The venue is new, but the motorcycles are vintage and the bidders seem eager for the 30th annual Mecum Auctions motorcycle sale taking place April 28-May 1 in Las Vegas.
In previous years, the sale was staged at the South Point hotel and casino at the far southern end of the road known as The Strip, and for many of those years, the auction was conducted by MidAmerica Auctions, a motorcycle specialist auction house based in Minnesota.
Mecum acquired the company and its founder, Ron Christenson, several years ago. But the sales continued to be staged at South Point — until this year, when pandemic restrictions limited the number of people who could attend events at the casino complex.
So, Mecum moved the sale this year to the Las Vegas Convention Center, where it also stages an annual collector car auction each fall, and where, while social distancing and mask-wearing remain mandatory, more people can be accommodated.
Those people will be coming to see and to bid on more than 1,200 motorized machines.
As usual, Mecum has identified the featured lots, generally the most coveted and rarest and most valuable of consignments, several of them expected to demand 6-figure bids before the hammer falls.
While I’m not a rider, I have a deep respect for the machines, and especially for the oldest among them. I envy the open-air freedom that comes with a motorcycle, but what I most enjoy is how the mechanical components are exposed and can be easily appreciated.
Yet having said that, some of my favorites that I saw as I walked among the docket Tuesday afternoon were those with their motors hidden behind bodywork.
Following are some of the bikes on which I’d be most tempted to bid when the block opens each day at 10 a.m.:
1935 Crocker Speedway Single
This is one of only 14 Crocker racers known to exist, Mecum reports, and one of only two not in a museum or a large private collection. It also is one of those bikes expected to attract 6-figure bidding. The 500cc engine was rebuilt by AMA Hall of Famer and racer Gene Rhyne, who also was a Crocker employee. The methanol-fueled bike is set up for racing on a dry lake bed or speedway.
Big John Streamliner
Speaking of dry lake bed racing, the Big John Streamliner was designed and built in the early 1960s by J.H. “Stormy” Mangham and was run to more than 300 mph on the Bonneville Salt Flats by Johnny Allen.
1913 Henderson Four
Four-cylinder Hendersons are cherished by bike collectors. This one is in original condition, from the second year of production and among the last built on the long frame.
1915 Henderson Model D with Rogers sidecar
Here’s another early Henderson, and this one comes with a Rogers sidecar. It also comes from the E.J. Cole estate and was displayed until a month ago at the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum.
1928 Harley-Davidson racer
Imagine actually racing on such a seemingly spindly machine! This bike also is from the E.J. Cole Estate and was displayed at the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum until a month ago.
1911 Pierce 4-cylinder
This is a 1911 Pierce 4-cylinder. That’s Pierce as in the cmopany that eventually produced the amazing Pierce Arrow motorcars. While the bike has been restored, it retains its original head and tail lamps.
1912 Reading Standard Delivery and 1950 Cushman Series 50 ice cream truck
What could be cooler than having your own and fully functional 1950 Cushman Series 50 ice cream truck? Perhaps a 1912 Reading Standard Delivery 3-wheeler with San Francisco Fish Co. Moonlight Express livery. The fancy frame atop the ice box notes that “During the early years of Prohibition, this Delivery Motorcycle supplied the thirsty residents of San Francisco with bootleg whiskey and bathtub gin, secreted under fresh fish and crab on ice. The bells, horn and whistle signaled the customers of the hidden booze. Under the watchful eyes of the SFPD, business became so brisk that a Model T Delivery Truck replaced it.”
Some assembly, actually full assembly, required if you buy this bike in a box. It’s a 1973 CZ still in its original packing crate, “just as it entered the port of New York,” the auction description notes. Spare parts are included. CZ motorcycles were produced in Czechoslovakia by a branch of Skoda that moved from producing firearms to forklifts and automotive components as well as motorcycles.
1963 Harley-Davidson Topper scooter
Yes, it is a Harley-Davidson, one of the Topper-series motor scooters the company produced.
1948 Hiawatha Doodle Bug and 1963 Rokon Trail Breaker
These are sort of the mini and maxi of motorcycles. The mini machine is an unrestored 1948 Hiawatha Doodle Bug, powered by a Briggs and Stratton engine. The description notes that that it is not designed for highway or public road use. The maxi model is a 1963 Rokon Trail Breaker, also not for highway use, but originally purchased by the owners of Knott’s Berry Farm and designed for use in the mining industry for inspection and exploration.
2010 BMW K1300GT with sidecar
How can you not be impressed by the streamlined design of this bike and sidecar?
1913 Dayton Big Twin
The Davis Sewing Machine Company of Dayton, Ohio, produced more than sewing machines. For example, this Big Twin motorcycle.
1957 Aeromacchi 175
Having said I like the way the mechanical parts of motorcycles are exposed, I found myself fascinated by this 1957 Aeromacchi 175 that covers up those parts with futuristic bodywork by Giulio Macchi, who had experience building aircraft.
To see the full array of motorcycles available at the auction, visit the Mecum website.