Bonhams hits $2.86 million at Vegas motorcycle auction

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Vintage motorcycles await their trips across the block at Bonhams' Las Vegas auction | Larry Edsall photos

Led by the record-setting — both in speed and price at auction — 1951 Vincent Black Lightning, Bonhams annual Las Vegas motorcycle auction posted $2.86 million in sales and a 75 percent sell-through rate.

The Black Lightning sold at the Rio hotel and casino for $929,000, the most ever paid at auction for a collector motorcycle. It was the bike on which Jack Ehret of Australia set a speed record of 141.5 mph in 1953. The bike was headed back to Australia after its record-setting purchase at the auction.

Bonhams also holds the mark for the highest price paid at auction for a collector car — $38.115 million in 2014 for a 1962 Ferrari 250 GTO.

1959 Ariel 247cc Arrow on the block

“We’re tremendously pleased with our results here in Las Vegas,” Ben Walker, the auction company’s head of international motorcycle sales, was quoted in a post-sale news release.

“Of course, seeing the Vincent Black Lightning achieve history – as well as go back home to Australia (the winning bidder is Australian) – was a real privilege.”

Other highlights of the auction included a 1939 Brough Superior SS80 selling for $120,500 (prices include buyer’s fees), a 1955 Vincent Black Prince going for $104,650 and a 1950 Vincent Rapide C selling for $92,000.

A 1990 Honda VFR 750R Type RC30 also sold for $92,000. A 1939 Indian Four World’s Fair went for $83,950 and a 1929 Henderson KJ Four brought $74,750.

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The Black Lighting on display in the auction room

“The strength of early premium British and American marques, such as Brough Superior, Vincent, Indian and Henderson, continues to increase as collectors’ motorcycles and our results here in Las Vegas reflect this.” said Andy Barrett, Bonhams U.S.-based motorcycle specialist.

Bonhams’ next motorcycle sale is scheduled for April in Stafford, England.

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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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