Peter Corn

More Gems at Bonhams Las Vegas

With the Bonhams Las Vegas auction coming up next week, we thought we would give y’all another look at some of the heavy weights and showstoppers that will be crossing the auction block  out in the desert. Some of the big boys you’d expect at a highball auction will surely be there; early big twins and prominent race winners, but as Bonhams is wont to do, there are some extremely-cool weirdos sprinkled in to taste. 

From our 'Icons of 1980s Design' article, the Vetter Mystery Ship is a thing of amazement, and is rocketing up in value today. [Bonhams]
1980 Kawasaki 750cc Mystery Ship

“Ride, Captain ride, on your mystery ship…” Here’s your chance to follow The Blues Image’s instruction. Part of what makes this bike so cool and noteworthy is that AMA hall of famer, Craig Vetter, best known for designing the Windjammer fairing that has empowered many a retiree to rip across the country with comfort and ease, designed the Triumph X-75 Hurricane and the Mystery Ship. The 1980 Kawasaki 750cc Mystery Ship is an odd and obscure motorcycle with performance clearly in mind. The Mystery Ship in any configuration is quite rare, but of the ten built, this one is probably the most collectible due to its rare fitting of the biggest turbo option of which only two were made. Oh, and its odometer only reads, 2 miles...so there’s that.   

Oh Bud, how we miss ye! Bud Ekins' personal pre-war Triumph Speed Twin, just how he liked 'em. [Bonhams]
Ex-Bud Ekins 1938 Triumph 5T Speed Twin

Triumph certainly turned some heads in ‘37 with the introduction of the Speed Twin. Although there were vertical twins before the Triumph, but they were largely over built, clunky things. The Speed Twin revolutionized the design by making them lighter and more narrow which resulted in a massively popular model for the British marque. 

So, on their own, these early example vertical twins are iconic on their own with small production numbers that managed to find their way across the pod these have become quite collectable, but this one in particular belonged to the legendary racer and hero stuntman, Bud Ekins. Amazingly, this bike, while being well maintained mechanically, has held onto its Ekins patina. What a sight!

Not your daughter's Elmo! Elmo Looper's personal Big Tank Crocker is a piece of bona fide American motorcycle royalty. [Bonhams]
1940 Crocker Big Tank

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. 

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.

The overhead-valve 680 model was the most popular Brough Superior, the 'poor man's SS100', and so it remains today. [Bonhams]
1929 Brough Superior 680 Project

Rolls Royce on two wheels —  the Brough Superior was the final word on luxury motorcycling. The 680 OHV was the lighter, sporty younger sibling to the side valve model. For a bike meant to be the smaller, lighter bike and debuting in 1927, its 80mph top speed was pretty astounding. The Brough Superior Club Machine Registrar has confirmed that this 1929 Overhead 680 is a matching-numbers (frame, engine, gearbox) bike with standard Bentley & Draper sprung frame, Castle fork, and first year dual headlamp. After a few years of misfortune and despair this bike was left largely intact, but in rough shape. Although this bike is a bit of a project, it is far from your run-of-the-mill “ran when parked” craigslist ad.

Bobby Sirkegian was barely out of diapers when he began a career of scorching dragstrips, always on Triumphs. [Bonhams]
Ex-Bobby Sirkegian 1953 Triumph 650cc Drag Racing Motorcycle

This Triumph 650cc drag bike is the real deal. Fuel drag bikes are simply in their own category. A category so mean and so touchy that only the most fearless and experienced riders are able to make it in the white knuckled world of high test drag racing — and sometimes that rider is a 12-year old. Young Bobby Sirkegian raced this nitro racer from his dad’s dealership. This bike has clearly been modified for power in nearly every way conceivable for the time; bigger valves, flowed cylinder heads, special made cams, and bored carbs. WIth this bike and all its fuel guzzling mods with bobby pulling the throttle earned four national titles and 200 individual wins. 

A pile of parts with enough DNA from the Surtees family to justify purchase. [Bonhams]
Jack and John Surtees 1947 Vincent-HRD Rapide Series B Project

Here we have a few bits and pieces of a 1947 Vincent HRD Rapide B formally owned and raced by father and son, double world championship holder with motorcycle wins in ‘56, ‘58, ‘59, and ‘60. Shortly after those world titles on a bike, John Surtees goes on to win a World Championship for Ferrari in the F1 circuit in 1964. 

This Rapide appears to have been built to a very similar specification to the legendary “Gunga Din” HRD bike. Although this bike now comes to auction in project form, the bones of this Vincent have a long and storied past not only within the story of motorcycle racing, but within the history of F1 as well. 

 

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

It's Time for Bimotas

Nick Drake, Vincent Van Gogh, and Bimota: sometimes real appreciation for your work comes after you're dead.  Like any creative innovator ahead of its time, Bimota built exquisite, hand-crafted motorcycles in tiny numbers, that were adored by the few who could afford them, and puzzled over by the motorcycling world at large.  But we foresee Bimotas marching into the celebrity spotlight as a seriously collectable marque in the near future, as Bimota changed the motorcycle world in nearly every metric of chassis design and build quality. This little Italian moto maker was a giant killer both technically and creatively, combining their innovation in frame design and manufacturing with amazing styling, especially in their early years under co-founder Massimo Tamburini, who went on to design acknowledged masterpieces with the Ducati 916 and MV Agusta F4.  If there is a worthy post-war inheritor of the Brough Superior mantle of 'luxury motorcycle', we would argue it should be Bimota: their build quality was insanely high, their styling was superb and led the industry, and their bikes proved their worth in competition by winning many racing series over the years, and they were never built to a price, but priced according to the build. 

This year’s 2020 Mecum’Auction will showcase the largest sale of this insanely cool and impossibly rare Italian marque ever at one auction.   They all hail from the Musée L'Epopée de la Moto Collection, and most were purchased from the collection of Francesco Romanelli. Here's what's coming:

The 1978 Bimota KB1 shares the remarkable split frame and adjustable steering head angle with Bimota's first road bike, the SB2. [Mecum]
1978 BIMOTA KB1

This 1978 Bimota KB1 is a gorgeous, restored, first-year and first-ever example of a Bimota-Kawasaki hybrid. Early Bimotas are finally gaining the attention they deserve in the marketplace, as these were the most finely-crafted motorcycles in the world in the 1970s, with amazingly innovative chassis design, wild 1970s styling, and the best road performance money could buy. The KB1 was introduced in 1978, and was Bimota’s second street-legal motorcycle. The KB1 was a successful model for Bimota, with more than 800 units produced over four years. Their styling, with a full fiberglass fairing and distinctive tank/seat unit, is pure 1970s, but unlike any other production motorcycle of the era in both style and performance. The top speed for most KB1s was 140mph, but at least one version tuned by Termignoni reached 172.5mph.  The KB1 weighed 425lbs, and could pull an 11.4second quarter mile time.

Like Schroedinger's Cat, is there a Bimota in there? If so, it's one heck of a motorcycle. [Mecum]
1984 BIMOTA SB4 CRATED

Crated? CRATED? Yes, this legendary bike has yet to be pulled out, filled with the necessary fluids, and let loose on the world. The question is, do you keep the toy in its packaging, or take it out and do a bit of time traveling? The SB4 was the fourth iteration of their collaboration with Suzuki, using the 1075cc DOHC 4valves/cylinder four-cylinder motor from the Katana 1100. The engine was mildly tuned at Bimota, using a freer exhaust and carburetion combination to give 112hp at 8750rpm, and a 153mph top speed. The frame is built of chromoly tubing, with a structural member of Avional aluminum machined from solid billet that connects the lower frame rails with the upper structure that connects the steering head with the monoshock rear suspension mount. This was likely the first use of CNC-machined billet aluminum as a structural member on a production motorcycle, and is indicative that innovation was important at Bimota. Only 272 Bimota SB4s were built in 1983 and ’84, making any version of this bike super rare... So, what does that make a version still in the crate? 

Ah! At least we know what's in there: a 1986 Bimota DB1S, their first Ducati-engined model. [Mecum]
1986 BIMOTA DB1S CRATED

This doubly all-Italian Bimota-Ducati hybrid is factory fresh, and might be the only example of a rare 1986 Bimota DB1S still in its original delivery crate. Amazingly, Bimota had only used engines from Japanese manufacturers from its early 1970s origins. Thus the first actual Bimotas were built around the Honda CB750 motor, and were followed by machines built around Suzuki, Kawasaki, and Yamaha fours. The first Italian motor to power a Bimota was a Ducati Pantah, and marked a turning point for the factory in many ways. The original Bimota partner/designer Massimo Tamburini took employment in larger motorcycle factories, and was replaced by Federico Martini.  Martini’s bold step was to create a totally enclosed motorcycle with a fully integrated fairing system, which was the first of its type in the world. There were other innovations throughout the machine, which included a new type of upper space frame, a molded polyethylene fuel tank, and the integration of hydraulic fluid containers for the brakes and clutch into the fork triple clamps. The DB1 was the whole package, innovation and performance and beauty, which characterized all Bimotas from the start of the company, and made them instant collectibles from day one. This 1986 Bimota DB1S is one of 60 examples ever built, continuing this collection’s ‘impossibly rare” theme. 

Sheer madness: who keeps the hottest racing machine of the day in its crate? Hopefully, the buyer won't. [Mecum]
1988 BIMOTA YB4 R CRATED

It’s nearly unheard of to find an example of the premier production racing motorcycle in the world from 33 years ago, still in its crate from the factory, but that’s the case with this remarkable 1988 Bimota YB4 R. This is the sister machine in kit form sold by Bimota to their own factory racing YB4 R that took the World TT F1 Championship in 1986. The YB4 introduced the first modern aluminum beam chassis for a road bike, built from castings and forgings of Anticorodal aluminum alloy for the frame and swingarm both. The YB4 R was sold as a whole motorcycle or as a ‘kit’ to save on customs duty, as with this machine, which is a whole motorcycle slightly disassembled for a nominal kit status.  Clearly, this machine has never been removed from its crate or unwrapped from its plastic packing, and thus remains as new from the Bimota factory. At risk of killing my rarity point, there is somehow a second 1988 Bimota YB4 (although the Weber-Marelli electronic fuel injected version) also going to auction. I would argue this second crated YB4 doesn't take away from how insanely rare these are, but simply highlights how incredible the 2020 Mecum’s auction will be.  

The racing version of Bimota's first Ducati hybrid, the DB1R was apparently a dream to ride. [Mecum]
1988 BIMOTA DB1 R

This gorgeous 1988 Bimota DB1 R is a very rare example of factory racing Bimota, built with a Ducati racing engine, and based on the roadster DB1 model.  The DB1 was Bimota’s first all-Italian street model, using a tuned 750cc Pantah engine in Frederico Martini’s amazing, all-enclosing bodywork. The DB1 R is a highly modified version of the roadster, with quite a few parts made of magnesium, plus forks with a steeper steering head angle for racing (29° vs. 25°, with identical trail at 105 mm), high-performance cams, 42mm carburetors, an open two-into-one megaphone exhaust, higher rearsets, and about a million other fun things to make it unfit for the civilized world of public roads.  The DB1 R was typically raced in TT1 Italian and F1 World Championship events, and was also seen in the Daytona 200.

Despite the Bimota DB1SR having 'RS' on its fairing, the SR was a hotter version of the DB1, which fans clamored for. [Mecum]
1988 BIMOTA DB1 SR

This super sports 1988 Bimota DB1 SR racer is the last and hottest of the DB1 Bimota-Ducatis, and the best of the bunch, with more power and sharper handling. The DB1 SR roadster was not a whole lot slower than the factory racer, and won lucky test riders and owners over with its peerless combination of perfect handling in all conditions and weathers, and quick, willing power across a broad rev range.  Only 153 were built, making this a rare motorcycle indeed, and one remembered with tremendous affection. This was reflected in their cost, of course, and as the saying goes, you get what you pay for. What one paid for with the Bimota DB1 SR was the full attention of a small factory of speed-mad Italian craftsmen, who were dedicated to bringing the finest workmanship and rider experience possible in a sports motorcycle. 

On a palette, one can see the machine. Or at least, the plastic wrapping the exquisite machinery underneath. [Mecum]
1991 BIMOTA YB6 TUATARA CRATED

This is an incredibly rare piece of history from the giant-slaying tiny factory from Rimini. The Bimota YB6 Tuatara was a special fuel-injected edition of the YB6 range, with 145hp at 9500rpm from its 1000cc Yamaha engine, and an incredible for the day top speed of 170mph.  The YB6 was, like all Bimotas, a finely crafted instrument, built by hand by master craftsmen who were dedicated to making the best sports motorcycles in the world. From the fork stanchion and triple trees to the axles and rearsets, the parts of the YB6 are hand-machined, ultra light, and simply gorgeous. Moto Sprint called it, “a machine which can offer enormous satisfaction in driving, even though in all likelihood most of the lucky owners will prefer to transform this bike into a cult object, strictly to be admired, rather than subject it to the torture of the track.”  The YB6 Tuatara is indeed a cult machine that is gaining traction with the public as an object of tremendous historical value, and this is perhaps the finest example in the world.

Two more Bimotas for sale at Mecum don't hail from the Musée, but are worth considering as well:

Stunning in red and silver, the YB10 set new standards for build quality and overall performance. [Mecum]
1991 BIMOTA YB10 (Dieci)

The YB10 used a tuned Yamaha FZR1000 motor giving 145hp @10,000 rpm, and a 172mph top speed, which made it the fastest production motorcycle in the world...although that production was extremely limited.  Only 224 YB10s were built, but what machines! Here's what the press said, "Built with an almost maniacal attention to detail, the Dieci is even better than the other Bimotas: the paint is particularly tough, the joints and connections are particularly precise, and there are even lovely little frills of all sorts, such as pull rods, pegs, and knobs- machined, not cast - which drive a real motorcycle fan mad; now there is even a little compartment for personal objects in the tail of the bike.  Because of the splendidly harmonious chassis, the handling is phenomenal, even at the most extreme angles." (Moto Sprint, 1991).  In other words, another masterpiece from Rimini.

The first machine styled by Pier Luigi Marconi, the build quality of this motorcycle is simply out of this world, and has never been bettered. [Mecum]
1992 BIMOTA YB8

The YB8 is basically the same machine as the YB6 Exup, using the Yamaha FZR1000 engine, but tuned for 148hp @10,000rpm. Only 252 YB8s were built for discerning international customers, and what they got for their 27.5Million Lire was the highest quality, highest-performing motorcycle in the world, by every reasonable metric.  Every part of the Bimota is hand fabricated, hand machines, and hand assembled, with exceptionally high standards. This is the first machine designed by Pier Luigi Marconi, who took over the reins from Federico Martini in 1990, and the styling set the standard for the sports motorcycle industry for ten years. The performance, perhaps longer.  The workmanship...well, nobody's caught up to that yet.

 

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

Mecum 2020 Las Vegas Preview

Mecum's annual Las Vegas auction is quite the spectacle for any lover of two-wheeled machines. The sheer volume of machinery offered at this iconic Vegas event is staggering. If the number of bikes rolling over the podium isn’t enough to make your eyes cartoonishly bulge out of your head, then consider the outstanding quality and rareness of their offerings. Here is a preview, only a tiny portion of what grabbed my attention and screamed “run the tires off of me!” Make sure to digitally thumb through the entire collection of nearly 1,600 bikes heading for the auction block January 2020:

1969 Honda CB750 Sandcast

An immaculate early 1969 Honda CB750 'sandcast', the rarest of all this landmark motorcycle model. [Mecum]
It may not have the swooping fenders and giant gas tanks of the golden era machines, but these little Japanese bikes came onto the scene with quite a splash. Born on the racing circuit after a pile of GP victories for the team, the CB750 is officially revealed at the ‘66 Tokyo Motor Show. The CB750 hit the US shortly after in 1969 establishing the Superbike category forever changing the landscape of the motorcycle world. The inline 4-cylinder pushing these bikes was rated for an astonishing 67 HP at 8,000 RPM with a 5-speed transmission, and the CB750 was the first factory production motorcycle with a disc brake. This one being a ‘69 falls within the early production sandcast method of crankcase production that would be abandoned shortly after for the faster and cheaper, die-cast molds. Rare. Fast. Cool.

1959 Triumph Tiger Twin Custom

Bryan Thompson makes the pre-eminent retro-style contemporary Triumph customs, and they don't come up for sale often. But when they do, they set records. [Mecum]
There are plenty of original production bikes in the auction and this list, but no motorcycle list is complete without a nod to the long and integral history of motorcycle customizing. It is Mecum after all, which means even the custom bikes are built out of the coolest of the cool antique bikes. This ‘59 Triumph Tiger Custom is equally classy as it is ready to take your lunch money. Sitting on a no nonsense hardtail frame, its black on black on black color scheme, and its high-class british heart, it makes sense that this bike has won both best bobber at The Clubman show in 2017 and best custom at The Quail Motorcycle Gathering. 

1985 Honda ATZ 250R

Totally banned! Dangerous and exciting, you take your life in your hands with the Honda ATZ trike, but oh what fun they were. [Mecum]
Some classics didn’t get their seat at the table for being well designed, trailblazing, or attractive. Some of the greats are just great because they simply make us smile. Three wheelers are really good for much other than flipping and getting right with the Lord —  the split second before you flip. All that being said, they are a hell of a good time and of that, they cannot and will not be denied. The ATZ 250R was bestowed with the one thing three wheelers really never needed — more power. These rare, third generation R-designated machines were single-cylinder two-stroke watercooled 250cc death thrones, which were bigger, wider, and faster than the plain models. Three wheelers are a reminder not to take all this too seriously. Smile, give it the beans, and proceed to smile wider. 

1957 Harley-Davidson XL

Sweet original first-year Sportster, so stylish and cool. [Mecum]
I know, I know. There are arguably more exciting motorcycles at the auction, but let's be honest, the XL Sportster has likely done more for motorcycling than any other bike in history. It is the door in which many took or will take to enter the wild world of biking. This first-year example of the Sportster as we know it, is responsible for so much of what we love about riding bikes. These were smaller, cheaper, and all around friendly bikes than the American manufacturers typically did. Again, if we’re honest, they look fantastic; sporty, compact, but still quintessentially American. 

1940 Indian Four

The most beautiful four-cylinder motorcycle ever built? Maybe: Briggs Weaver created the deep-skirt fender look for Indian's 1940 model lineup, and it became their identity ever since. [Mecum]
Although maybe not quite as iconic as the Chief, the Indian Four feels so true to American motorcycle making. At the time the straight-four cylinder motor was the largest capacity motor offered on the production market. The solidness of these huge motors and single line design of the exhaust, makes these bike stick out unlike anything else at the time. Endlessly cool and super rare, this bike appears to be a really tastefully restored example of one of coolest bikes ever to be made. 

1940 Harley-Davidson EL Knucklehead “Greenie”

Ready to make history thrice? Greenie set records when it was sold, and the owner's persistence and deep research changed the conversation around what is original and correct when restoring a Harley-Davidson. This bike is factory original, with all sorts of odd details, ordered thus as new from the factory. Which turns out to be the norm, and the 'catalogued' finish was rare. [Mecum]
Y’all don’t need me to tell why I would pick a pre-war Knucklehead — Just look at it. This bike is particularly special, though. “Greenie”  who earned its nickname by its obviously remarkable “Hollywood Green” original factory custom paint, has a bit of a storied past, with a great deal of information along with it. This bike broke the record for the most expensive of its type, last time it came up for sale. Although many questioned the authenticity of the bike’s many anomalous features, the  buyer knew better having heavily researched the factory order records and countless bits of factory paperwork. He had found evidence that this bike was in fact ordered and delivered in this Dupont custom color and nickel plating instead of chrome, as well as other custom odds and ends. This bike has influenced the vintage-Harley market in more ways than one. This is a true unicorn wrapped in green.  

1982 BMW R80 G/S

The original BMW enduro, and still a landmark machine, the R80 G/S was a remarkable success. [Mecum]
Within the modern motoring world you can’t have a well rounded discussion about motorcycles without hitting the massively popular Adventure Bike class. The R80 G/S was the literal and figurative trailblazer for this category. In 1980 when the G/S bike first launched it would come to be widely accepted as the first of this nomenclature designating its proficiency both on and off road. The R80G/S cemented its place in the motorcycle pantheon by seeing massive success in one of the most famously grueling motorcycle events in the world; the Paris-Dakar Rally. BMW would come to build a massive part of their motorcycle division on the shoulders of these bikes. 

1967 Husqvarna Viking 360

The bigger, badder Husky, from their World Championship era, the Viking 360 led the charge for bigger, faster two-stroke dirt bikes. [Mecum]
Whether chainsaws or dirt bikes, the Husqvarna name has long been synonymous with toughness and grit. Superstar motorcycle racer, Bud Ekins, personally rode this bike to victory in the 1967 Polish International Six Days Trial. This is only one of five to have been made the factory for the US team. A massively capable bike that positively drips with history and provenance. 

1930 Indian 101 Scout

The ultimate Scout? Indian's 101 model was so perfectly balanced it's still the gold standard for Wall of Death bikes today. [Mecum]
With a company as extensive a history as Indian, you might think it would be tough to pick the best from over a century of bike building, but simply isn’t the case; The Chief, Indian Four, original Scout, and early board-track racers were all beautiful and legendary bikes, but most agree that the 101 Scout was the best to ever leave the Wigwam. The 101 replaced the original scout in 1928 with a number of features to increase handling and power starting with a new frame and a 45 cubic-inch motor, although the original 38ci was still available. The 101 had a longer wheelbase, longer front fork rake, and lower seat. The increase in handling and power made these bikes massively popular with racers and even the trick riders of the day.

1966 BMW R60/2 With Steib Sidecar

The natural and perfect combination: BMW and Steib. It doesn't get more classic than this. [Mecum]
While the sidecar lost most of its functionality off the battlefield, many manufacturers kept slapping them onto bikes well after the war, but few of them ever did it with as much style as the BMW R bikes with Steib sidecars. There is something undeniably lovely about a bike as no nonsense as a R60/2 attached to a highly stylized and dare I say, opulent a sidecar as a Steib. A Pair as beautiful as this will always stand out even in a grouping of bikes as rare and incredible as these.   

 

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

 

 


Bonhams 2020 Las Vegas Auction Preview

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