Bonhams annual sale of Collectors’ Motorcycles and Related Memorabilia at The Classic Motorcycle Mechanics Show, Stafford on Oct. 17 once more demonstrated the strength of the motorcycle market with a total of £1.4m ($2.2 million) and 87 percent of lots sold.
Top item in the sale was Lot 339, the historic racing sidecar outfit on which the legendary Helmut Fath won the Sidecar World Championship in 1968 and with which Horst Owesle took the title in 1971.
Estimated to sell for £70,000 to £80,000, it went for no less than a scorching £102,700, a clear £10,000 ahead of its nearest rival, Lot 301, the 1929 Brough Superior Overhead 680 motorcycle, which sold for £93,900.
Helmut Fath was World Champion motorcycle racer in 1960 riding a privately entered BMW but spent the next few years out of racing following a serious injury.
Rebuffed by the German manufacturer on his return, he set about building his own four-cylinder URS racing engine, which took its name from the village of Ursenbach in Germany where the project was conceived.
The URS motorcycle engine was plagued by teething troubles in its first two seasons but delivered Fath his sweet revenge in 1968, when he and passenger Wolfgang Kalauch beat BMW-mounted Johann Attenberger to take the World Championship.
In 1969 another serious injury enforced Fath’s retirement from the sport but the URS was not done yet. Horst Owesle took over the drive and after a promising debut season which saw him finish seventh in the 1970 World Championship, he and passenger Peter Rutterford secured the URS’s second World title the following year.
The URS was offered from an important UK private collection together with another unique post-war racing motorcycle: the 500cc URS-engined Seeley prototype solo that John Blanchard rode to 4th place in the 1967 Ulster Grand Prix and which was raced later in 750cc form by Tony Jefferies. The Seeley-URS sold for £76,300, comfortably above top estimate.
Divided into two separate lots, a vast quantity of URS spares was also on offer also, sufficient to build several additional engines.
Offered from the same collection was the actual 1977 MV Agusta 832cc Monza superbike that was tested by The Motor Cycle magazine at 147mph, making it the fastest production machine in the world at that time.
This stunning piece of Italian exotica had had four owners when it was purchased by the current vendor in 1991 and had covered only 6,612 miles from new. The MV motorcycle sold for a bang-on-estimate £31,050.
Vincents are always in demand and this sale provided plentiful opportunities for devotees of the Stevenage marque to expand their collections, there being no fewer than eight consigned. In the sale four of the Vincents made the top ten results, the best performer being the 1954 Black Shadow Series C which fetched £47,700.
One of the highlights of the sale was the spirited tussle between two telephone bidders – both in Australia – for the one-owner-from-new 1967 Velocette Venom Thruxton, which eventually sold for Â£21,850, well above the top estimate of £18,000.
Ben Walker (Head of Bonhams Collectors’ Motorcycle Department) says: "It’s been another strong result, encompassing the whole range of collectors’ motorcycles. Our sale at Stafford is clearly the auction to be at for anyone with a passion for old motorcycles!"