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I must admit, I`m a bit jaded when it comes to the allure, strength and longevity of the big valve Lemans 1000 engine. I can only imagine how well it pairs with the amazing talent from the house of Magni. So for me personally, many of the remaining 1.750-plus motorcycles offered at Bonhams and Mecum’s just faded into black and white after that experience. I realized that days later, when reflecting the hours we spent in the company of this important, rare and absolutely awe-inspiring example. Named after one of the greatest and gifted motorcycle enthusiasts of all time. Bill Ross

I didn't read everything in the attached booklet, but Dunstall’s full performance package included 10.1 pistons, a cam with 0.405 lift, heavier springs, lightweight, polished rocker arms and everything else lubricated by Dunstall’s double speed oil pump. The carb inlet was opened to 1-1/8” and mated with matching Amal Monobloc carburetors on finned manifolds. Those trademark ‘sweptback’ exhaust headers were developed by Dr. Gordon Blair and mated with Dunstall's Decibel mufflers. For more ground clearance, a 19” rear wheel was fit. Built before Paul Dunstall became a licensed manufacturer (in 1967) this is a stupendously rare machine. 

This example sported a Quaife close-ratio six-speed gearbox, Newby belt primary, disc brake, alloy tank and many other purposeful appointments. The nickel plated Reynolds 531 frame presented well and the bike was in `ready to race` condition. Knowing of its popularity and the following the bike has worldwide the hammer price was certainly lower than I envisioned. This was well below the (optimistic?) $40-to-$50k estimate published in Mecum’s catalog.

Walking into the Bonham`s dimly lit auction hall, I spotted the Arturo aside a Magni Sfida, also going under the hammer later that afternoon. This stunning machine really surprised me, as this Arturo 1000 is a classic example of a bike impossible to comprehend or appreciate by looking at photographs. This was one of those moments. The hand beaten aluminum tank was very close if not the same shape as the MV Agusta America or 850SS. The Magni frame was pulled in at the waist, the tank pulled in and perfectly blended to the svelte, inviting saddle that encouraged further participation. The seat was shrink-wrapped down to a sexy, sculptured aero boxtail that looked as it had been re-purposed from a 60s MV Agusta GP machine. Premium Forcella Italia forks in the front and Magni`s unique signature rear swingarm only added to the wonderment of this machine.

NW: 1980 Bimota SB 2 (Sold $56.650)

As part of Mecum’s “Motorcycle Collection of Stockholm” this Italian made Bimota SB 2 was yet another model I have studied, but never seen. Being drawn to what many consider as the top European exotic, I could not resist wrapping my hands around the Bimota’s grips for a few seconds, imagining what a real ride would feel like. The auction description read reports it was taken off the road in 1984 and recently restored. Comparing it to period Bimota promotional images, this one matches well.

Bill Ross: AJS V4 and Velocette Roarer (Sold / $82.250 and did not sell)

AJS had displayed a prototype 50-degree, 495ccV4 in 1935 and it was the sensation at the Olympia Motorcycle Show that year. Although never going beyond prototype for the street, it was developed into a formidable road racer over the next several years with supercharging, water cooling and other updates. The V4 saw action at several TT races just before the beginning of WWII. In 1939 it set the fastest lap record at the Ulster GP at over 100 mph average speed.

BR: Seeley 500 (Sold $11,000)

Early in the auction, a glance turned into admiration towards this rare Seeley 500 road racer. Powered by a Matchless G50 single, British engineer/tuner/rider Colin Seeley used his frame design to fabricate the ‘Condor’ line manufactured in the 60s and 70s. This was done after acquiring most of the racing department stock at Matchless, which had withdrawn from racing.

N. Woodbury: 1965 Dunstall Dominator  (Sold, $34.010)

I’ll admit the two Magni Guzzis offered at Bonhams is the primary reason I traveled to Las Vegas. That, and a chance to hang with my best buddy Billoni!  Everything after would be cake. Then again, the staggering amount of bikes at Mecum’s in 2018 blew me half away, and what I witnessed this year finished the job. Not only were the total number of bikes equal or more in 2019, the quality jumped sharply. Serious stuff.

The supercharged Velocette failed to meet reserve at $70,000. Unknown if it later sold through “The Bid Goes On “ process or returned to Canada. The Roarer Replica was an equally stunning execution of a one off originally built by Velocette, also just before war was to break out in Europe. Underneath the trademark black and gold finish, twin counter rotating crankshafts, a supercharger, shaft drive and more made this a unique piece of motorcycle art.

While not a nut and bolt original, `as produced` road racer, this fact perhaps discouraged would be collectors from writing the big check. However, for the working class, blue collar-club racer with competition in mind this was an absolute bargain. Very competitive and having won or earned many podium finishes, racers traditionally don’t do well in Las Vegas. The chassis was light, robust, and effective, considered by many as one of the best of the era. I chatted with the new owner just after the bidding ended. He was quite delighted and amazed to say the least.

Rare photos and rough drawings were studied, calculations were made, plugs and molds were fabricated. Castings were poured and machined. Replicas eventually materialized from raw materials into running replicas. Finished in 2006, the AJS would accumulate 10,000 well enjoyed miles before arriving in Vegas. Metting reserve on Saturday, the 495cc AJS `VEE 4 sold for $82,250, fees included.

The adjustable swan neck handlebars remained, giving the rider plenty of versatility for adjusting the riding position to suit. These machines were not officially imported to the USA, although the Berliners may have brought in a small handful for special customers.

Looking this bike over revealed a well preserved, unmolested machine. This S was very close as it left the factory in 1974 with original paint, exhaust and trim. I've never seen the shift pattern sticker (bottom left) and also unknown is if the seat was swapped from the specified hump style that the Guzzi factory in Mandello attached. Maybe to better accommodate a passenger? Perhaps a V7 Sport seat was used up from dwindling stocks? Reproduction 750 S seats are available (with steel pan) for under $550. This S was absolutely well bought and solidly original, If purchased by a riding enthusiast and/or collector, it should be a good year.

NW: Honda ‘Sandcast’ 750 (Sold $17.600)

Another exotic from the Stockholm collection, this imported to Sweden 1969 Honda was billed as a cafe racer, which I believe misses the mark. Good thought had gone into the bike’s auction description, but this rare sandcast was clearly influenced by Europe’s budding endurance racing scene, then finished in the elaborate manner made popular by Fritz Egli, George Martin, and both the Rickman and Harris brothers. Heavily greased, the Honda had received cast wheels, rearsets, flipped-backwards forks, twin front discs and a square-section swingarm hooked to Italian shocks. It’s a guess for the engine, save for the 4-into-1 exhaust. Even the stock 28mm Keihin carbs look to have been retained, the bodies finished in a matching shade of marmalade.

One of the most interesting and talented people I met in Las Vegas was Daniel Smith (^ above) from Vancouver, Canada. Displaying extraordinary amounts of talent, vision and dedication, Daniel had brought two replica machines that he had built in his personal workshop over many years. One of these was this faithfully duplicated the 1935 AJS V4 (right>) as shown at Olympia, the other was a supercharged Velocette Roarer replica, circa 1939. Dan`s attention to detail was impeccable, as was his commitment and skill in making it all happen. 

Top Billing: Magni/Moto Guzzi Arturo 1000  (Sold $9000)

1000: 949cc (88mm x 78mm)
1100: 1090cc (92mm x 82mm)

As Nolan eluded to above, if there was one motorcycle above all others that drew me to the motorcycle auctions in Las Vegas, it was without a doubt the Magni Arturo at the Bonhams event held at The Rio. I`ve had a long time fondness and appreciation for the Guzzi powered Magnis. Visiting with Giovanni Magni at their shop in Northern Italy in 2002 was an unforgettable experience. In 2008 I purchased a 4v, 992cc Australia, #23, and finally experienced what these lightweight, WP suspended, Cro-Mo framed machines were all about. I enjoyed each and every ride on that magical bike for the next eight years. I had never seen an Arturo, and not aware of any that are in the US. I’ve seen a couple on the internet, and know Magni built some 1100cc versions as well, increased bore and stroke to 92 by 82 made for some 1090cc monsters booming around out there.

Ranking among the most impressive customs I’ve seen anywhere, even these carefully aimed photos fail to display the workmanship and attention to detail this machine exudes. The fit, finish and quality of the fiberglass was impressive and no corners cut; the edges of the fairing were covered with beading and every cable was routed and pinned, often with custom fasteners. Clearly not everyone’s cup of cafe (as reflected by the hammer price) premium value is reserved solely for the factory issue style. I couldn’t stop looking at it, as specials crafted in garnish European ‘luxury endurance’ guise are my favorites. Bold, and exciting, even with with a white seat!

I cannot say enough how impressed I was or what a great time was had at the recent Mecum 2019 Motorcycle Auction held in Las Vegas, January 22-26. The diversity, quality and quantity of bikes there was unlike any bike gathering I`d ever seen. Having not attended this annual auction for the prior three years, I was pleasantly surprised by the upscale presentation and professionalism displayed verses the old Mid-America event of the past. While there was no shortage of rare, historical and desirable machines, it did make picking a few standouts difficult.  There were just so many! Pared down for space, here a short list of motorcycles that I found incredibly interesting, and three more from Nolan Woodbury, who will alternate with his favorites. The prices are from Mecum’s website and include the normal fees attached.

(Photographs by Bill Ross and N. Woodbury)

BR: Moto Guzzi 750 S (Sold $13.200)

A really presentable, mostly all original 1974 Moto Guzzi 750S was somewhat of a surprise entry at Mecum. The 750S was the next sports model that followed the 750cc V7 Sport, built in 1974 to early 1975 it had a production run of 948 units. It was the last of the sporting 750cc models to retain Guzzi`s most radical camshaft, with valve duration of 290 degrees. The front brakes were changed to Brembo discs, replacing the costlier four-shoe drum, just as on the US-spec V7 Sport for 1974.

Brilliantly executed by the legendary Massimo Tamburini (Ducati 916, MV Agusta F4) Bimota’s SB 2 was easily the most advanced machine available for purchase when making its debut in 1977. Still compact and small (compared to its 70s contemporaries) the SB 2’s well braced frame features adjustments for fork rake and a monoshock that pivots on outrigger bearings for constant tension. An 810cc kit was also available for the DOHC Suzuki GS 750. Bold graphics cover the SB 2’s aluminum-reinforced fiberglass body, and the brown velour stitched to the seat made me smile. “Nothing we’ve ridden, except Suzuki’s RG500 GP bike can touch it” wrote the editors of Cycle magazine in a 1977 road test. “Its cornering clearance and the strength of its frame all work together to provide handling, response and stability that’s beyond our critical expertise.”

I would have done Vegas just for this Norton Dunstall, had I studied the mailer beforehand. Some years back I wrote report on Paul Dunstall, who according to the Norton’s verified paperwork delivered this hand built example to tobacco heir Zach Reynolds. Sold in the UK then used on holiday to tour all over Europe, Reynolds shipped the Norton back to North Carolina, where it eventually sold at his estate sale in 1984. Displayed in a museum since, it plainly has sat unused for decades but the Dunstall fiberglass, custom paintwork and lettering have all survived splendidly. It should be said that the lighting inside the South Point’s main exhibition hall is excellent; making inspections much easier. With more chrome dabs than I expected, the alloy fittings on the Atlas twin were pristine.