Of the nearly two-dozen private collections sending vehicles to the 29th annual Mecum Las Vegas Vintage and Antique Motorcycle Auction, those from two such groupings earned special coverage in the Mecum Monthly magazine.
“A gearhead gone too soon,” was the title of an article about the collection of nearly 150 motorcycles going to the auction from the estate of the late Art Bulmann, and “The final journey” covered the life and 40-motorcycle collection of Stephen E. Smoker.
“Bulmann was gripped by the mechanical side of motorcycle ownership at a young age, having already learned the ropes of engine repair by the time he bought his first, and when health forced him into a soft retirement, it was an opportunity to pick right back up where he left off,” Mecum Monthly noted. “
Bulmann owned the historic Jebens Hardware and Supply, founded in 1876 in a south Chicago suburb.
His interest in motorcycles traced to his grade-school years, when he spent his lunch periods at a machine shop near the school instead of going home to eat.
He bought his first motorcycle, an Indian Chief that didn’t run and had a frozen transmission, when he was 13. Soon, he had the motorcycle back in running condition.
Though he always had a motorcycle, Bulmann didn’t start collecting until after having heart surgery and being forced into a “soft retirement” in 2001. He turned an old cattle barn into a museum-quality home for his motorcycles and would use it to host fund-raising events for a local charity that helped children and adults with developmental disabilities.
Stephen Smoker also became fascinated by motorcycles at an early age, and in his case, it was despite the fact he was growing up in a conservative Mennonite community. He built his first motorcycle by adding a motor to a pedal bicycle.
His father bought him a small motorcycle so that Smoker could get back and forth to his first job in construction, and Smoker eventually became the builder of custom homes, churches and commercial buildings.
He also built what he called his “Hog Pen,” to house his collection of nearly 50 motorcycles. But while named for the nickname for Harley-Davidson machines, Smoker’s collection comes from an amazing variety of manufacturers.
He was known for planning extensive motorcycle rides, both in the United States and throughout Europe. He brought home several motorcycles that he purchased while in Europe.
A diagnosis of brain cancer in August triggered his decision to sell his collection, and he hoped to be present at the Las Vegas sale, but he died in November, two months before the auction.
Mecum’s annual Las Vegas motorcycle auction is scheduled for January 21-26 at the South Point hotel and casino.