Bonhams sets record for highest motorcycle price at auction

Black Lightning sells for a motorcycle auction record of $929,000 | Bonhams photo

Bonhams claimed a record Thursday for the highest price ever paid at auction for a collector motorcycle when the Jack Ehret speed-record-setting 1951 Vincent Black Lighting sold at its Las Vegas auction for $929,000.

Bonhams noted that it had sold the most-expensive collector car offered at auction, and now the most-expensive motorcycle. In 2014, Bonhams sold a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO for $38,115,000 at its auction at The Quail in Carmel Valley, California.

The Jack Ehret Vincent display at the Bonhams auction | Larry Edsall photo

The 1951 Black Lighting — No. 7305 — was one of only 30 produced and was built by special order and exported from England to Australia by Tony McAlpine. But before it was shipped, it was tested on an airport runway where it reached a speed of more than 130 mph while in third gear.

In 1953, the bike broke the Australian speed record when rider Jack Ehret reached 141.5 mph. Owner/rider Ehret would ride the bike to numerous racing victories.

“Rollie Free and Marty Dickerson, both legends in the Vincent universe, knew of this motorcycle and Ehret’s acclaim,” Ben Walker, Bonhams head of motorcycling, was quoted in the auction house news release. “After the ‘Bathing Suit Bike’ ridden by Free, the Ehret bike is likely the most important Black Lightning in existence and is one of the world’s most desirable machines.”

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In original, unrestored and running condition – and recommissioned by Vincent master Patrick Godet – the bike had been in Ehret’s ownership for nearly 50 years, Bonhams reported.

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.


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