The Current: Novus, the Monocoque Flyer

With the rise of the electric powertrain we’ve seen all manner of electrified two-wheelers, however we’ve never seen anything quite like the Novus before. Constructed around a trick, hollow carbon fiber monocoque chassis with integral bodywork, the elite runner boasts gobs of power, striking modern looks, and freeway-capable speeds, all in a sub-90lb package.

It's the darling of the new-tech mobility press, with aggressive styling, and techology akin to F1 cars [Novus]
Based in Brunswick, Germany, Novus was founded by Réne Renger and Marcus Weidig, a pair of diehard motorcycle and engineering enthusiasts who met at university. Rather than simply design a new motorcycle — granted that’s no easy task — the Deutsche duo set out with the goal of 'changing mobility perceptions.' And you gotta hand it to them, the Novus is a pretty sexy little scoot, and at 86lbs ready-to-ride, it requires very little energy compared to a two-ton electric car, offering riders one of the least impactful mobility options available, that still allows for some fun in the corners.

While attending CES 2019 to promote their new e-Bike, co-founder and co-CEO Marcus Weidig took some time out of his hectic day in Vegas to talk to The Current about the Novus.

Novus was co-founded by Réne Renger and Marcus Weidig [Novus]
On the spectrum between full-on electric motorcycle and e-bicycle, where would you say your bike resides?
"With its 60mph top-speed it’s definitely a proper motorcycle. No pedals, not a bicycle. There are more powerful motorcycles for sure, but with the Novus’ power-to-weight-ratio, it’s a blast to ride.

Where was this bike designed to be ridden?
Based on its range and suspension setup, it’s primarily meant to be piloted in cities and urban areas. Thanks to its weight of only 85lbs, it’s possible for people to put the Novus in an elevator to get it to an apartment living room, to charge or store. It’s also ideal for yacht owners who’d probably never consider bringing their 350lb Ducati onto their boat, but could with the Novus. It’s not meant to replace walking or bicycling, it’s more for leaving your eight or ten-cylinder car in the garage without sacrificing in the style department.

The sculptural qualities of carbon fiber are infinite, and are here used to create a hollow monocoque chassis [Novus]
What were your primary objectives when designing the Novus? Is there a particular gap in the market that you see it filling?
Well, an electric drivetrain is a completely new technology, however most of what we see with electric motorbikes is a combustion engine being replaced with an electric motor and batteries. Instead, we tried to clean the slate of all known ideas of what motorcycle is in our heads, take inspiration from the bicycle world, and design a two-wheeled vehicle from the ground up around an electric powertrain. In our eyes, electric drive makes the most sense in a lightweight package like a motorbike, much more so than in a 4,000lb car.

Can you tell me a bit about the frame?
The Frame is a monocoque, completely made of carbon fibre composites, which is unique for a motorcycle. It’s completely hollow so all the technical components can be placed inside. The frame is both the outer skin/bodywork and a load-bearing structure that affords ample rigidity and significantly reduces weight. There’s no motorcycle like it on the market today. It requires an enormous effort, even supercars aren’t doing it like this. We took away everything that wasn’t necessary in order to keep it clean, like a sculpture.

The suspension on the Novus was designed in-house specifically for this project. Can you elaborate on the suspendsion?
Because the Novus falls in a spot between a motorcycle and a bicycle in terms of weight, we had to design a system that could compensate for the Novus’ light weight, and the speeds it’s capable of achieving.

The claimed 147.5ft-lbs of torque is pretty bonkers. Is that 200Nm figure accurate? If so, why does this 85lb two-wheeler need so much oomph?
That figure doesn’t directly translate to the amount of torque in a combustion bike — there are e-Scooters with similar power, but Novus is weighs considerably less, allowing for a unique and agile riding experience.

Scale: about like a 125cc motocrosser, but much lighter, and much cooler [Novus]
What else about the Novus is unique?
In terms of quality, Novus is more than a collection of expensive parts and materials. Its quality is such that it’s designed and engineered to be a long-term product, expected to last — and function — for years, ultimately adding greatly to the sustainability of the product. This largely justifies the need for quality and the extensive efforts involved in its development.

A closeup up the custom disc brake rotor, and the carbon fiber forks [Novus]
It probably goes without saying that the Novus’ price tag is pretty steep - $39,500. Can you tell me a little bit about how you landed on that MSRP?
To produce a high-quality bike completely in composites that’s limited to 1,000 units takes an extraordinary amount of labor. Just setting up the tooling alone is pretty exorbitant. Also, the phase where we combine the frame and exterior is particularly costly. The high level of integration of its components brings up costs too. Developing a motorcycle with no superfluous parts was a massive design and engineering challenge that we think customers will appreciate.

If we filled the empty center with batteries, could we quadruple the 60 mile range? [Novus]
What are your future plans for the Novus?
We want to change the perception of the motorcycle and to show that it’s possible to do things differently. Not just to be different – to create something new with an added value. We have many ideas in our minds, many focused on sustainability, such as natural fiber composites, and we’ve got some non-motorcycle ideas in the works."

Weidig credits his passion for mechanical quality and precision to his birthplace of Glashütte, in Eastern Saxony, Germany, and his upbringing as the son of a toolmaker.  With Novus pitched as an ideal option for yacht owners or to replace your 10-cylinder car, it’s abundantly clear the German outfit is targeting an affluent demographic, but with its wicked performance, radical-tech styling, and ultralight package, this cutting-edge machine creates its own niche, and could become a must-have for the Tesla set.

What we want: a ride on this ultralight superbike [Novus]

Top Ten Bonhams Vegas 2019 Highlights

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.

Mecum's Blockbuster 2019 Las Vegas Sale

Already the biggest motorcycle auction in the world by a long shot, this year the Mecum Las Vegas auction at the South Point Casino will be their biggest ever, run over six days from January 22-27th.  Their sale includes 238 bikes from the excellent MC Collection of Sweden, which includes some of the rarest and most desirable motorcycles on the planet, like a 1925 Brough Superior SS100, several Husqvarna racers, early American machines, and European sports and racing motorcycles too. The full Mecum catalog is here, and it's a whopper [full disclosure - our own Paul d'Orléans wrote the auction catalog]. This is going to be one hell of a sale, and Vintagent Contributor Tim Huber picked 5 bikes to discuss from the over 1000 machines for sale.  Here are some of Tim's favorites:
1905 Indian Camelback 
The 1905 Indian 'Camelback' - one of the earliest Indians in existence, and a true pioneer of American motorcycle manufacturing [Mecum]
What’s today known as the Indian brand first began in 1897, operating under the flag of the Hendee Manufacturing Company. Founded by George M. Hendee, the American outfit got its start pumping out bicycles with names like the “Silver King” and “American Indian” — the latter of which was shortened to “Indian”.
Carl Oscar Hedstrom built the first Indian prototype in 1901, and limited production began immediately [The Vintagent Archive]
After a couple years of operation, Hendee brought on Oscar Hedsrom in 1901 to develop a gas engine that could be fitted to one of Hendee’s pedal-powered two-wheelers. Later that same year the company opened its first factory in Springfield and introduced its first prototype; a 2.25hp, 260cc (15.85ci) ) “F-head” (inlet over exhaust) single-cylinder engine that doubled as part of the scoot’s diamond frame. The pedal-assisted runner offered a top-speed of around 30mph and utilized a chain final drive.
Oscar Hedstrom's engine was based on the successful DeDion pattern, but his carburetor was the best in the industry when Hedstrom invented it in 1900 [Mecum]
Dubbed the “Camelback” on account of its rear-fender/fuel-cell/oil-tank combo, the company’s first model  went into production in 1902, and remained in largely unchanged until 1906, when Indians got a top-tube tank.  Indian outsourced the production of its engines to the Aurora Automatic Machinery Co. (makers of Thor) until it began making its own mills in-house in 1907. The Camelback was a strong seller for Indian, largely because the new single was very reliable, thanks to Hedstrom’s patented spray carburetor design. The model was also popular amongst racers.
Using the engine as a stressed member of the chassis is not a new concept! It was one way to strengthen the Hendee bicycle frame, and the 'cartridge' front fork suspension was a great aid in rider comfort [Mecum]
Throughout the duration of the Camelback’s production, the Springfield-based marque developed an impressive reputation, with its machines taking part in an endurance race from NYC to Boston in 1902, one year prior to Hedstrom clocking a new world speed record of 56mph. Indian offered its first ever V-twin to the public in 1907, and soon their V-twins would overtake the single-cylinder models in sales, just as with other American makes. 1906 also saw an Indian ridden from San Francisco to New York in 31.5 days, supposedly sans mechanical failure.

Very few Camelbacks left the factory in its first four years of production, and only a fraction of those still exist today, making early examples particularly rare. This restored 1905 specimen is expected to bring in between $85-110K this January.
1928 BMW R47 Racer
The rear brake pedal operates on the driveshaft coupling to the gearbox, in effect a 4" brake drum, and not very effective. The very large front brake is a racing item. [Mecum]
BMW first got its start making aircraft engines in the First World War, but after Germany was no longer permitted to produce planes or aviation hardware, the company pivoted to building motorcycles (after a less-than-fruitful, short-lived attempt at producing brake systems for trains). In 1923 the Bavarian brand introduced its first motorized two-wheeler, the R32. A truly revolutionary offering in the 1920’s, BMW’s inaugural bike was powered by a 494cc, twin-cylinder, horizontally opposed, four-stroke engine (known as the “Boxer”) — a layout that BMW continues employing to this day.
The strapped-on auxiliary tank is a restorer's favorite: it was offered as an option by the factory for long-distance touring or racing. Note the speedometer at the top of the frame
The R32 was followed by its higher-spec sibling — and BMW’s first sports model — in 1924 with the R37. Though the R37 was an impressive machine in its time, the suits at BMW knew its relatively exorbitant manufacturing costs were a problem. So the engineers in Bavaria were tasked with delivering a successor to the R37 that was not only markedly cheaper to produce, but one that would also boast superior performance.
Not just for road racing: Ernst Henne waits at a checkpoint for the 1928 ISDT. From the remarkable Stefan Knittel book 'BMW Rennsport' (read our book review here!) [BMW Archives]
The result was the R47. Using the half-liter OHV mill from the R37 as the starting point, the team designed and implemented a new, simplified duplex-loop chassis paired with improved, lighter suspenders in the form of a leaf-sprung trailing-link front fork. A large portion of the electronics were also deleted. In the end BMW was able to bring down the cost of production by more than 1/3 (36% to be exact) without compromising performance — the exact opposite actually. The Boxer’s prowess was a clear reminder that BMW’s former occupation was producing machines that took flight.
The single carburetor casting is clearly seen atop the gearbox here: icing of the inlet tracts was an issue, as was the tortuous induction path - soon twin carbs made their debut for better performance [Mecum]
The revised engine — which was a lot like the unit found in the touring-focused R42, aside from the loss of the side-valves — made around 50% more power at 18hp (at 4,000rpm) and allowed for a top-speed of around 70mph thanks to its sub-300lbs weight. The powerful engine made the R47 particularly attractive to racers, as did the fact BMW further encouraged the new mount’s competition use by selling it as a barebones model that could be fitted with an array of optional factory parts. This included components such as headlights, generators, and horns for road use, as well as number-plates and a supplementary quick-release fuel-cell for longer races.
Additional highlights on the R47 included a Cardan drive rear brake, a Bosch magneto, a three-speed gearbox and a single-plate dry clutch, and most notably; replaceable bushings, and roller-bearings utilized in the valve rocker arms — supposedly a first. Produced for just two-years in ’27 and ’28 before being replaced by the R57, BMW sold more than 1,700 R47s — reportedly ten times the number of R37s sold by the factory.
If the lines say 'Ernst Henne', then you're seeing correctly. This bike is restored to mimic the factory racers of the day, with their peculiar M handlebar bend and vertical grips - a German peculiarity [Mecum]
The R47 has become one of the most prized and sought-after 'flat tank' models from this iconic brand. The Weimar era - after WW1 and  before the Depression - was of monumental importance to BMW, with the brand producing (or rather licensing) its first ever car, the 3-15PS (or the “Dixi”) in 1928, a year prior to a BMW motorcycle (piloted by the great Ernst Henne) achieving the world speed record of 134mph (216km/h) in ’29  on a public highway outside Munich. This particular 1928 R47 racer is in immaculate condition and features a number of period-correct options, including the extra quick-release fuel-cell.
1980 Bimota SB2
The sexy Seventies! The Bimota SB2 is styled unlike any other motorcycle, with extravagant curves emphasized by a 3-tone paint scheme [Mecum]
Not unlike the speed wars of the 1990s, in the 1970s the motorcycling industry experienced a pattern of engine design greatly surpassing that of chassis technology, at least among the Japanese manufacturers dominating the business.  While the first generation of Japanese fours were plenty fast, they seldom possessed adequate frame rigidity, suspension damping, or stopping power to accommodate their increasingly potent power plants.  This inspired three motorcycle enthusiasts in Italy to form Bimota, to create cutting-edge frames to house Japanese engines, which were than outfitted with a smorgasbord of equally trick components.
It's on our list of All-Time Best motorcycle designs, and is still relatively affordable. This example from the MC Collection is pristine [Mecum]
The first model from the boutique manufacturer was the Honda CB750-powered HB1 (or “Honda Bimota 1”) in 1973, and less than a dozen were built. Despite their tiny production, the HB1 gave this Rimini-based outfit a reputation for building first-rate racing chassis, with exceptional build quality.  Two years later Bimota unveiled another production racer, the Suzuki TR500-based model 'SB1' at the 1975 Milan Motor Show.
So body-huggingly erotic it remains unique, the Bimota SB2 is a bike you're fanatical for...or not.  We fall in the crazy-for-it camp.  [Mecum]
At the 1977 Bologna Motor Show Bimota debuted its first road-legal motorcycle, the aggressively sexy SB2. At the heart of the new model was Suzuki’s GS750 mill wrapped in an ultra lightweight chromoly trellis frame.  Its DOHC motor was a stressed frame member, and the frame featured an adjustable steering-head angle. The three-quarter-liter engine had been bumped up to 850cc, and was hotted up with Yoshimura pistons and cams, and the SB2 generated 78hp at 8,700rpm, 42ft-lbs of torque at 8,250rpm, and boast a top-speed of 135mph, making it one of the fastest motorcycles in the world.
Your body here. While some racing motorcycles had knee and elbow dents, production bikes typically have far less interesting shapes. While it isn't slim, the SB2 is definitely biomorphic [Mecum]
The trick frame — which only weighed around 20lbs — was paired with race-spec 35mm Ceriani forks up front and a Corte & Cosso monoshock out back. Braking duties were bestowed upon a trio of Brembo discs married to lightweight magnesium alloy, gold anodized, Campagnolo rims. The SB2 also got brake caliper mounts, fork yokes, and rear-set brackets machined from billet aluminum. Weighing in at just 432lbs, the SB2 was a whopping 66lbs lighter than the stock GS750, though the lightness (and all those top-shelf parts) didn’t come cheap: the SB2 sold for a cool $4,000, (a figure that translates to just over $17K today with inflation) approximately triple the price of the stock Suzuki.
A tuned Suzuki DOHC four, ported, cammed, with racing carbs and hi-comp pistons, the Bimota went as good as it looked [Mecum]
Undeniably the most eye-catching aspect of the SB2 is its sweeping and curvaceous bodywork. The unapologetically 1970s, Tamburini-designed bodywork was made up of a one-piece tank and tail section comprised of aluminum-lined fiberglass, with a removable 3.4 gallon inner fuel-cell. The design originally planned for the exhausts to exit via the tail, though testing revealed that this layout generated too much heat, negatively affecting carburetion: it was decided to run a low-hanging four-into-one system instead. However, instead of redesigning the exhaust ports on the tail, Tamburini opted to use the recesses for the SB2’s rear indicators.
Saddle up! Grow out your mutton chops, pull on your flares, wax your handlebar 'stache, 'cause its the shagalicious '70s, baby [Mecum]
While its performance might not sound that impressive by today’s standards, upon its release, the SB2 was some serious next-level machinery, and the fact it just happened to be adorned in some of the sexiest bodywork of the decade was just the icing on the cake. This particular 1980 example was last ridden in ’84, before being expertly restored in 2012. One of the 140 SB2 units to leave the factory in Rimini, this exact example bears the nickname “The Blix Gordon” and currently resides in the MC Collection of Stockholm, though it’s expected to fetch between $29-36K come its turn to cross the block in January.
1929 Neander-JAP V-twin
With an artist's eye and a Utopian inclination, Ernst Neumann-Neander's idiosyncratic motorcycles are a masterpiece of design, with features predating motorcycle trends by many decades. [Mecum]
Born in 1871 in the Prussian city of Kassel, Ernst Neumann-Neander trained as an artist in Germany, and moved to Paris in 1903 to pursue his art. While there, Ernst befriended a number of major players from the rapidly emerging auto industry. Son of the famous sea and landscape painter, Emil Neumann, Ernst relocated to Berlin in 1908 where he started his own studio, "Ateliers Neumann”, where he designed Art Nouveau-style posters and advertisements for car companies, though it didn't take long for the German to shift his career focus from marketing vehicles, to making them.
The clean lines of the Neander look surprisingly modern for a 1920s motorcycle [Mecum]
Neumann had reportedly been tinkering with motorcycle design largely behind closed doors for around 20 years, building a steam-powered tricycle concept in the late 1800s (hipsters, eat your heart out) before officially starting his own marque. His first foray into vehicle design was penning coachwork for noteworthy companies like Szawe, Schebera, and Rolls Royce. With time, Neumann's work on wheels became his primary focus, and in 1924 he moved to Euskirchen (an hour south of Cologne) where he founded the Neander Motorfahrzeug GmbH.  He also took Neander as his last name, which is Greek for 'new man', as our Ernst was a Utopian visionary, who believed technology would transform human life.
Ernst Neumann-Neander: a true visionary, and a rare radical thinker whose products were commercially successful [Hockenheim Museum Archive]
Motorcycle chassis technology had come a long way since the introduction of the motorized two-wheeler, however there was still plenty of room for innovation as far as Ernst was concerned. In place of the standard structures of the day the former artist assembled a complex riveted box-section frame design comprised of duralumin — an aluminum and copper alloy invented in 1903 by fellow German, Alfred Wilm — plated in cadmium. Though the lightweight metal was primarily utilized by the aviation industry, Neumann felt the trick new material had properties that would lend themselves well to motorcycle frames.
The 'egg' fuel tank with integral speedo. Note the blue leather upholstery, that wraps around the tank and over the saddle. [Mecum]
The new channel-section frame design boasted superior performance capabilities, being light and resistant to corrosion.  As it was rivetted together and could be assembled from prefabricated parts, production time for the frame was reduced fivefold, from around 20 hours to less than four. Up front, Neumann used  a relatively sophisticated suspension setup of his own design, with a pivoting leaf-spring setup, and with the unique spring boxes located at the steering head. As demonstrated by the Neander’s success in competition, when wrapped around the right engine, the Neander frame design made for a particularly competent racer — a fact used to market the unique machine during its short-lived production run.
The performance from the big JAP v-twin makes riding the Neander-JAP a very pleasant experience [Mecum]
The Neander Motorfahrzeug introduced the new frame design on a range of models, with a number of  smaller bikes powered by 175cc Villiers two-strokes, and several bigger singles and V-twins (as large as 1,000cc) from companies like JAP, Motosacoche, and Küchen. The Neander's innovations and racing success brought industry attention, and in 1928 Opel licensed the Neander design, which was sold as the Ope Motoclub, and built until the company ceased motorcycle production in 1931, when Opel was acquired by American auto powerhouse, General Motors.

The Neander’s innovative frame and front-end made it an attractive offering — as Paul learned when he test-rode a JAP-powered Neander in the mountains of Bavaria —  but furthering the model’s desirability was its distinctive appearance which undeniably benefitted from Neumann’s background as a formally trained painter and sculptor. The model sported an body-hugging saddle protruding from a surprisingly modern-looking fuel-cell — both of which were incredibly ahead of their time aesthetically and a major departure from the elongated, tear-drop style tanks and bicycle saddles of the day.
At the dawn of the next decade as the world reeled from a global financial crisis, Ernst Neumann-Neander began developing his vision for a 'people's car' -  a utilitarian, no frills, vehicle for the everyman.  He developed a series of Fahrmaschinen (Driving Machines), which were small cars with an interesting leaning/tilting chassis, that had excellent performance.  But setbacks like exorbitant production costs, a lack of interest from the public, and the machine’s unorthodox nature meant only about 20 were built before the plug was pulled on the project, on the outbreak of World War Two.
Badass, but tiny! One of the Neander racing cars from the late 1930s, powered by the same V-twin motor as the motorcycle for sale here! [Hockenheim Museum Archive]
In the end about 2,000 Neander motorcycles left the factory, plus the Opel models built under license.  Neumann-Neander passed away in 1954 at the age of 83, having pursued his vision and successfully produced his idiosyncratic machines, which today are coveted by collectors.  This particular  Neander is fitted with a JAP 1,000cc, V-twin sidevalve K-series engine, married to a hand-shifted three-speed gearbox, and a Bosch magdyno. Currently part of the MC collection of Stockholm, this 1929 example is all original, even still wearing its leather tank wrap, knee-pads, and pouch/pocket, rear-luggage, and lighting from the factory. This rare museum-worthy survivor is expected to bring in between $50 and 65K when it crosses the auction block next month.
1948 Egli-Vincent Cafe Racer
An upgraded Egli-Vincent, with disc brakes front and rear, and cafe racer styling [Mecum]
Like several other examples on this list, Vincents were ahead of their time in myriad areas, and their well-developed engines held the distinct honor of being the most powerful mills in the world from '36 to '73, though their "frames" left something to be desired over the years. Many racers — including John Surtees — attempted to get around the frame's limitations by dropping the robust V-Twins into a more capable chassis. One racer (and engineer) from Switzerland, Fritz Egli, created his own chassis in 1967 that employed a large tubular backbone unit (welded together, not bolted) that functioned as the oil-tank in addition to the main structural member.
A compelling cockpit - with a big 5" Black Shadow speedometer and smaller rev-counter [Mecum]
Despite the Egli's engine being more than a dozen years old, the excellent frame, when combined with top-of-the-line running gear, resulted in a terrific racer. In 1968 an Egli-Vincent won a prestigious European hillclimb event, and that same year Egli kicked off micro-batch production. Supposedly only around 100 original Egli-built Vincent were ever built, making them wildly hard to find.
The heart of it all, the big Vincent lump, which was the fastest motorcycle engine in the world for decades [Mecum]
After Fritz quit building motorcycle chassis, a talented Egli-Vincent enthusiast, Patrick Godet, started reproducing the Swiss-framed, British-powered icons. Godet's expertise made him the only person to receive Egli's official blessing to recreate his chassis. The Frenchman spent decades building officially licensed Egli-Vincents to order. Godet sadly passed away only a few weeks ago, so the fate of his company is unclear.
Fritz Egli's frame design is barely visible, but uses a large-diameter tube for its backbone [Mecum]
This particular Egli-framed 1948 Vincent cafe racer is propelled by a genuine Series B Rapide engine and shows only 2,352 miles on the clock. The Series B Rapide was the new engine design introduced after World War Two by Philip Vincent and Phil Irving, improving on their already famous Series A Rapide. The new Vincents went on to bag win after win in numerous competitions and classes, including Rollie Free’s famous 150mph Bonneville speed-record in '48.
A young Fritz Egli with his hot Gilera Saturno in the 1950s: Fritz built cafe racers because that's what he rode! See our article on Egli-Vincents here. [David Lancaster]
Expected to fetch between $60 and 80K, this cafe'd Egli-Vincent sports a knee-dented tank, cafe fairing complete with headlight bubble, machined rear-sets, velocity stacks, disc brakes fore and aft, two-into-one pipe, and clip-ons, amgonst other highlights. Part of the MC of Stockholm collection, this gorgeous two-wheeler is adorned in a royal blue livery with silver stripe and genuine Egli-Vincent badges and is one of the raddest cafe racers in the world.
For more info on Mecum's 2019 Las Vegas auction you can check out this full-length preview/promo video for the MC Stockholm collection, or click here to view all 52-pages of the auction's lots.