Covid continues to throw spanners into the works of daily life, and routines aren’t so routine. Last fall, Mecum Auctions planned to go ahead with its traditional late-January Las Vegas Motorcycle sales event. Just before Christmas 2020, however, Mecum announced that due to restrictions on live events laid down by the State of Nevada and the city of Las Vegas, the famous auction would be postponed. New dates of April 28 to May 1 were announced. Not only are the dates different, but due to a scheduling conflict, the 30th Annual Vintage & Antique Motorcycle Auction has had to pack its saddlebags and change venue; instead of the South Point Hotel, the machines will roll across the block at the Las Vegas Convention Center.

“With Las Vegas capacity restrictions still in place toward the end of 2020, we had to make the decision to change the dates from our historical January date to late April,” explains Sam Murtaugh, Chief Operating Officer of Mecum Auctions. “While everyone looks forward to the annual motorcycle pilgrimage to Vegas in January, I believe our customers were pleased with the decision as it provided more time to allow the pandemic to calm down to safer levels. As soon as we changed dates, the consignment roster grew exponentially, and we are now looking forward to having a fabulous auction at the convention center starting on April 28 with over 1500 motorcycles to choose from.”

Mecum’s Las Vegas motorcycle auction is the largest in the world, and there is literally a bike for everyone who rides in their 2021 auction list.  Will there be records set?  With amazing bikes like a 1950 Vincent Black Shadow, a 1939 Crocker with patina, and a collection of every year H-D Knucklehead made, keep an eye on our Top 100 Most Expensive Motorcycles list!

Here are 10 machines on my personal ‘ones to watch’ list from Mecum’s bolstered sale roster:

1. 1939 Crocker Big Tank (ex-Bob Ross, Motorcycles Only LA)

This 1938 Crocker has an amazing patina, with classic American custom styling of the period. [Mecum]
Years ago, I gave a Crocker T-shirt to an old friend who promptly said, “That’s a crock of shit, what’s a Crocker?” The legendary machines were built by Albert Crocker. He started his engineering career in the early 1900s with Thor motorcycles, manufactured by Aurora Automatic Machine Co. Later, Al worked with Indian, and in 1930, bought an Indian shop of his own in Los Angeles, and proceeded to construct overhead valve kits to fit Indian 45 cubic-inch twin engines for speedway racing. Fast forward to 1935, and Al, with Paul Bigsby as an employee, developed the Big Twin – a 62 cubic-inch V-twin with hemispherical overhead valve heads and cast aluminum fuel and oil tanks. These tanks were enlarged in 1938 – giving rise to the term Big Tank — and the hemi heads were revised with a different combustion chamber profile. His motorcycles were built to order, and it’s thought only 72 were produced. So, this example from 1939 with custom pipes and a sweaty paint job sprayed in the 1950s when it was restored by then-owner Bob Ross (of Motorcycles Only) is one to watch – simply because it’s been mechanically restored without removing any of that character.  It’s a stunner, have a look.

Looking good from every angle, this and two other Crockers are expected to be among the top sellers at Las Vegas this year. [Mecum]
2. 1942 Indian Big Base Scout Racer ex-Ed Kretz

The ex-Ed Kretz Indian Scout racer is a well-documented machine with a chain of ownership as long as your arm. Great history – and a Von Dutch paint job! [Mecum]
“Some motorcycles ooze and dribble lubricant. Some ooze charm, charisma and history. A perfect example of the latter is this 1939 Indian Big Base Scout, a motorcycle built for no other reason than going fast on dirt tracks. That this machine is connected to several important figures in the world of motorcycles including Ed Kretz, Shell Thuet and Kenny Howard — aka Von Dutch — just adds to the entire package.” I wrote those words 12 years ago for an article in Motorcycle Classics about this very Indian with serial number FDB 381. In 1941, Ed Kretz received two Indian race engines, FCI 173 and FDB 381. The first engine, FCI 173, is in Ed’s famous blue and white race bike; FDB 381 is seen here. Starting in 1946 and through his Los Angeles Indian dealership, Ed had had many top riders campaigning FDB 381 in Class C racing, including Floyd Emde, Jack Horn, Bob Holt and Bobbie Turner. In fact, Holt took third in 1948 at the Daytona 200, and fourth in 1949 with FDB 381. When Kretz sold the machine in 1952, it passed through the hands of Galen Brookins, tuner Shell Thuet, and then Pate Killian – who had the bike painted three times by his friend Von Dutch. It’s the last paint scheme that adorns this machine today: have a look.

Number 38 was Ed Kretz’ racing number of course, this Indian’s most famous former owner. [Mecum]
3. 1913 Dayton Big Twin

Pretty as a picture, the Dayton was a significant player in the ‘Teens motorcycle scene, with dealers across the USA. [Mecum]
Pre-’16 motorcycles are rare enough, but this 1913 Dayton is one of a handful thought to remain in existence – and it’s a beautiful example, having been restored by master craftsman Chris Cutler. Dayton motorcycles were introduced in 1911, and were an offshoot of the company’s bicycle-building business. Powered by the 998cc F.W. Spacke engine, a powerplant also found in Sears, Minneapolis and DeLuxe machines, the Dayton shows off the polished and engine-turned alloy crankcases and nickel-plated top end with aplomb. The Spacke featured a shaft and bevel magneto drive, a rarity for the early days of the American motorcycle industry. With all chain primary and final drive, this ’13 Dayton is a single-speed. By 1915, Dayton was building their own V-twin engine with two-speed gearbox, but the company couldn’t viably continue building motorcycles after the First World War – instead, they focused on their bicycle production under the Huffman Manufacturing Company and in 1924, these were branded Huffy bicycles. This Dayton Big Twin is reported to run, and has rare accessories including a Stewart speedometer and Hine-Watt Columbia headlight.

The Spacke engine was the prettiest American motor, with lovely castings and nickel-plated cylinders. [Mecum]
4. 1938 Zündapp K800

The most Art Deco motorcycle produced in Germany, Zundapp’s K800 is a stunner. [Mecum]
One of the most elegant motorcycles built in Germany is the K800 from Zündapp. Introduced in 1933, the K800  featured a flat four-cylinder powerplant with four-speed transmission and shaft final drive – that’s what the K stands for – Kardanantrieb, or Cardan drive, after Giralamo Cardano, who invented the driveshaft. Designed by Richard Küchen, the K800 was the top of the Zündapp range, and smartly displays Art Deco styling with the pressed steel frame finished in classic black set off with the right amount of chrome. Produced for six years, the ’38 is the last of the line for what was an expensive, low-volume machine and finding one in America is extraordinarily rare. This one in restored condition with matching engine and frame numbers is, quite simply, a stunner.

Beautiful details – a jockey shift, a cover over the carburetor, and twin spark plugs to remind you you’re riding a four-cylinder. [Mecum]
5. 1977 MV Agusta 750S America

Long considered among the most beautiful motorcycles of all time, any MV Agusta four is a coveted object. [Mecum]
This is one Italian-made motorcycle that is rapidly appreciating – but the 750S America was never an inexpensive proposition. In America, two men were involved in the MV Agusta story; Chris Garville of Commerce Overseas Corporation in New York and dealer Jim Cotherman of Freeport, Illinois. Both had been working with MV Agusta when together, in 1974, they approached the MV factory with an idea about producing an exotic 750cc sporting motorcycle that would suit the tastes of the U.S. market. The result was the 750S America, a four-cylinder, 789cc machine with shaft final drive that was produced from 1975 until 1977, when MV Agusta curtailed motorcycle production. That’s when they offered the remaining supply of 750S America machines to importer Ernest Wise of Cosmopolitan Motors. Ernest’s son, Larry Wise, says the retail price of the bike was $6,000. Cosmopolitan brought in 50 of them, and Larry was disappointed not to have kept one or two behind. Just a few years after selling the last one, the machines were changing hands for more than $35,000. This example is an original paint survivor with apparently only minor cosmetic touch ups. It’s one to watch.

It’s only original once…and this beauty retains it paint from the Varese factory. [Mecum]
6. 1963 Triumph Bonneville TT Special

Made for America: the TT Special (or T120C0 is a coveted machine for its run of success on the West Coast especially, where this do-everything bike did best. [Mecum]
Also built solely for the American market is the Triumph Bonneville TT Special. In the U.S., parallel-twin Brit-bikes were being used to campaign in off-road events, and the TT Special was introduced late in 1962 for the 1963 season as the T120C West Coast, or TT Special. The machine featured Triumph’s latest unit-construction crankcase system, which became standard in 1963 across the 650cc range of machines including the Thunderbird, Trophy and Bonneville models. There were new, wider timing gears for quieter running, a smoother clutch and a nine-stud cylinder head and rocker boxes with fins instead of the plain boxes found on the earlier pre-unit engines. The last of the TT Specials left the line in 1967, and this original early machine at auction had of late been in New Zealand in the John Howard Collection. Displaying the right signs of age, the bike will go home with a new owner together with its original MSO straight from Johnson Motors – the famous Los Angeles Triumph dealership – where the TT Special was sold new. This one is a beauty.

Twin hi-pipes and no lights mean this is a competition-only model from Triumph. [Mecum]
7. 1950 Vincent Black Lightning

Awesome in visage and presence, the Vincent Black Lightning is celebrated in history and song. It’s a blast to ride, too! [David Martinez Studios]
Essentially a made-to-order motorcycle, the Black Lightning was designed for racing and record-breaking. It was equipped with various go-fast goodies, including rear set controls, aluminum fenders, alloy rims and special lightweight brake backing plates. What really makes the Black Lightning special is the 998cc engine, specially assembled with hand-selected racing components, including modified heads with larger intake ports and polished valve rockers, beefier connecting rods, Lucas racing magneto, Amal TT carburetors and straight through exhaust pipes. Only 31 examples were built, and this particular Black Lightning, with serial number F10AB/1C/1641, was originally ordered by Danish sidecar racing champion David Axelson and delivered on March 20, 1950. It was raced before being disassembled in 1965 and stored in boxes before finally being resurrected by Sivert Bomberg over the winter of 1998-99. With a fully documented history from new, this well-sorted and strong-running Black Lightning will surely attract international attention.  Our publisher Paul d’Orléans road-tested this machine extensively, and made the film below with filmmaker David Martinez in 2020.  Paul says it runs like a beast, and sounds like one too!  Watch the film of him riding this bike, below, then check out the bike at Mecum.

8. 1937 Velocette MSS

Proper motorcycles have fishtail exhausts…just ask any Velocette owner! [Mecum]
A proper motorcycle has a fishtail silencer, and this 500cc Velocette MSS that appears to have been recently restored (although metal preparation on parts such as the toolbox, for example, is a letdown) is selling with no reserve. Starting in 1933 with the 250cc MOV, then the 350cc MAC in 1934, the MSS (for Super Sport) debuted in 1935. All M-models featured high camshaft overhead valve pushrod engines, and the pre-war examples with rigid frame and girder fork are great handling motorcycles. Plus, they just look ‘right’. Velocette was an innovative company, and developed the ‘footstarter’ and later, a positive stop foot shift mechanism. In 1922 Velocette introduced their unique clutch, an affair that sees a slim chain ring/basket and plates and all bearings inboard of the final drive sprocket. This clutch made Velocette a favorite among racers, as the drive sprocket can easily be changed to alter final drive ratio. If this MSS stays in North America, the buyer should join the Velocette Owners Club of North America (VOCNA for short), as the group is a tremendous resource and has hosted an annual 1,000-mile riding rally every summer for 35 years.  Who says Britbikes are unreliable?  Take a look.

A handsome machine with a Grand Prix pedigree, the MSS was Velocette’s pushrod super sports model, which will cruise all day at 60mph. [Mecum]
9. 1978 Kawasaki Z1R

The Kawasaki Z1-R was one of the first Japanese motorcycles with an integral fairing. [Mecum]
Moving beyond the idea of the UJM (Universal Japanese Motorcycle) of the mid-1970s, Kawasaki introduced this model with handlebar mounted quarter fairing and square-shaped gas tank, tail section and triangular side panels. Essentially, the machine is a styling exercise, with limited upgrades to the KZ1000 engine and frame of 1977. While the machine’s physical appearance with its 4-into-1 exhaust and racy lines was a hit, performance was less than impressive (according to the motorcycle press of the day) and in North America, the Z1R was dropped for 1979. Kawasaki returned in 1980 with a significantly revised Z1R, making the ’78 with its pastel blue paint a one-year only model. Prices, though, remain strong for Z1Rs of 1978, and this particular example in survivor condition might present itself as something of a bargain.

She’s a bad motor scooter, with the heart of a lion. The Z1 was the fastest motorcycle in the world for several years. [Mecum]
10. 1970 Honda CL350

The best of the 1970s middleweights, the Honda CL350 was fast, reliable, and bulletproof. [Mecum]
As little as a decade ago, the once ubiquitous Honda CB/CL350s were available for the proverbial ‘dollar per cc’ price tag. Not so anymore. These mild-mannered yet eager to please and easy to handle mounts have since become harder to find in good, original condition as many of them have been heavily modified for racing, or have succumbed to the custom builder’s touch. This one is still in its original candy ruby red paint (although it appears to have been very well polished when compared to the patina showing on the headlight bucket), unmolested screw and bolt heads, rubber-tipped control levers and a paltry 1,564 miles showing on an unfaded speedometer that hasn’t seen a lick of UV light in decades.  Check it out.

Precious metal: despite hundreds of thousands sold, it’s very difficult to find a really good, original paint CL350 these days. [Mecum]
Greg Williams is a motorcycle writer and publisher based in Calgary who contributes the Pulp Non-Fiction column to The Antique Motorcycle and regular feature stories to Motorcycle Classics. He is proud to reprint the Second and Seventh Editions of J.B. Nicholson’s Modern Motorcycle Mechanics series. Follow him on IG: @modernmotorcyclemechanics
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