Cole motorcycle collection hammers at nearly $12.3 million at Mecum sale

Ex-Steve McQueen Cyclone hammers sold at $775,000
Nearly 1,000 people attend the auction of the E.J. Cole's motorcycle collection | Mecum photos by Jimmy Cliff
Nearly 1,000 people attend the auction of the E.J. Cole’s motorcycle collection | Mecum photos by Jimmy Cliff

Two motorcycles, one of them formerly owned by Steve McQueen, hammered sold for $650,000 or more at the E.J. Cole Collection sale conducted by Mecum Auctions at the South Point Casino and Exhibit Hall in Las Vegas. The auction attracted nearly 1,000 bidders and spectators. Total sales were nearly $12.3 million, and that figure does not include buyer’s fees.

Mecum said the $12,270,000 hammer-price total was the most ever for such a motorcycle sale and that the $775,000 hammer price for a 1915 Cyclone board track racer and the $650,000 hammer price for an unrestored 1907 Harley-Davidson strap tank motorcycle were among the highest amounts ever paid for motorcycles at auction.

Ex-Steve McQueen Cyclone hammers sold at $775,000
Ex-Steve McQueen Cyclone hammers sold at $775,000

“Mr. Cole and his collection were inspirational to the audience of true collectors that attended this auction,” Ron Christenson, president of Mecum Auctions’ MidAmerica Motorcycle division, said in a news release.

“These world-record sales represent more than just a transfer of ownership,” Christenson added. “Mr. Cole is revered for assembling pieces of mechanical history, and this past weekend, motorcycle collectors experienced a once-in-a-lifetime event with their sale.”

Cole began collecting motorcycles half a century ago. His collection of some 225 motorcycles ranged from those produced as early as 1902 through the 1960s.

“If my age hadn’t gotten ahead of me, why I’d still be out trying to add to it,” Cole said recently. “But being that I’m 89, I feel like it’s time to quit.”

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And, he added, “Here at my place (in Houston), nobody gets to see them and they need to be out where people can enjoy them.”

Nearly 10 percent of Cole’s motorcycles — 23 of the 225 offered — sold for six figures and the average hammer price was more than $50,000. Only 3 of the 225 motorcycles did not sell at the auction.

1907 Harley-Davidson strap tank goes for $650,000
1907 Harley-Davidson strap tank goes for $650,000

The 1915 Cyclone is one of only 13 believed to still exist and the only one with ties to McQueen, the late actor and motor enthusiast.

The complete list of top-10 sales (with hammer prices):

  1. 1915 Cyclone Board Track Racer Ex-Steve McQueen at $775,000
  2. 1907 Harley-Davidson Strap Tank at $650,000
  3. 1911 Flying Merkel Board Track Racer at $385,000
  4. 1942 Crocker V Twin Big Tank at $350,000
  5. 1928 Indian Altoona Hillclimber at $225,000
  6. 1912 Harley-Davidson Model 8A Twin at $215,000
  7. 1912 Henderson 4 at $205,000
  8. 1917 Henderson 4 Ex-Steve McQueen at $190,000
  9. 1930 Harley-Davidson Factory Hillclimber at $165,000
  10. 1907 Indian Tri-Car with Sedan Chair at $165,000

Mecum Auctions is back in action this weekend, selling the Walker Sign Collection in Arkansas. Mecum has a 1,000-vehicle classic car auction April 9-11 at Houston and a 700-vehicle sale April 23-25 at Kansas City.

A former daily newspaper sports editor, Larry Edsall spent a dozen years as an editor at AutoWeek magazine before making the transition to writing for the web and becoming the author of more than 15 automotive books. In addition to being founding editor at, Larry has written for The New York Times and The Detroit News and was an adjunct honors professor at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.