HomeCar CultureRecord price paid in 2018 for a vintage motorcycle

Record price paid in 2018 for a vintage motorcycle


Editor’s note: As each year draws to a close, the Journal polls its editors and correspondents to determine what we consider to be the top-10 stories from the collector car world during the past 12 months. Check out the other top stories here.

The Ferrari that sold for more than $40 million during Monterey Car Week may have set an all-time record for the highest price paid at public auction for a four-wheeled collector vehicle, but it wasn’t the only such record price of 2018. Don’t forget, back in January at Bonhams annual auction at the Rio in Las Vegas, the all-time record was upped for the purchase of a two-wheeled vehicle when someone spent $929,000 on a motorcycle.

Not just any motorcycle, but the 1951 Vincent Black Lightning on which Jack Ehret of Australia set a two-wheeled land speed record of 141.5 mph in 1953.

No. 8 in our series of the top-10 stories of 2018 is the popularity of motorcycles among vehicle collectors, and the record-setting sale of the Ehret Vincent was a breakthrough moment for the momentum motorcycles have been building in the past few years.

There are people who collect motorcycles, but they also are becoming increasingly popular with car collectors. Not only are they gorgeous works of mechanical sculpture with their engines exposed viewing, but they take up less room in the garage or collection showroom and tend to be much less expensive to purchase. 

Not only did Bonhams get a world-record price, but just a few miles to the south, Mecum was staging its 27th annual Las Vegas motorcycle auction, posting an astounding 91 percent sell-through rate and just shy of $14 million in total sales, more than many a collector car auction.

The January sale was such a success for Mecum that it was back in Vegas in June, selling another 400 motorcycles for more than $4 million.

Bonhams did a couple of motorcycle auctions in England, as did H&H Classics, which drew more than 1,000 people and for the first time surpassed the £1 million plateau for a single auction.

Bonhams returned to the U.S. in October to stage a major motorcycle auction at the country’s finest motorcycle museum, the Barber Motorsports Museum in Birmingham, Alabama. The event was considered a huge success and Bonhams will be back in Birmingham in 2019. 

The inaugural sale at Barber was topped by the 1970 Husqvarna 400 Cross that Steve McQueen rode in the film On Any Sunday. Throughout the year, bikes formerly owned by the actor and enthusiast were to be hot sellers. Celebrity provenance is perhaps as significant with motorcycles as it is with motorcars; at one of those H&H Classics sales in the UK, someone paid $41,421 for a minibike, a 1969 Honda Z50A “Monkeybike” that had been owned by John Lennon of The Beatles.

Motorcycles also were popular attractions at otherwise car museums with the Petersen, Simeone and Packard museums hosting vintage motorcycle exhibits. And out in the Flint Hills of Kansas, vintage motorcycles again drew people to the Volland Store.

Mecum will sell the MC collection and has set up a mini-museum in Las Vegas to showcase the bikes | Larry Edsall photo

Speaking of museums, Mecum Auctions has created a temporary motorcycle museum in Las Vegas to showcase the MC Collection of Stockholm, Sweden, that will be offered at Mecum’s 28th Las Vegas motorcycle auction in late January 2019.

Larry Edsall
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, 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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