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Mecum’s MidAmerica motorcycle sale features six-figure surprises

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This 1908 Harley-Davidson bid to $400,000, but failed to meet its reserve. Images courtesy Mecum Auctions.

Mecum’s 25th-annual MidAmerica motorcycle auction featured five bikes that cracked the $100,000 mark, but the bikes that did not sell garnered a lot of the attention in Las Vegas last weekend. The 1908 Harley-Davidson “Strap Tank,” one of the featured auction bikes, was bid to $400,000, but went unsold. The current owner, who purchased the bike in Monterey in 2007 for $198,000, apparently felt it was worth more than double the selling price nine years ago. Another featured bike, the 1918 Harley-Davidson Model J Board Track racer, also went unsold with a high bid of $70,000.

Here are a few of the highest-priced bikes that DID sell:

1912 Henderson 4

1912 Henderson Four

Something just isn’t right here, as this bike sold at the EJ Cole Collection Auction last year for $206,000, but managed to reach just $165,000 (including buyer’s fees) in Las Vegas. Still, it was the highest-priced sale at the three-day extravaganza. As one of only a handful surviving today, this will make a nice addition to any museum collection.

1955 Vincent Black Prince

1955 Vincent Black Prince

Vincents these days are almost as hot as Broughs, as this last-year-of-production 1955 Black Prince showed on the auction block, selling for $120,000. Part of the Herb Harris Collection (which had another of the top bikes on this auction’s list) the 998cc 4-speed was the prototype ridden by factory test rider Ted Davis.

1929 Cleveland Tornado four-cylinder

1929 Cleveland Tornado

This three-speed inline four has undergone a complete restoration, with the engine serviced by renowned Davies Antique Motorcycle. The bike is authentic in every way possible, down to the correct carburetor and every Parkerized or nickel-plated nut and bolt, and this was reflected by the $115,000 selling price.

2004 MTT Y2K Turbine

2004 MTT Y2K Turbine

This bike was not even on our radar, but it apparently was on the radar of the bidders, selling for $115,000. Part of the Allen Smith Australian Collection, the bike was built around a Rolls-Royce Model 250 Turboshaft by Marine Turbine Technologies and drops 425-lb.ft. of torque onto the pavement. The two-speed automatic transmission helped push the bike to 227 mph and was listed as a Guinness World Record holder for most powerful production motorcycle and most expensive production motorcycle when it was first offered in 2004 at a sticker price of $175,000. This high bidder got a good deal by waiting a few years for the market to soften a bit.

1956 BSA Gold Star Clubman cutaway

1956 BSA Gold Star Clubman cutaway

I know what you’re thinking, “$110,000 for a bike that will never run?” This bike has some well-documented history that appealed to the bidders. It was originally built for display at motorcycle shows in 1953, but was later updated to show new components that were added to the Clubman product line in 1956. Another bike from the Herb Harris Collection, it was displayed at the AMA museum as one of its British bike displays. Harris also sold another cutaway at this auction, a 1964 BSA Lightning Rocket, which sat in an Atlanta bar for 17 years, for $27,500

1929 BMW R63

This 1929 BMW R63 sold for $77,500.

Rounding out Mecum’s top-10 list for the auction were a repainted but otherwise unrestored 1939 Harley-Davidson EL Knucklehead, which sold for $90,000; a 1914 Flanders Model D Twin, which sold for $90,000; a 1937 Brough Superior, which sold for $86,000; a 1929 BMW R63, which sold for $77,500, and a 1917 Henderson Board Track Racer, which sold for $72,500.

1912 Pierce Four

This 1912 Pierce Four bid to $70,000, but failed to meet its reserve.

A few other unsold bikes that were well bid included a 1912 Pierce Four, which bid to $70,000; a 1924 Henderson Deluxe Four, originally from the Steve McQueen Collection, which bid to $90,000; and a 1912 Indian Board Track Racer, which bid to $65,000 but fell short of the owner’s expectations.

Complete Las Vegas auction sales and non-sales can be seen at