In 1957, Swedish teenager Christer Christensson bought his first motorcycle, a Husqvarna Silverpilen, or as he put it Thursday in Las Vegas, a “Husky Silver Arrow.”
“Of course,” he added, “I was hooked.”
Hooked is putting it mildly. After taking several years for “building up my life,” Christensson started collecting motorcycles. At first, he focused on British bikes “without knowing what I was going to do with them.”
But he discovered what to do with them in 1997 when he was in New York City and attended the acclaimed “The Art of the Motorcycle” exhibit at the Guggenheim art museum.
Christensson went back to Sweden, built his own museum — inspired by the design of his beloved Silver Arrow — and started displaying his bikes as the pieces of art, mechanical sculptures, he believes them to be. He also started collecting more seriously, seeking “particular, special bikes” and of all brands “as long as they are beautiful,” he said.
He also purchased some brand-new motorcycles to showcase while adding a restoration shop to refurbish the older bikes he was buying, often early (1920s and ’30s) American-made machines that originally had been purchased by people residing in Sweden and Norway; they were put way during the long winter season and thus had been well-preserved, and often handed down from generation to generation.
And now, at age 78, Christensson has consigned nearly 240 motorcycles from his collection to cross the block Friday, January 25, at Mecum’s 28th annual motorcycle auction at the South Point hotel and casino in Las Vegas.
Among Christensson’s collection are quite a few American machines, Harley-Davidsons and Indians, and he notes that Indian became successful when Oscar Hedstrom moved from Sweden to Massachusetts and joined George Hendee in producing his bikes.
Christensson still has many motorcycles back in Sweden, but is downsizing and moving what remains of his MC Collection of Stockholm to a new location. He said he chose Mecum for the sale because of the size of its Las Vegas motorcycle auction and for the way the auction company would market his collection. Mecum turned its Las Vegas storage facility into a temporary motorcycle museum in November to showcase the MC Collection.
“I am 78 and at least am trying to slow down,” he said, adding almost immediately that while he’s selling more than 200 bikes, he’s also buying a few.
Still buying, he added, “that’s a problem. It’s a sickness.”
A sickness, he hopes, that infects bidders Friday at the Mecum Auction.