The 2020 Bonhams Las Vegas Auction is coming up fast and loud. Although it’s not the largest auction around, it does have some of the finest motorcycles you could ever want to see. This year’s auction promises everything from antique racing icons to early american big twins. Here is a quick look at some of our favorites destined for the auction block this January.

1940 Crocker Big Tank

An enduring icon, suddenly become an ultra hot commodity. The Crocker V-twin has become the most collectible motorcycle of all, and this green machine has serious history with Elmo Looper. [Bonhams]
The Big Tank twin is impossibly rare. This example being only one of roughly thirty made that year puts this bike squarely in the “rarer than chicken’s teeth” category. If this Crocker weren’t rare and cool enough on its own, this particular bike was previously owned by the last Captain of the Crocker ship, Elmo Looper.

Former owner Elmo Looper, a legendary figure and founder of the 13 Rebels MC, as portrayed in ‘The Wild One’, here with his 1940 Crocker. [Carl Olsen Collection]
After the second great war, Crocker decided to leave motorcycle manufacturing behind and instead continue with the more profitable, yet in-arguably less cool industrial manufacturing. Elmo Looper was the man who bought all the leftover V-twin parts and started re-building and customizing Crockers. This bike has it all, the looks, the history, and the half a million dollar estimate.

1949 Vincent 998cc Black Shadow Series C

The absolute classic: the Vincent Black Shadow has charisma lasting generations. [Bonhams]
The Vincent Series-B Rapide was an instant classic in its time, smashing into the moto world as the fastest production motorcycle in the world in 1946. If that wasn’t enough for the English cycle maker, started adding a few improvements to the Series-B Rapide. With a bit of tuning, larger carbs, and upgraded brakes, Vincent launched these bikes from a 110mph top speed to a blistering 125mph, giving birth to the “Black Shadow” designation. The Series-C would soon after make its debut sporting upgraded suspension. These performance upgrades wouldn’t be standard until 1950, making the HRD branded Series-C bikes, of which there are only 42 known examples, quite rare indeed.

1977 Ducati 900SS

One of the ultimate factory cafe racers of the 1970s, when Italian machinery dominated the news with the most beautiful, fastest and best. [Bonhams]
Road racing bikes from this era have been so fully embraced by modern riders with the resurgence of the cafe culture that they hardly even feel vintage anymore. Of course the racing pedigree and history of a company like Ducati si impossible to overlook, but the cafe style has gone from a classy-retro bike style to a nearly timeless category of custom bike building. It’s bikes like this that have pushed modern manufacturers to create production cafe bikes.

1955 Matchless G45

The most beautiful racing motorcycle ever made? Some think so. There’s no denying the Matchless G45 is a compelling machine, and very rare. [Bonhams]
Not only does Matchless have a long and storied history with production bikes and racing machines, they also managed to make one of the prettiest racing sleds to ever hit a corner. The G45 began as a bit of a mashup of the AJS 7R parts put into a tuned G9 for Matchless to throw at the racing circuit.

A Matchless G45 in action in 1952, with rider Bob Brown down to it. [Vintagent Archive]
With some further fine tuning and some success on the track, Matchless make the production G45 available in 1953. This particular bike was commissioned in 1955 by seven-time South African road racing champ, Borro ‘Beppe’ Castellani. Beppe reportedly raced this G45 extensively, taking this already very beautiful racer from rare to a bonafide bit of moto racing history.

1927 Indian Scout

This 1927 Indian Scout is simply gorgeous in a deep claret, with black and nickel accents. [Bonhams]
Following the first Great War, Indian was looking at something other than just building bikes for the battlefields in Europe. The first Scouts leaving the Wigwam in 1920 were great bikes of their time, but would eventually culminate with the 101 Scout in ‘28, which would go on to be considered the greatest bike Indian ever made. Although this ‘27 Scout is one year too early to get the upgrades that earned the 101 its legendary status, these bikes still have one of the most beautiful designs of any production motorcycle ever made. Not to mention, opting for the ‘27 over a ‘28 will likely save you a few bucks.

 

Peter Corn is a writer in NYC and a Contributor to TheVintagent.com