946 53A is an even more charming pint-sized vehicle that was originally part of an amusement park ride, but was plucked from the carousel, given a steel ladder chassis that now houses the little sports car’s Cushman Husky engine.

A full engine bay! The Cushman Husky sidevalve motor looks potent in this context [Bonhams]
The bespoke Cushman-powered carnival car is linked to a custom trailer that, like the pair of little Husky powered vehicles, has been adorned in a coat of gloss red paint. The tiny auto also features a collection of exquisite details such as the wood interior trim, lighting, instrumentation, leather upholstery, mirrors, windshield. This unorthodox offering is expected to fetch between $5-6K when it goes under the hammer later this month.

The Beast! 1200cc four-cylinder bikes are common today, but they weren’t when Friedl Münch began building them in 1968. [Bonhams]
Working out of his personal shop in mid 1960s West Germany, Friedl Münch produced what many consider to be the world’s first bonafide super bike; the Münch Mammoth (or Mammut in German). Underwhelmed with the motorized two-wheeled offerings of his time, Münch set out to create his own visionary motorcycle. Predating the CB750’s four-barrel by a full two-years, the Mammoth was powered by an air-cooled, SOHC, 1,000cc inline four from NSU’s 1000 TT Prinz. And like the Prinz, the Mammoth’s inline-four was married to a four-speed gearbox.
The late, fuel-injected version of the NSU four-cylinder Prinz motor, known as the 1200TTS [Bonhams]
In order to squeeze more power out of the car’s motor, Münch cooked up special camshafts which were fitted to the mill, along with dual-throat Weber carbs. Other custom bits on the Mammoth fabbed up in Münch’s West German shop included a new oil-pan, gearbox case, and primary cover for the quad-cylinder cycle.  To accommodate for the German liter-sized four-banger’s oomph, Münch developed his own chassis; a twin-cradle structure paired with a fork assembly built by the famous Rickman Bro’s to Münch’s exact specifications. The bike’s single-piece seat-pan/rear-fender combo, rear wheel, and 250mm front double-leading shoe brake — which Münch designed himself in-house — were comprised of electron, a magnesium-alloy that’s as trick as its name suggests/sounds. The antithesis of a parts-bin bike, the Mammoth was created with a spare-no-expense attitude that, while made for a truly stellar motorcycle, didn’t exactly help keep production costs down — costing more than twice that of a high-end BMW of the day.
Yes, it’s large and heavy, but actually lighter than a stock Harley-Davidson touring rig by a long shot, with very stable handling [Bonhams]
Despite engine displacement being bumped up to 1.2 liters in 1974, the original buyer of this ’74 example still opted to have the lump bored out to 1,286cc’s in order to produce an even 100hp — a feat that was achieved through the implementation of cast iron cylinder barrels, larger valves, and high-lift cam. A quad-port Kugelfischer mechanical fuel-injection system that functioned via a simple ramp-and-ball layout (this was in the pre-onboard computer-regulated injection) was also employed — resulting in the “E” designation on the bike, with “E” standing for “Einspritzer”, German for “injection”.
How to stop it? In the 1960s, Münch designed and cast up a series of magnesium 2-leading shoe brakes of enormous size, for racing. They proved good enough to haul down a 100+HP behemoth. The rear wheel was designed and built in series after the early Mammuts ripped out their rear spokes! [Bonhams]
The first owner also specially requested that his TTS-E 1200 be equipped with a plush and cushiony solo saddle (with internal tool kit), chromed luggage-rack, nine-gallon long-range fuel-cell, and a long wheel-base frame (2-3” longer than the base unit’s chassis) to bolster the two-wheeler’s sport-touring prowess. Other supplementary add-ons from the factory consisted of dual oil-coolers and a single 200mm Sportlich headlight. In addition to the sled itself, the sale of this relatively immaculate Münch also includes hand-written notes from the model’s creator, Friedl Münch (who sadly passed away in 2014), along with its titles from Germany and the US (Texas), sales brochure, original advertisement poster, original owner’s manual, and a grip of service records and receipts.
Got receipts? Note the legendary Münch catalog at the top, with the nearly naked passenger. Ah, the Seventies… [Bonhams]
Supposedly keeping detailed records wasn’t Münch’s forte, but it’s estimated that around 500 examples were built before operations came to an end in ’75. Of those bikes, only a very small fraction of those came to US shores. This particular three-owner 1200TTS-E Münch Mammut (engine and frame number: 405X246) from 1974 has just 15,000 original miles on the clock, has been verified by the Münch Club as an authentic matching numbers specimen, and is expected to fetch between $115-135K.   Want to know what it’s like to ride one?  Read our Road Test of a Münch Mammut here!
Combine an amazingly catchy name with world-beating performance and make a legend for all time. The Vincent Black Lightning has a deserved place in everyone’s Top Ten of most desirable motorcycles [Bonhams]
Hans Stärkle was a factory rider for the NSU team prior to the war. While racing for the German outfit, Stärkle earned an impressive trio of European championships. After representing NSU for some time, Stärkle jumped ship and opted to compete aboard a Vincent. The rider purchased his Black Lightning brand new in 1949 from the marque’s Swiss distributor, Kämpfen & Hieronimy of Zurich.
Used as the maker intended: the original owner of this Black Lightning hammering around the track [Bonhams]
Stärkle’s Vincent originally came from the factory fitted with Amal TT10 racing carbs, ‘HRD Brampton ’46 pattern forks’, alloy brake plates, and Dural mudguards, though the ex-NSU pilot replaced the bike’s stock front-end with Series-C Girdraulic forks, which handled the stresses of sidecar racing far better than the old Brampton units. The motorcycle was purchased with the express purpose of going sidecar racing in the Unlimited Class. After having the sled in his stable for less-than-half-a-decade, Hans opted to let go of the Vincent, marking the first time it traded hands — an occurrence that would happen three more times.
The heart of the matter: it was the most powerful motorcycle engine in the world for decades, and deserved its reputation. Note the custom, extended kickstart pivot – the standard kicker won’t work with Lightning straight pipes. [Bonhams]
The exact history and documentation on this example is extensive, proving the rich pedigree of this elite machine. Expected to generate somewhere between $360-400K at auction later this month, this particular ‘RC3548’ Vincent Black Lightning will probably be the most exorbitant specimen to grace the Rio All this January.
Yes. Ride your Lightning on the road! The ultimate 1950s cafe racer – nothing could touch it. [Bonhams]
You can click here to check out the complete list of lots for Bonham’s Vegas 2019.
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