1948 Vincent Rapide v-twin sells at auction

Bonhams celebrated its third major collectors’ motorcycle sale of 2009 in a typically commanding fashion at today’s Classic Motorcycle Mechanics Show, Stafford. With 74% of the 470 lots offered successfully sold, this highly-anticipated sale raised a remarkable premium inclusive total of £981,638.

Buyers from across the world packed into the sale room, emphasising the international appeal of the collectors’ motorcycle market. Many of the machines on offer were bought by high-profile private collectors throughout the EU as well as in Japan, Switzerland, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India and the USA.

The highlight of the sale was the 1948 Vincent Rapide v-twin famously ridden by Arthur Merrett at that year’s International Six Days Trial at San Remo, Italy. Recently restored, this historic machine sold for an impressive £57,600 (estimated £50,000 – 60,000).

Alongside this, the Vincent Marque was exceptionally well represented and the continuing strong demand for these Stevenage-built v-twins was confirmed by the excellent performance of others in the sale: the 1951 Series-C Rapide sold for £35,600 comfortably exceeding the top estimate of £26,000; the fully rebuilt 1949 Black Lightning Replica fetched £23,000; the restored 1951 Comet single sold for £14,375, despite not having matching frame/engine numbers; while the two Egli-Vincents made £25,300 and £18,400 respectively.

Several British models that regularly form the cornerstone of any UK motorcycle sale proved to be top performers: the 1936 and 1952 Norton Internationals, which sold for £23,000 and £22,138 respectively (estimated at £14,000-18,000 and £14,000-16,000); the fully restored 1960-model Triumph Bonneville, which fetched £12,650 (estimated at £10,000-14,000); and the circa 1962 Velocette 499cc Venom, which made £8,050 (estimated at £7,000-9,000).

Racing motorcycles of all types were strongly represented at the sale, with the famous ex-Francis Williams 1930 Cotton-Blackburne, also known as ‘The Village Fire Engine’, selling to a buyer in Mumbai, India for £34,500 (estimated at £25,000-30,000) whilst an entirely different Cotton from the modern era, the Rotax-engined v-twin ridden by Derek Huxley, found a new owner for £15,525 (estimated at £15,000-20,000). The post-war Velocette KTT MkVIII, restored in Sweden by its previous owner, fetched £34,500 (etsiametd at £28,000-38,000).

Original ‘barn finds’ offered for restoration generated considerable excitement: the 1949 Ariel Red Hunter (£2,703), 1930 Matchless Silver Arrow (£9,890), 1955 Triumph T110 (£4,830) and circa 1911 FN Four (£13,800), all sold for well above their top estimate, demonstrating a very healthy appetite amongst enthusiasts.

From an increasingly important sector of the market, a number of pristine Japanese machines performed particularly well, including the 10-miles-from-new 1975 Honda CB400F, which sold for an above-estimate £7,475 (estimated at £5,000-6,000). Other noteworthy results included the 1974 Kawasaki Z1A, fully restored by the editor of Classic Motorcycle Mechanics, the late Rod Gibson, which fetched £9,430 (estimated £7,000-9,000).

Meanwhile two contrasting Italian machines performed equally strongly, with the limited edition 2001 Ducati 996R Corse racing-specification superbike selling for £16,675 (estimated at £10,000-14,000), while the circa 1949 Gilera Saturno, offered for restoration, was knocked down to a new owner for £5,750 against a top estimate of £2,500.

Top performers among the ‘flat tankers’ were the 1923 Douglas 2¾hp Model TS, which sold for £7,103; the 1913 New Hudson 6hp Big Six v-twin, which fetched £17,825; and the 1912 Premier 3½hp, which made £14,375, all three exceeding their pre-sale upper estimate.

Commenting on the sale, Ben Walker Head of the Motorcycles Department at Bonhams said: "The results reflect many different facets of the collectors’ motorcycle world – the growth in demand for Japanese classics, the value of a good provenance, and, where vendors are willing to be realistic with their estimates, the competitive bidding it attracts and the strong prices that are achieved as a result."