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Top ten most expensive motorbikes ever sold at auction

The top ten bikes sold at auction make you wish you had them
The top ten bikes sold at auction make you wish you had them
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Wednesday, 25, Mar 2015 12:38

by Claire Lawson

MotorbikeTimes looks at the most expensive motorcycles ever sold in our latest feature, guaranteed to make you salivate

Ever been to a motorcycle auction and been outbid? Ever just thought about attending an auction but never did because you knew you wouldn't be able to afford anything there? Don't feel bad, only a handful of people are able to afford such luxuries in life - especially when we're talking about some of the most expensive bikes ever to roll out onto the asphalt. Here, MotorbikeTimes takes a look at the top ten most expensive motorbikes ever sold at auction. It does beg the question, however, if money was no object, which one would you choose? Would you pay the type of crazy prices that some of these sold for? Take a look through, in descending order, to see what we found and try to keep the envious green monster at bay when you see how much some lucky sods spent to win their bidding wars.

Number 10: 1926 Brough Superior SS100 Alpine Grand Sports

RM Auctions made a successful sale with this bike for £280,000 in London in 2012. This bike has a pretty well-documented ownership history, changing hands up to seven times from 1926 to 2005. At the beginning of 2006 the bike went through an extensive restoration ending in 2010. Everything was rebuilt to the original specs such as the KTOR engine and the original cylinder heads which, following being converted to twin plug, were corrected to the single plug specification. Between the years 2009 and 2010, using the rebuilt engine, a noted Brough specialist completed the restoration, which included an exceedingly rare five-inch Webb front hub.

During the rebuild, the bike was displayed at the Brough Superior Golden Jubilee in 2008 and, following completion in 2010, was awarded the Baragwanath Trophy for the best JAP-Engined SS100 at the annual Brough Superior Club rally.

Number 9: 1922 Brough Superior SS80

Yet another Brough making record sales, the 1922 Superior sold in Duxford, England, in October of 2012 for £291,200 through H&H Auctions. Nicknamed 'Old Bill', the bike became Brough's ultimate sprint weapon winning over 50 races in a row with its 976cc sidevalve engine. Sadly the SS80s career ended in its 52nd race in 1923 when Old Bill won the race after having bucked Brough off a few yards before the finish line at 100mph. Following Brough's accident, the SS80 was rebuilt as a road bike but was damaged during WWII.

Subsequently bought by VMCC founder 'Titch' Allen, with the help of Brough and plant manager Ike Webb, the machine was restored to resemble its 1922 racing trim. 'Bill' was then passed onto Allen's son Roger, who unfortunately lost his life racing in the Isle of Man. The bike was then donated to the Imperial War Museum in Duxford until being sold by H&H Auctions .

Number 8: 1942 Crocker V Twin Big Tank

The final bike to enter the the list from the 2015 Mecum auction is the Crocker V Twin Big Tank selling at $385,000 (approximately £258,000). Developed by in California in 1935, this bike is one of only 72 V Twins made. Designed to be durable, powerful, fast and nimble, these machines were built with hemispherical OHV cylinder heads a 45 degree V-twin engine and a three-speed gearbox. The fuel and oil tanks were made from cast aluminium allowing the bike to hold two and a half gallons.

The make up of the bike allowed it to reach 55-60 miles per hour which exceeded all of its competition by more than 40 percent. Crocker sold all his V Twins with a money back guarantee if any of his customers were beaten in a race by Harley-Davidson or an Indian. Trouble came for Crocker in 1942 as the 'war work' restrictions no longer allowed him to continue to produce motorcycles. He later decided not to resume production post-war making his bikes very rare indeed.

Number 7: 1911 Flying Merkel Board Track Racer

Sold for $423,00 (approximately £283,000) on 21 March 2015 by Mecum, this two-wheeler has an intriguing past as it was believed that there were no more examples of this model left. That was until a Virginia collector stumbled upon this one in the 1980s. As has been revealed since, the Flying Merkel Board Track Racer was owned by the Suttle family. It was raced regularly by the head of the household on the east coast until WWI when it was stored.

The bike was not seen again until 70 years later. When found, the machine was still able to work however the tyres had to be replaced as the originals disintegrated when put under pressure from speed it hadn't been put through for decades. At its new found home, the Flying Merkel was ridden in competitions extensively throughout the US while also being exhibited at the same time. Astonishingly, the motorcycle was sold in original, as-raced condition.

Number 6: 1939 BMW RS255 Kompressor

Auctioned by Bonhams again, this time in Las Vegas in 2013, the Kompressor was previously owned by BMW works rider Walter Zeller. Built as a private project in the 1980s with parts sourced from the BMW factory, this motorbike was sold for $480,000 (approximately £298,000).

During the 1939 Grand Prix season, rider Georg Meier dominated the Senior TT at the Isle of Man on the same model, smashing lap records and becoming the first non-Brit to win the road race, ensuring the RS255 was given legendary status in the interim. Fast forward to the 2013 auction, the bike did not have all its original parts, however it does have a genuine 1939 BMW RS255 Kompressor engine, a 1951 Rennsport "plunger" frame and a number of other modifications which make it an authentic re-creation of a Kompressor spanning pre and post-war era.

Number 5: 1929 Brough Superior SS100 'Alpine Grand Sports'

Named after the toughest and most arduous events of its time, the Alpine Trial, this 968cc SS100 sold for £315,100 in November 2014. Auctioned off by Bonhams in London, this particular racer took part in the Alpine Trial with George Brough at the helm in 1925. He won six trophies including 'Best Performance' on the testing trail that travels through Austria, Croatia, Slovenia and the infamous Stelvio Pass.

The SS100 was introduced to the market in the same year for the 1926 season, with a lower compression ratio making it suitable for touring. Director of Bonhams Motorcycle Department, Ben Walker, can't speak of the Brough bike highly enough, saying: "Brough Superior is a legendary marque in the motorcycle world. The most charismatic of the marque's stable is unquestionably the SS100."

Number 4:1910 Winchester 6 HP

The fourth most expensive bike sold was the Winchester at the price of $580,00 US (approximately £360,500) in Auburn, America in August 2013.

Worldwide Auctioneers sold one of only two examples of the 200 bikes made still known to exist. The 200 were commissioned by Edwin F. Merry Company between the years 1909 and 1911. This particular bike was bought by a gun enthusiast who knows the significance of such an impressive machine. So much so, that they have remained anonymous to avoid publicity. The bike has a single, six HP engine, total-loss battery ignition system and a direct belt-drive. Sounds like it was certainly worth the half a million dollars it sold for.

Number 3:1907 Harley-Davidson Strap Tank

Dubbed the 'Mona Lisa' of Harley-Davidson, this bike was sold on 21 March 2015 by Mecum Auctions for a massive $715,000 (approximately £481,000). The sale set a new record for both the marque and the model. The Strap Tank concept first began development in 1901 by the three Davidson brothers, starting out life with a 116cc engine.

The earliest 'strap tank' models are the rarest and most coveted of all Milwaukee machinery. This particular bike from 1907 had the serial number #2037 suggesting that it was the 37th Harley-Davidson built in 1907, making it the 94th bike ever made by Harley-Davidson. The bike was purchased from the Leo Bongers estate in 1993, with Bongers' father being the original owner of the machine.

Number 2: 1915 Cyclone Board Track Racer

Auctioneers MidAmerica Auctions (now Mecum) were able to sell this Hollywood Cyclone for $852,500 (approximately £573,600) at auction in Las Vegas. Previously owned movie legend, Steve McQueen until his death in 1980, the selling price was certainly higher than expected due to its celebrity history.

The Cyclone Board had a very successful and short-lived existence but, even in 1915, the motorcycles were a pretty rare find. Currently there are only 12 cyclones to have resurfaced over the years. To sell such a rare bike in pristine condition was no trouble for the seller who delivered the bike with a 986cc engine, 45-degree V-Twin with bevel-driven overhead camshafts. The 45 horse power maximum output was an amazing achievement back when it was produced and, in 1915, it was recorded that the Cyclone got up to 115pmh. The bike has since gone on to be described as one of the most 'correct' board track racers. Read more about the sale here

Number 1: 'Captain America' Harley-Davidson Panhead

And now for the coveted number one spot. Ridden by Peter Fonda in the 1969 film, Easy Rider, this chopper is argued to be the most famous and recognised bike from a movie. Ever. The only remaining motorcycle from the film was sold in Los Angeles last October for a massive $1.62 million US (approximately £840,000), auctioned off by Profiles in History.

Before becoming the biggest star with two wheels, the bike was originally owned by the police and then sold to the film studio to include in Easy Rider for a very modest $500 (approximately £335). At the film set, Captain America was completely and radically customised to become what we see in the film. The bike features a forward-angled front wheel and handlebars, fishtail exhaust pipes and a teardrop-shaped gas tank and finished with star and stripes insisted by Fonda. The new record set by the two-wheeler is sure to stay at the top for a long time.

All-in-all, it's fair to say that the Brough Superiors make for the most popular bikes to be sold at auction. A very rare brand that makes for the biggest numbers raised, the Superiors are certainly, well, superior when it comes to our auction list. One question, however, does come to mind when looking at the dates of all these bikes. Apart from 'Captain America' and the Cyclone, the majority of all bikes these were built between the years 1909 and 1939. The question being, what will the current bikes of today sell for in 60, 70, even 80 years time? Will they be as rare and sought after or will they be so common they will litter the streets? What kind of money will they sell for? And what will happen to these bikes in the future? One thing is for sure, if history is anything to go by, they'll certainly be worth a lot more.

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