Motorcycles, how do we love thee?  Well, thousands of us are willing to sit in an indoor rodeo arena in Las Vegas for days, listening to the drone of a professional cattle auctioneer’s callout as hundreds of motorcycles pass under the hammer every day.  2024 is another banner year for Mecum’s Las Vegas mega-auction, with over 1400 motorcycles ready to roll across the auction podium at the South Point Hotel and Casino, with the action commencing at 9am Wed Jan 24, and running till about 4pm on Saturday Jan 27.  The amazing variety of motorcycles on offer come from individual sellers, professional restorers, and this year from a record 18 special collections, ranging from John Goldman’s superb Museo Moto Italia collection to the Classic Motorcycles Austria collection to the Bud Ekins Family Trust.

The Vintagent team has selected their Mecum Top Ten for 2024 from the rabbit hole that is the entirety of Mecum’s four-day list.  We invite you to have a look for yourself, and if there’s anything we missed that you think should be included, feel free to add it to the comments below, along with why it floats your boat.  The following bikes float our boat, filling a variety of different neurotransmitter receptors, from funky and original, to awesomely historic, to groovy one-offs.  Enjoy!

1957 F.B. Mondial 250 Bialbero

Among the most beautiful Grand Prix racers of the 1950s, this Mondial very likely was Provini’s 2nd place winner in the World Championship in 1957. [Mecum]
If you were looking for the ultimate collector motorcycle, look no further, as this extraordinary 1957 Mondial 250cc Bialbero Grand Prix has it all: amazing good looks, apex technical sophistication and innovation, and World Championship podium status.  It is extraordinarily rare and probably unique, as part of the Mondial factory collection that was dispersed following their closure in 1977.  F.B. Mondial won a trifecta of World Championships from 1949-51 in the 125cc class, then officially took a break from Grand Prix competition to concentrate on developing their road motorcycle business.  The factory still sold Monoalbero racers to selected clients, and quietly developed them while biding their time to return to GP racing with a new model.  In late 1956 they revealed an entirely new DOHC single-cylinder racer with a 6-speed gearbox, using a shaft-and-bevel drive for the cams rather than their usual train of gears.  With engine number 250-1, this machine is most likely the very first of these factory racers, built in 1956 and raced exclusively by factory rider Tarquinio Provini during the 1957 season.  This is most likely the very machine Provini raced to 2nd place in the 1957 World Grand Prix Championship, and on which he won the 1957 Italian National Championship.  During 1957, the factory revised the engine for their 250 DOHC racers, returning to a tower of gears driving the camshafts, which Provini did not race. Of the both types of 250 Grand Prix racers from 1956/7, it is believed only seven machines total were built, and this is the only shaft-and-bevel 250 Mondial racer in the world.

The wind-cheating bodywork added to the top speed of this machine, and is designed to wrap around the rider. [Mecum]
This exquisite machine deservedly won Best of Show at the 2017 Quail Motorcycle Gathering, and was included in the 2023 Taschen reference book ‘Ultimate Collector Motorcycles’, by Charlotte and Peter Fiell.   And this factory 1957 Mondial 250cc Bialbero Grand Prix certainly qualifies, being unique, storied, and devastatingly beautiful.

1938 Brough Superior SS100 with Sidecar

Hello George! A 1938 SS100 in unmolested condition. [Mecum]
Barn find SS100s are incredibly rare these days, so this 1938 MX-engined SS100 is exciting: it’s a known machine in the Brough club, was last registered in England in 1967, and looks to be in original paint condition, with enough patina to suggest it is unmolested and original.  Plus, it comes with a a rare Launch sidecar from the Brough Superior catalog, with the famous ‘petrol tube’ chassis George Brough invented.

Crap photos, amazing bike: enlarging the images reveals this machine is totally correct in its details. [Mecum]
George Brough earned eternal fame with his Brough Superiors, especially the SS100 model, which was his masterpiece.  When introduced in 1924, the ‘Hundred’ was the most beautiful, most expensive, fastest, and most coveted motorcycle in the world, and so it remains to this day.  While George was a master of PR, he was also a master stylist, and every motorcycle to emerge from his small Nottingham workshop was guaranteed to be as gorgeous as it was eminently functional.  His machines worked; they were built for fast touring (and racing, if you ordered it so) with ‘special for Brough’ extra-durable materials inside their engines and gearboxes, which he famously strong-armed out of his suppliers, who it must be acknowledged benefitted equally from the association.  In the mid-1930s, George Brough sourced his SS80 and SS100 engines from AMC, with their ‘MX’ sidevalve and overhead valve engines. The MX-engine secured the Brough Superior SS100’s status as the world’s premier luxury motorcycle on its introduction in 1934, having become an ultra-sophisticated grand tourer of peerless styling and a first-class finish, a money-no-object motorcycle for the very rich. Which perfectly defines the SS100’s place in motorcycling today, and while the cost of ownership has grown exponentially, the description when new remains the same.  Broughs never languished as inexpensive or disposable, and their coveted status among collectors means a high percentage of the 3048 Brough Superiors built have survived.

1922 Tavener Twin

A unique, advanced home-built special: the 1922 Tavener. [Mecum]
You like rare?  How about unique!  This fascinating special has a known history as one man’s vision of the perfect motorcycle, and in truth it’s pretty cool. In the ‘Teens and Twenties, discussion raged in the motorcycling press regarding ‘the ideal motorcycle’.  Ernest Tavener, a 19-year old apprentice in the Rolls Royce aircraft division, put the metal where his mouth was in 1921, making his own ideal motorcycle, which he naturally dubbed the Tavener.  The specification was intriguing, and included an M.A.G. (Motosacoche) 1000cc V-twin engine paired with a single-speed belt drive and clutch.  The Motosacoche engine was considered the finest-built motorcycle engine one could buy off the shelf, with typical Swiss characteristics: perfect castings and build quality, solid specification with a sporting edge: not the fastest motor available but much less nervous than a comparable sporting J.A.P. V-twin.  So far so good: where the Tavener gets interesting is the chassis, which is clearly what Ernest had ideas about.   The frame is built entirely of straight tubing for maximum strength, and bolted together without welds or heavy cast lugs.  The steering head is a piece of stout large-diameter tubing, to which all forward frame tubes are bolted.  The engine and gearbox are mounted in flat plats and flat straps, also bolted together.  The rear frame section runs wide of the rear wheel, which is actually carried in an independent, leaf-sprung subframe built of sheet steel.  The front forks are the most elaborate part of the chassis, with a triple girder fork mounting the front wheel on a leading-link axle, which moves via a lever to a flat leaf spring mounted alongside the deeply valanced front fender.  The rear fender is similarly deeply valanced, 20 years before Briggs Weaver redesigned the Indian motocycle lineup along similar lines.

Leaf spring suspension front and rear, plus a sophisticated Motosacoche V-twin motor; the Taverner was very advanced for 1922. [Mecum]
In 1926 the Tavener was modified to include a 3-speed Sturmey-Archer gearbox and clutch.  In the 1980s the Taverner was restored for the road, which is the state in which it sits today as an older restoration of a fascinating and unique motorcycle with excellent lines and innovative chassis design.  With a stout frame, leaf springing front and rear, and attractive bodywork, the Tavener remains a remarkably appealing motorcycle.

1941 Gilera LTE

As military motorcycles go, the Gilera LTE is hardly a dullard. [Mecum]
If you’re a military motorcycle buff, you’ve seen all the WLAs, M20s, and R75Ms you need in your life, but you’ve probably never seen a Gilera LTE in full military spec before.   And it’s a beauty, with full suspension front and rear in typical 1930s Italian style, and exquisite castings and build quality.  Gilera was the sharp edge of future racing technology in the 30s with their supercharged DOHC four-cyliner Rondine racer, but they also offered more humble but beautifully made motorcycles for the public, like the Saturno hotrod single, and the LTE, with its 500cc sidevalve engine.

The castings are beautiful, the chassis fascinating, and the overall design charming, hardly what you’d expect of a bike for the army. [Mecum]
The LTE was characterized by an unusual rear suspension system provided by a triangulated tubular swingarm connected to horizontal spring boxes mounted high in the frame, with a hand-adjustable friction damper.  The forks were standard girders, and the gearbox a 4-speed with hand shifter.  With its 500cc sidevalve motor, the LTE was a lovely machine, and was lighter and more sophisticated than its rivals.  This 1941 Gilera LTE is a very rare machine, and in superb, fully operational condition.

1953 Harley-Davidson Model KK

Suave and cool, the original hotrod Sport Twin from Harley-Davidson. [Mecum]

This ultra-rare, low-mileage 1953 Harley-Davidson Model KK is a one-year-only model and a factory Hot Rod. The odometer reads a believable 6,500 miles, and as a first-generation K model has a 45 CI (750cc) sidevalve V-twin motor that was revolutionary in the Harley-Davidson lineup. It was the first Harley-Davidson with both hydraulic telescopic forks and hydraulic shock rear suspension and was their first unit-construction V-twin.

The Model K engine is so clean, and clearly the progenitor of the XL Sportster, with a surprisingly powerful sidevalve engine. [Mecum]

The K model was Harley-Davidson’s answer to the British motorcycle invasion postwar, being significantly lighter and smaller than their Big Twin Panhead model, and intended to take over in Class C racing from the WR sidevalve model. The K model used the same bore/stroke as the old W series (2-3/4” x 3 13/16”), with a 6.5:1 compression ratio, with heavily finned aluminum cylinder heads to aid cooling. With a unit-construction crankcase, the K model saved space and weight and had a modern look, years before the British twins adopted the same idea. The standard K model Sports Twin produced 30 HP and weighed 400lbs, but the KK was a hotted-up model with a factory-installed ‘speed kit’ that included roller bearings and roller valve tappets, larger valves, ported and polished cylinders, and matching heads for better gas flow, including hot camshafts. By no coincidence, Harley-Davidson also introduced the KR model in 1953 as the factory Class C racer, and the expertise gained in tuning the new K model for racing was adapted in a slightly less fierce form to this roadster model KK: racing improves the breed, as they say.The KK Sport Twin produced 34 HP and was good for over 90 MPH, with very good handling and a modest weight making for a very sporting twin indeed.

1963 Yamaha Ascot Scrambler

Never heard of one? Among the earliest of specialized Japanese dirt racers, the 1963 Yamaha Ascot. [Mecum]

Yamaha’s Ascot Scrambler is a fascinating machine, a combination of the YDS-2 street bike and the TD1 production racer, with its own unique bits that make parts sourcing for this bike basically impossible. Yamahas were the 250cc engine of choice for Amateur class racers, as they were limited to that engine capacity for their first year of AMA racing, and Yamaha was the fastest engine available.  Tuners and racers commonly put TD1 engines into special frames by Trackmaster, Redline, et al, which put Yamaha on the podium at tracks like Ascot Park, without the factory even trying.

Lots of parts on the Ascot cross over to the TD1 production road racer. [Mecum]

Yamaha had sense enough to make their own dirt racer, and the Ascot Scrambler was result: a 250cc twin-cylinder two stroke with 35hp.  The Ascot, introduced in 1962, used the aluminum cylinder barrels of the TD1 with slightly smaller intakes (24mm Mikuni carbs were used), combined with expansion chambers and wheels from the TD1, and its own frame.  Production lasted from 1962 to 1967, and while it was a popular seller for racers, very few survive intact, and not many are in such good original condition like this bike.

1964 Bianchi Falco GLS 50

Just in case the tank didn’t look long enough, it was emphasized with a fat white flash. So very groovy! [Mecum]

Tiny cafe racers, like kittens and puppies, provoke the same response in all motorcyclists: they SO CUTE!  And this Bianchi Falco is extra super cute, and seriously badass at the same time.  With its elongated gas tank looking like Alien’s motorchild, the clip-ons and humped seat, the blue metalflake paint job, and its rarity, make this Bianchi the micro etceterini cafe racer to have.  It’s got a single-cylinder 50cc two-stroke motor, and isn’t a moped as it doesn’t have pedals: it’s a small motorcycle, and exquisitely designed.

A miniature cafe racer, but make it gorgeous, as only the Italians can. [Mecum]

I’ve seen this bike installed in the home of its owner, John Goldman, and immediately coveted it…and all the other crazy cool Italian Grand Prix racers and cafe racers in his collection.  Much of that hoard is on sale in Vegas this January as the ‘Museo Moto Italia Collection’, which includes the largest private sale of F.B. Mondial motorcycles ever.

1947 Supercharged Zundapp KS600 Oskar Pillenstein racer

Winner of the 1948 German National Chammpionship, this supercharged 1947 Zundapp sidecar rig is an amazing piece of history. [Mecum]

After WW2, Germany was banned from the Grand Prix circuit, but they still held motorcycle races, and their own German National Championship.  Also, not being part of the FIM meant they could use superchargers, which were banned everywhere else.  This remarkable blown Zundapp KS600 racer was originally built by Oskar Pillenstein with help from Zundapp’s head of design, Richard Kuchen. Pillenstein promptly won the 1948 German Motorcycle Championship with it, setting a class record of 103kmh.

What makes it special: a blow added atop the crankcases. Serious boom. [Mecum]

The KS600 was the continuation of Zundapp’s prewar engine, and the basis for the legendary Green Elephant KS601 to come.  Its 600cc OHV motor normally put out 28hp at 4,800rpm, but the addition of a supercharger definitely gave a power bump. There are tons of factory racing bits inside and out, as this is a unique motorcycle, and basically a factory racing Zundapp.  It was restored in 1987, and was on display at a museum for almost 30 years, but is now available to you.

1928 Indian-Ace Model 401

Basically an Ace Four with Indian badging, the Indian-Ace is rare and coveted as the first of the Indian Fours. [Mecum]

The first of the legendary Indian fours were basically rebadged Aces, as Indian acquired that brand in 1927, and sold them as the Indian Ace Series 401, with a 77ci (1265cc) inline 4-cylinder engine.  Initially the Indian-ACE was a parts-bin special, using up remaining ACE stocks, but the Four was changed over time to become a fully Indian machine.  In the first half of 1928, the engine got lighter alloy pistons, pressurized oiling, and a new cam, giving it more power and reliability, and by August of 1928, Indian had redesigned the 4-cylinder to harmonize with the rest of its model lineup.  Only the first-year Indian-Ace Fours used the leading-link front fork and frame seen here, which are pure Ace items.   These early Indian-Ace Fours are coveted for their rarity and unique style, and clear connection to the father of the American Four-cylinder, William Henderson.

The long, sleek lines of this first-gen Indian Four would evolve into something more bulbous over time, although Indian Fours were always gorgeous. [Mecum]
Henderson began producing his self-named four in 1912, but was forced to sell his design to Schwinn in 1915. The resulting Excelsior-Henderson was a superb machine, but Henderson had other ideas, and designed a wholly new motorcycle that infringed none of his earlier patents, which he called the Ace.  It was the fastest production motorcycle in the world when the prototype was built in 1919, but American four-cylinder motorcycles were always loss leaders, and when Henderson was killed while testing an Ace in 1921, things went downhill.  The Ace name was sold twice before being purchased by Indian in 1927, and the first Indian-Ace models were built in early 1928.

1972 Kawasaki H2R 750 

Mean and green racing machine, the reputation of the H2R was simply wicked. [Mecum]

I’ve known Ken Seavy for decades: he arranged the purchase of my Velocette Thruxton in 1989, after his boss at Good Olde Days got busted with 6 tons of amphetamines, and had to liquidate his amazing motorcycle collection.  I’ve long known Ken was racing legend Art Bauman’s nephew, and that he owned Art’s old Kawasaki H2R 750, among other very rare bikes, but he never invited me to see his collection.  In the 1980s and early 90s, the Kawasaki was at the nadir of its value, but Ken knew what he had. Finally, that mean green racing machine has come to light, and it’s a beauty, with a presale estimate of $180-220k.

The air-cooled 750cc two-stroke moment was brief, for good reason! Seizures were common due to cylinder distortion, and riders kept their hand on the clutch lever at all times! [Mecum]
The H2R 750 was a fabulously bad idea, as Kawasaki was forced to use their air-cooled H2 MkIV 750cc triple road engine, and stuffed it in the H1R frame intended for a 250cc engine. The result was a wicked two-stroke with 110hp that ran too hot and didn’t handle well, but was still very impressive. The H2R 750 was only built for 3 years, before rule changes meant Kawasaki could switch to watercooling its racing engine, and the KR750 supplanted it in 1975. 



Paul d’Orléans is the founder of 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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