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1969 BSA Rocket 3 (Sold $23.100)
Taken to the edge of over-restoration, this Rocket 3 positively glowed in a sea of gleam. A long time BSA tech saw to the engine, powder coated the frame and other cycle parts, fit new suspensions, installed all new rubber, new paint and a Boyer electronic ignition. Mecum’s claim of the early Rocket 3 being among the fastest appreciating BSA models is true, and reviewing my notes shows restored English classics sell for more on average than original bikes. Many bidders were young when the BSA was released. Most still desire a new one.
The Lucky Seven shown here is but a small sample of the machines that Alex and I found interesting; three from each of us plus one mutually agreed-upon show stopper. These motorcycles reflect our personal tastes, but believe me when I say there’s something for everyone at Mecum. Old classics, new classics, parts, projects, exotics and high-end investment machines. I'd be remiss to not mention the many vendors, on site shipping services and Mecum's own financing program. Click here or on the link posted at the bottom of this report for the full bike manifesto, details and prices.
1956 Mondial F2 (Sold $27.500)
Fans of 1950s road racing recognize the Mondial name as a dominate force in the decade. Moving ahead with fast, watch-like four strokes the Italian maker specialized in small displacement singles (175cc and down) for popular races held on public roads in Italy. This DOHC 175cc FB Mondial Formula 2 single is beautifully restored and certainly one of a very few in existence. Mondial didn’t produce many competition-tuned units for purchase outside the factory. Released from a prominent collection the bike is a jewel, and one that might pull more dollars in an area where FB Mondial’s history and accomplishments are better appreciated.
1971 Airtech Honda CB750 dustbin bagger (Sold: $6.600)
Typical of the unusual bikes that appear every year, this Kent Riches/Airtech CB750 has sold twice at Mecums.The package is clever but fully practical, and a close look reveals extraordinary details that could pass as factory. "However novel you think the result is, this was a common set up in late-50s Britain when bikes were workhorses not show ponies" wrote Riches. "It's got an upright riding position, weather protection and the headlight stays attached so you can remove the fairing on warm days. Lots of storage for supplies."
1985 Suzuki GS1150E (Sold $3190)
While big ticket sellers like Vincent, Indian and MV grab the headlines, there were bargains to be had at Mecums. The last in a line that included brilliant models such as the first GS750 of 1976 and revised 1000 and 4v 1100cc revisions, the GS1150 was re-engineered with a new chassis, monoshock swingarm, a 16” front wheel and full bodywork on the 1150ES. The naked E here is even better; less vibration and faster too. Powerful and well-built the 1150 remains comparable to modern speedsters, yet fits in nicely at a growing number of classic events. This was a steal.
Best of Show: 1982 Harris Magnum Mk2 (Sale cancelled)
One of the industry’s most successful and innovative firms, UK-based Harris Engineering has produced some 3,000 special frame road bikes since the early 1970s. The Magnum 2 is most famous, and this stunning motorcycle –complete with a Yoshi-built 1150cc Suzuki four- sadly did not meet Mecum’s paperwork requirements. The Harris frame is made of Reynolds tube and this one is fit with Harris yokes, Suzuki forks, Dymag magnesium wheels, triple Lockheed brakes and Katana clocks..Truly, this is among the best you’re likely to see. Nolan Woodbury
1978 Ducati 900SS Desmo (Sold: $47.300) (Click to enlarge)
I could go on and on in regard to the virtues of Ducati’s 900SS Desmo, but it all starts with Italian engineer Fabio Taglioni. Remembered by some as the bike Mike Hailwood used to make his (successful) comeback, it was Taglioni’s 864cc twin bolted to Taglioni’s tube space frame at the core. Many wins followed and fans made. Think narrow and low, kick start only, no air cleaners or one ounce of compassion given to the rider. Uncivilized and narrowly focused the SS stood out among the best production superbike of the 1970s, and more than any other Ducati the 900 grabs me hardest. Earning a breathtaking bid, the upswing in price continues for the 900 Super Sport. In its element on the road, here’s hoping the SS doesn't become too valuable to ride.
2018 Mecum Auction Las Vegas Nevada
1999 Laverda Formula 750S (Sold $5500)
You wouldn’t be the first seduced by the Zane-era Laverda’s compact, ultra-trick packaging, but even hand grenades can be polished to perfection. Remade in the 90s under new ownership, the Zane, Italy Laverdas used a variety of air and liquid cooled DOHC, 4v parallel twins fit tightly into an aluminum spar frame. The injected Formula models sold primarily during 1998/9 were the zenith of the line, sprinkling dabs of light alloy, magnesium and carbon fiber plus Marchesini wheels, premium suspensions and Brembo’s finest cast brakes. It should have been a world-beating 750 sports bike. With only 5,006 miles this Formula is running past the average life expectancy of the original engine, but there’s no denying the Lav’s visual impact. Severe mechanical issues mean the Zane twins are not recommend as a regular rider, but might be second to none as moto art.
Memory fails, but I believe my first Vegas auction was in the mid-90s. Titled as MidAmerica and headed by Ron Christenson, sales were hosted in the old Tropicana but moved to the South Point ten-years ago. Since merging with Mecum in 2014 the hotel’s largest convention halls were needed to hold the explosion of machines and attendees, and even after expanding the auction to five days (Tuesday thru Saturday) the sheer numbers means nothing stays on the turnstile for long. No matter where you are, there’s a screen close by to watch the action on stage and the dialog is piped unobtrusively through the hotel’s in-house sound system. I’d recommend booking early and registering is easy at Mecum’s website. Access to the South Point is excellent, parking is free and the hotel and its restaurants are exceptional. There’s plenty to do apart from the action, meaning the whole family can attend the winter’s best motorcycle event. We worked hard, but co-photographer Alex Woodbury and I enjoyed it tremendously.
Now considered among the USA’s largest vintage motorcycle events, Mecum’s annual winter auction joins the Barber Festival, Mid-Ohio and select others on the must do list. Attracting enthusiasts from all over the world, Mecum’s online audience boosts attendance even higher, but no amount of digital surfing can replicate the experience of browsing nearly 1800 classic bikes in person. If you have a favorite, chances are you’ll find it there, but seeing is believing at Mecum. I’d recommend a comfortable pair of walking shoes. Maybe two pair. We’re talking big.
Mecum Auctions Las Vegas January and June, 2018
South Point Hotel & Casino
Las Vegas, NV