1924 Croft-Cameron Super Eight. Photos courtesy Bonhams.
No one knows for certain how many motorcycles Croft-Cameron built during their three years in operation, from 1923-’26, or how many survive today, but the number is very, very small. Proof of their value was delivered last weekend when a 1924 Croft-Cameron Super Eight crossed the block in England, selling for 203,0000 pounds ($246,768) to become the top-seller in Bonhams annual Stafford sale.
Following the conclusion of World War I in 1918, the British motorcycle industry enjoyed an explosion of growth, with 112 companies building motorcycles in Great Britain in 1919. The number of manufacturers would ultimately peak at around 300, though many of these companies opted to assemble motorcycles from parts supplied by third parties. Croft-Cameron, based in Coventry, was one such brand, though it had ambitions to take on the best manufacturers of the day.
Focusing on performance, Croft-Cameron embraced the slogan, “Look! Speedmen, Hard Riders and all such Sportsmen. At last you have the ideal of your dreams. The Croft Anzani “Super Eight.”” Though an assemblage of parts from brands like British Anzani, which supplied the engine; Sturmey Archer, which supplied the three-speed gearbox, and Montgomery, which supplied the leaf spring front fork, the Croft-Cameron Super Eight was not a one-size-fits-all motorcycle.
The standard engine was a four-valve, 996cc, overhead valve V-twin, but for a bit more money (then, £15), a buyer could opt for the higher-performance eight-valve version of the engine. Riders on a budget could order the “Power Plus” engine in four valve form, which raised the purchase price by just £5 (from £125 to £130), while those of means could request the eight-valve Power Plus engine, raising the price to £145. The three-speed Sturmey Archer gearbox was standard, but for a bit more money a buyer could request a four-speed transmission supplied by Jardine.
One of Croft-Cameron’s strengths was its twin-loop frame, which cradled the engine on two sides to form an extremely rigid (by period standards) structure. Many manufacturers still relied on a single downtube frame, similar to what one would find on a bicycle, so by comparison the Croft-Cameron delivered superior handling by reducing flex. Period advertising declared the Croft-Cameron’s frame to be “as rigid as a Pill Box,” though handling alone was not enough to drive sales and, ultimately, save the brand.
The 1924 Croft-Cameron Super Eight sold in Stafford was delivered new through a Leicester dealership to Bert Henson, who made his living as a railroad engineer. Henson retained possession of the bike for over three decades, adding a sidecar to increase its versatility in the 1930s. In 1956, Henson parked the bike in storage, at a traction engine works in Thetford, and a year later it was purchased by the father of the consignor.
The Croft-Cameron was restored in 1962, and throughout the 1960s was regularly seen at vintage motorcycle events and shows. Described as “in generally good condition,” the bike has not been run in the past five years, and will require a mechanical sorting before again taking to the road. The selling price of £203,000 ($246,768) makes this the 49th most expensive motorcycle ever sold at auction, according to a list maintained by The Vintagent website.
1937 Brough Superior 1,096cc 11-50hp motorcycle and sidecar combination.
Other lots in the top-10 included a 1948 Vincent-HRD 998cc Black Shadow Series-B, which sold for £113,500 ($137,903); a 1937 Brough Superior 1,096cc 11-50hp motorcycle and sidecar combination, which sold for £85,500 ($103,883); a 1946 Vincent 998cc Rapide Series-B, which sold for £68,700 ($83,471); an ex-works, Isle of Man TT Formula 1, 1977 Ducati 905cc production racing motorcycle, which sold for £59,740 ($72,584); a 1978 MV Agusta 750 America Magni, which sold for £48,300 ($58,684); a 1921 Norton 490cc Model 16H racing motorcycle, which sold for £33,350 ($40,520); a 1907 Vindec Special 5hp equipped with a Graham Brothers sidecar, which sold for £32,200 ($39,123); a 1960 Norton 499cc Manx racing motorcycle, which sold for £31,050 ($37,725); and a 1973 Healey 1000/4, which sold for £29,900 ($36,328).
For complete results from the Autumn Stafford sale, visit Bonhams.com.