Fastest Vincent, Steve McQueen bike at Bonhams motorcycle sale

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Bonhams motorcycle
The Vincent Black Lightning was the fastest motorcycle of its day | Bonhams

One of the rarest and most-revered performance motorcycles of the post-war era, and a famous dirt bike with a solid Steve McQueen connection, highlight Bonhams motorcycle auction October 6 at the Barber Motorsports Museum in Birmingham, Alabama.

The performance bike is a coveted 1949 Vincent Black Lightning, a limited-production motorcycle model from Vincent HRD of Great Britain that held world speed records and was considered the fastest motorcycle on the planet.

The 1970 Husqvarna 400 Cross might not have the speed-record credentials, but it has unmatched star power as the “Husky” dirt bike on which McQueen is shown riding, shirtless, for the cover of Sports Illustrated and in the documentary film On Any Sunday.

Bonhams motorcycle
A Black Lightning ridden in a period photo | Bonhams archive

The Black Lightning, a lighter and more-powerful factory version of the iconic Black Shadow, is described by Bonhams as the “Ferrari GTO of two wheels.”

“Possessing the golden combination of rarity (only around 30 were ever built), evocative design, forward-thinking engineering and racing success, the British-made bike is simply unmatched in the collector world,” according to a Bonhams news release.

“And like a GTO, these coveted machines rarely, if ever, come up for sale.”

Bonhams motorcycle
Steve McQueen on ‘Sports Illustrated’ cover

This Black Lightning is the second example built with full ownership history, and is the earliest known in existence, Bonhams said. Bonhams sold a similar Black Lightning, one that held the Australian speed record, for nearly $1 million earlier this year at the auction company’s Las Vegas sale. This Vincent is expected to gain similar interest.

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The Husky at Bonhams motorcycle auction McQueen’s favorite autocross bike, according to his son, Chad McQueen, and is offered with extensive documentation, the auction house said in the release. The paperwork includes its California registration naming Solar Productions, McQueen’s company, and the actor’s entry form for the 1970 Saddleback 500 Senior Race.

The sale also includes McQueen’s “lucky penny,” a 1960 coin from the year of Chad’s birth that was found inside a clear plastic case tucked away in the cavity of the motorcycle between the engine and frame. 

The Husqvarna 400 was said to be McQueen’s favorite dirt bike | Bonhams

The Swedish motorcycle is a desirable bike in its own right, but as McQueen’s own machine that appeared on the famous magazine cover and landmark film, the sky is absolutely the limit. Watch the Steve McQueen magic take over the bidding for this one, as it has for so many other McQueen items auctioned in the past.

“The significance of these two motorcycles can’t be underscored enough,” Ben Walker, Bonhams Head of Motorcycles, said in the release. “One is truly a legend in every regard and the other is monumentally iconic. We’ve offered a multitude of important motorcycles at Bonhams over the years but these are real standouts.”

For more information about the Bonhams motorcycle sale, visit the auction website.

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Bob Golfen is a longtime automotive writer and editor, focusing on new vehicles, collector cars, car culture and the automotive lifestyle. He is the former automotive writer and editor for The Arizona Republic and SPEED.com, the website for the SPEED motorsports channel. He has written free-lance articles for a number of publications, including Autoweek, The New York Times and Barrett-Jackson auction catalogs. A collector car enthusiast with a wide range of knowledge about the old cars that we all love and desire, Bob enjoys tinkering with archaic machinery. His current obsession is a 1962 Porsche 356 Super coupe.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Sick unto death of Everything McQueen. The guy never won a single major race, or any really recognized minor ones..and yet people think he was the better driver over PLN.

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