Larry’s likes at Bonhams Las Vegas motorcycle auction

First of more than 110 machines crosses the block January 23 at noon local time

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Bonhams has moved its annual Las Vegas motorcycle auction to a new venue, Caesar's Entertainment Studios, just off The Strip | Larry Edsall photos

Bonhams is back in Las Vegas for its 10th annual collector motorcycle auction. But this year, the sale takes place in a bright new venue, the Caesar’s Entertainment Studios just off The Strip and behind the Paris Las Vegas complex and its faux Eiffel Tower.

The new venue has a vintage feel that fits well with the motorcycles that will cross the block on Thursday, January 23.  It was constructed for movie and television production and for special events, such as the annual Bonhams bike sale.

The new venue should prove beneficial. Previously, the sale was staged in a ballroom-style facility at the Rio resort that not only was not on The Strip, it was even west of Interstate 15.

1940 Crocker Big Tank V-Twin valued at round $500,000

The auction docket includes more than 110 motorcycles, including a 1940 Crocker Big Tank V-Twin that Bonhams expects to sell for around half-a-million dollars.  The bike formerly was owned by Crocker employee Elmo Looper and is one of fewer than 30 Big Tanks produced by Al Crocker and his crew in East Los Angeles.

I spent some time Wednesday morning wandering among the machines that will on the bock Thursday. Here are some of my favorites:

A pair of NUTs

1913 1000-cc OHV racer

The docket includes two NUTs,  a 1913 1000-cc OHV racer and a 1925 750cc V-Twin Sports Tourer. Hugh Mason, a British engineer, produced motorcycles under other brand names before settling in 1912on NUT — short for his hometown of Newcastle-upon-Tyne. Mason rode one of his machines to victory in the 1913 Isle of Man Junior TT and the brand became popular, though it did not survive the Depression. 

Bonhams notes that NUTs were distinguished by their cylindrical fuel tank held in place in a lugged-steel tube frame by two nickel-plated bands. The bikes are gorgeous in their brown/orange color. The earlier example is powered by a JAP engine produced by J.A. Prestwich of Tottenham. The newer bike has an engine designed by Mason.

1925 750cc V-Twin Sports Tourer

A drove of Ducatis

Lots 115, 116, 117, 118, 120 and 122 are Ducatis (and there are yet others on the docket as well). But 115, 116, 117, 118, 120 and 122 were parked together to form an impressive red curve. In numerical order,  they are a 1988 750 Paso, a 1996 900 SS/CR, 1995 916, 2007 1098, circa-1985 600 SL Pantah and 1985 1,000cc Mike Hailwood replica.

2006 Ducati Paul Smart 1000 LE

Parked nearby — well, not really parked but sitting in a crate-like frame — is Lot 119, a 2006 Ducati Paul Smart 1000 LE. Turns out the crate-like frame is actually the crate in which the bike was shipped. The bike is brand new, thus still in its crate. It carries the name of Paul Smart, winner of the 1972 Imola 200 and is part of the “Sport Classic” line that Ducati introduced in 2005. 

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2000 Mule Harley-Davidson 1,200cc Street Tracker

I don’t ride but I’m fascinated by the exposed mechanical bits and the sculptural nature, especially of the early motorcycles. What caught my eye in this case was the amazing form of the exhaust pipes. Turns out this bike was built in 2010 by street-tracker Richard Pollock of Mule Motorcycles and has a mildly hot-rodded Sportster 1200 engine. The design was influenced by the Harley XLCH bikes of the 1950s

‘Sons of Speed’ 1915 Harley-Davidson Twin Model F board-track racer

Here’s another modern interpretation on a vintage theme. It was built by Billy Lane and Matt Walksler for the Sons of Speed, “modern era” board-track races that are held in New Smyrna Beach, Florida. The engine is a 1915 Harley F-head 61cid V-twin rebuilt and souped-up by Walksler at the Wheels Through Time museum in North Carolina. Just like the board-track racers of a century ago, the bike has no brakes, no suspension and no transmission. It is geared to run 80 mph on a 1/2-mile oval track.

1917 Henderson 60.40ci Model G custom board track racer

There is something special about the proportions of vintage Henderson motorcycles with their 4-cylinder engines. The company was founded in Detroit in 1911 by brothers Tom and William Henderson and was acquired and moved to Chicago by bicycle and Excelsior motorcycle manufacturer Ignaz Schwinn in 1917. The Hendersons started the Ace brand, which they later sold to Indian. 

The Model G engine was new for 1917 and was so advanced that Henry Ford reportedly bought one to study. This board-track racer-style machine was built around a Model G engine for Paul Ousey to race in a Sons of Speed event. 

1929 Brough Superior 680 ‘project’

This Brough Superior is parked next to tables covered by the parts needed to put the matching-numbers 680 back together. The Overhead (valve) 680 was a new model for 1927. Bonhams says the Brough Superior Club Machine Registrar has confirmed the numbers-matching frame, engine and gearbox of this do-it-yourself project.

circa-1967 BMW R50/2

The color of this post-war BMW is Dover White, albeit with a “hint of cream” and black pin striping. BMW’s Series 2 bikes were in prodution from 1960-1969. This numbers-matching (frame and engine no. 642174) bike was restored by BMW specialist Tim Stafford in San Diego and is meant to be ridden.

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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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