HomeThe MarketMcQueen, Knievel bikes on Bonhams' Las Vegas docket

McQueen, Knievel bikes on Bonhams’ Las Vegas docket


Even Knievel rides this 1976 Harley in the Viva Knievel movie | Bonhams photos
Even Knievel rides this 1976 Harley in the Viva Knievel movie | Bonhams photos

Steve McQueen’s Triumph “desert sled,” the only red Vincent White Shadow, a factory Harley-Davidson oval-track racer and Evel Knievel’s screen bike from Viva Knievel highlight the docket for Bonhams’ annual Las Vegas Motorcycle Auction, scheduled for January 7 at Bally’s Hotel & Cassino.

Knievel on the bike
Knievel on the bike

McQueen’s Triumph goes to auction with what Bonhams terms the “trifecta of provenance:” the 1963 Triumph Bonneville was owned by McQueen, modified by Bud Ekins and painted by Kenny Howard, a.k.a. Von Dutch. It goes to auction from Larry Bowman’s motorcycle collection.

Also from the Bowman collection is a 1929 Harley-Davidson JDH Racer formerly owned and raced by Glen Kleckner, a Nebraska regional racer in the 1920s, and then by Connie Schlemmer, with the engine rebuilt by Mike Lang. The bike has several unusual factory features, including a front cylinder oiler typically used only on 8-valve racers.

The only red Vincent White Shadow built is another highlight of the sale. The 1951 Vincent Series C “White” Shadow is one of only 15 manufactured and the only one done in Chinese Red color. It goes to auction from an owner who has had it since the 1980s.

Knievel’s 1976 Harley-Davidson XL 1000 also was customized by Ekins specifically for the movie in which Knievel plays himself battling Mexican drug dealers. After filming, Los Angeles-area Harley dealer Dick Hutchins bought the bike from Warner Brothers and has had it on display since.

Bonhams calls the bike “an incredible artifact of popular culture ridden in a movie by America’s greatest daredevil,” and quotes Knievel, who said, “I came along at the right time in the right place. America was down on its ass when I came along and needed somebody who was truthful and honest, someone who would spill blood and break bones, somebody who wasn’t a phony.”

McQueen's 'desert sled' Triumph
McQueen’s ‘desert sled’ Triumph

Larry Edsall
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 ClassicCars.com, 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.

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