Noted motorcycle collector Al Phillips will be selling 25 motorcycles from his collection at the Mecum Indy 2020 auction at the Indiana State Fairgrounds. Running from July 12 through 18, there will be a wide variety of motorcycles on the block.
Phillips’ story got my attention, as he started riding motorcycles at age 14 in 1952 in London before moving to the United States 10 years later. Phillips road raced for the next nine years, before moving on to develop the World Gym Health Club franchise. Of course, he never abandoned motorcycling. Instead, he collected over 100 motorcycles from various eras.
Rather than exotics, for the most part these are real-world motorcycle, and they are all ready to ride. That intrigued me, so here’s my Editor’s Choice from the Al Phillips Collection, in order from the one I’d like to most ride, to the least—not that I’d pass up a spin on any of them.
This Matchless resonates with me, as it takes me back to my earliest memories of motorcycles. My friends and I used to hike up into the San Jose Hills behind my home in Southern California and watch the big kids ride up and down the hills. These were among the motorcycles they were riding. Those hills are covered with homes, but I’ll love to find a doable hillclimb for the Marksman to tackle. That makes it my personal winner in the Al Phillip Motorcycle Collection at Mecum’s Indy 2020.
A genuinely iconic motorcycle, the 1962 BSA Gold Star DBD 34 has a storied history, and any motorcyclists would want to experience it. In Clubman trim, it’s ready for a ride that will be both invigorating and relaxing–oh, to feel the rumble of that classic big single.
Considered by many to be the pinnacle of the Bonneville line, the 1970 edition is absolutely beautiful. The air-scoop front drum brake, the sculpted tank, the peashooter exhausts, and thin fenders give this Bonneville a purposeful look. It also looks like a blast to ride.
Famous for its high-performance V-twins, the single-cylinder Comet feels more accessible in almost every way. It’s basically half a Black Shadow or Rapide, I’d definitely want to find out how that aluminum Girdraulic fork feels on the road.
Norton took an aging single-cylinder motor design from 1930 and dropped in into its revolutionary Featherbed frame. Basically a street-legal version of the storied Manx racer, the International 30 was competitive in the post-WWII era. Obviously, riding up to a watering hole on this piece of history will attract eyeballs.
Between the name, graceful tank over the beautiful pushrod motor, the sprung solo seat, and the peashooter muffler, I’m won over. Ariel had plenty of racing success across a broad range of disciplines with the Red Hunter, so twisting the throttle should be quite rewarding.
There were certainly faster superbikes in 1985, but none of them had the visual panache of the Ducati Mike Hailwood Replica. Sure, it was a styling exercise based on the 900 rather than a race-replica, but that doesn’t make it any less appealing. My ride will be short, however, due to the ergonomics. That means straight down Mulholland Highway to the Rock Store!
Despite a production run from 1900 to 1967, Panther is something of a lost British marque. That, of course, makes me want to ride it. Powered by a forward-canted 650cc single, the Panther 120 was generally intended for sidecar work, but I’ll happily ride it as a two-wheeler.
Although it started life as a military motorcycle before evolving into a basic transportation machine, the AJS Model 16 has an elemental appeal for me. The styling is clean, and the pullback bars look comfortable for easy rides through the countryside.
The big 600cc single with that distinctive Norton looks grabs my attention. Next, the friendly ergonomics tell me that it’s time to go riding. And, yes, I love the muffler!
I actually almost bought one of these when it was a contemporary motorcycle. However, concerns about reliability steered me to a Yamaha Seca 550. Yes, the XR1000 has excellent resale value in 2020, but that would have required me to hang onto it for over 35 years. I would certainly enjoy finding out what I missed out on.
Given that I love riding the 2020 Royal Enfield INT 650, it only makes sense that I’d want to go out for a ride on its direct ancestor. All the styling cues are there, along with the 692cc vertical twin powerplant. The chrome tank is an attention-getter, and the swept-back bars make the Interceptor look like a comfortable ride.
Before the Commando, the Atlas ruled the Norton roost. As much as I love the 750cc twin powerplant, the fuel tank is what sells me on the Atlas. The chrome fenders seem a bit oversized to me, but I love the look, otherwise. The ergonomics promise to be rider-friendly, and that always helps.
It was 1977, and the Sex Pistols were singing their God Save The Queen to “celebrate” Queen Elizabeth’s 25th year wearing the crown. Contrastingly, Triumph built this wonderful Silver Jubilee edition. Beautiful paint, disc brakes on both wheels, and a buckhorn handlebar. Although that iteration of Triumph had no future, this Bonneville is captivating. Gary Ilminen did a great story on the Silver Jubilee.
With WWII freshly finished, Norton built this do-it-all motorcycle that could do everything from competing in observed trials to hauling a sidecar around. The OHV 490cc engine is a true work of art, as is the fuel tank. I’m a fan of the two separate seats, with the seats sprung to supplement the plunger rear suspension. I’ll look for smooth roads for an enjoyable ride.
No doubt about it, the gold-and-white paint on this Tiger is terrific. The badging and knee guards make the tank a full-3D experience, while the 650cc vertical twin has the needed power for a sporting outing. Ergonomics are upright/sporting, and a curb weight under 400 pounds makes the Tiger quite appealing.
I’m a big fan of the current iteration of the Katana. Yet, as good as it looks, the 2020 doesn’t have quite the audacious styling of the 1982 debut Katana. The air-cooled DOHC 1100cc motor is a sweetheart, so the entire package says, “Look at me and watch how fast I go.”
Ultimate Motorcycling President Arthur Coldwells will want to roast me for putting the CBX so far down the list—he’s a former owner, and longtime champion of the inline-6. Maybe it’s the familiarity that curbs my enthusiasm, having seen it in his garage regularly. He eventually let it go, and I should have taken it for a spin when I had the chance.
Built for the US market exclusively, the upswept pipes make the Commando 750 S irresistible. This was a competition-oriented Commando, and you actually used to see this scrambler-style motorcycle out in the California desert—sometimes going very fast. I’d quite enjoy wicking this one up to speed on Stoddard Wells Road between Victorville and Barstow.
I quite like this Matchless G15, as it was something of a dual-sport motorcycle of its day–though it was going up against the first year of the Yamaha DT-1. Undoubtedly, the 750cc twin has good power, but the overly tall and wide handlebar best puts me off a bit.
I’m not a sidecar guy, but this one might get me to take a shot. With a top speed of 65 mph, I can stick with tooling around town with a willing passenger in the sidecar. No doubt about it, everyone you ride by on this Moto Guzzi will take a second, and third, glance.
This is another motorcycle that I considered buying when it was new, but never pulled the trigger. It has evolved into a cult motorcycle, and rightfully so. If you don’t want the hassles of owning a Gold Star, this might be the next best thing. I can’t say I regret not owning a GB500, but that doesn’t mean it’s still not an excellent motorcycle.
I just mentioned that I’m not a sidecar guy, but who can resist an original Yamaha V-Max with a sidecar? Well, I can, for one. Still, a little part of me would want to ride it and see if I could do something stupid without killing myself and my passenger. Or, maybe not.
Honda brought in this strange little two-stroke for just one year. It’s certainly a neat little sportbike. However, with such a small motor, I’d spend most of my time looking in the rearview mirror, making sure I wasn’t going to get overrun by oncoming traffic. Now, it might be fun on a go-kart track.
The Moto Guzzi V1000 is a beautiful motorcycle, and the sidecar for this is a perfect match. Regardless, this feels like something I’d rather admire than actually ride, and I say that as a Moto Guzzi fan.
So, there you have my very personal and subjective Editor’s Choice Top 25 from the Al Phillips Collection at the Mecum Indy 2020 auction. Feel free to offer up your favorites in the comments.