Ultimate Collector Motorcycles Book Review [Riders Library]

Ultimate Collector Motorcycles Book Review: Slipcase
Ultimate Collector Motorcycles two-volume set in slipcase.

Masterpiece. Stunning. Superb. Roll out the superlatives; they all apply to Ultimate Collector Motorcycles by Charlotte & Peter Fiell, as it is the ne plus ultra of classic motorcycle literature.

There is little this magnificent two-volume set does not offer the serious motorcyclist, collector, aficionado, broker, trader, builder, designer, restorer, historian, or expert. Of the dozens of books about motorcycles, including classic, rare, and collectible bikes we have reviewed here at Ultimate Motorcycling, nothing comes close to this.

Volumes I and Ii.

Spanning the history of the sport from 1894 to 2020, Ultimate Collector Motorcycles is printed on 940 lavish, heavy bond, 11-by-14-inch pages. It is packed with 990 exceptionally detailed color images, many of which span two pages, black and white period photographs, illustrations, and advertising art. Each motorcycle profiled is shown and explained with unparalleled clarity.

Even the printed-textile slipcase that the two volumes of the Famous First Edition (there are three editions available) are presented in is a work of art. Its front shows a full-color front-end view of the 1969 Clymer-Münch IV 1200 TT-S Mammoth, and the back displays the 1938 Brough-Superior Golden Dream show bike—the only one ever built.

Authors Charlotte and Peter Fiell explain it this way: “This double-volume work is an unrivaled anthology of collector motorcycles. Spanning the entire history of the motorcycle, it brings together 100 of the most extraordinary, exquisite, rare, and desirable bikes of all time while revealing the enduring pursuit of engineering and design innovation, power, and performance.”

Mike Hailwood Ducati 900.

The 1998 Art of the Motorcycle exhibition at the Guggenheim Museum, which featured 114 rare and noteworthy motorcycles on display, “ showed us motorcycles could be treated with respect and dignity; this book tells us how that dignity and respect was earned,” says Jay Leno in his Foreword. If you missed The Art of the Motorcycle exhibition at the Guggenheim, this is better.

Each motorcycle featured is more than just a photo essay; there is a detailed technical and historical narrative, as well. That is no small achievement, as the motorcycles include antiques, prototypes, one-offs, and racing bikes. Many had specifications that were hush-hush to begin with, and enjoyed extremely limited production-run examples. In many cases, it would take painstaking research to develop even basic technical specifications data and production numbers.

Consequently, technical and historical details may be hard to come by. Imagine, for example, tracking down the technical details for the 1894 Hildebrand & Wolfmüller, the one-off 1906 Anzani three-cylinder board track racer (the engine for which was a “W” configuration), or the 1922 Sgonina Special, with its advanced DOHC four-stroke single cylinder engine, another production run of one.

Ultimate Collector Motorcycles Book Review: 1934 Henderson
1934 Henderson JK Streamline Custom.

While rare, antique, and classic motorcycles are a central feature of the books, there is also fascinating coverage of some of the world’s most legendary high-performance, custom, and racing motorcycles and their extraordinary personalities. Examples include:

  • ex-Freddie Dixon 1923 eight-valve Harley-Davidson board track racer
  • ex-T.E. Lawrence (A.K.A. Lawrence of Arabia) 1929 Brough Superior SS100 Alpine Grand Sports
  • 1939 AJS 500cc liquid-cooled V4 Grand Prix racing bike
  • ex-Rollie Free 1948 Vincent Black Lightning John Edgar prototype, which Free used to set a Class A land speed record of 150.313 mph at Bonneville Salt Flats
  • 1950 ex-Dario Ambrosini Benelli 250cc GP racer (ridden to a class World Championship)
  • 1956 ex-Sammy Miller Ariel 500cc HT5 Trials GOV132 (two-time Scottish Six Days Trial winner)
  • 1964 ex-Mike Hailwood, Jim Redman, Stuart Graham Honda RC165 250cc six-cylinder Works GP racer
  • 1967 ex-Giacomo Agostini 350cc MV Agusta Works GP racer
  • 1972 ex-Cal Rayborn Harley-Davidson XR750TT Works Formula 750 Racer
  • 1976 ex-Barry Sheene Suzuki RG500A XR14, which Sheene rode to a World Championship that year
  • 1978 ex-Kenny Roberts Yamaha YZR500 OW35K Works Grand Prix racer, which Robers rode to a World Championship
  • 1991 ex-Andrew Stroud Britten V1000 Superbike Works Racer
  • 2007 ex-Casey Stoner Ducati Desmosedici GP7 Works racer, which Stoner rode to the MotoGP World Championship

See the complete list of 100 at the end of this piece.

While some of the vintage bikes have been fully restored to their original glory, several true survivors were photographed as they appear, virtually untouched, wearing the patina of age. One of the most interesting in the survivor category is a 1930 Majestic 350, one of only about 100 built in France. Its paint is badly flaking, the seat has severe wear damage, and there’s some corrosion showing up on the art-deco pressed-steel monocoque bodywork, but it’s all there. The full-page image that spans two pages allows the reader to see remarkable detail.

Ultimate Collector Motorcycles Book Review: 1969 Münch Mammoth.
1969 Münch Mammoth.

Taschen staff tell me that the Fiells, who have 35 years of experience authoring and editing books, produced these amazing volumes through two years of full-time work. Given the sheer scope, scale, and detail of the book, that is remarkable—I’d have anticipated even more time was dedicated based on the results. Add the extremely high quality of the printing and hardcover binding, and you have a singular achievement that is worth the effort.

Ever wonder what it would be like to have a collection of 100 of the rarest, most innovative for their time, legendary and spectacular motorcycles ever constructed in your possession, complete with details about their design and history? You know, the kind of collection only a billionaire could afford? Well, here’s your chance to have the next best thing.

Ultimate Collector Motorcycles Fast Facts

  • Title: Ultimate Collector Motorcycles
  • Authors: Charlotte and Peter Fiell
  • Foreword: Jay Leno
  • Interviews: George Barber, Paul D’Orleans, Gordon McCall, Sammy Miller, Ben Walker.
  • Published: 2023; hardcover; Volume I, 467 pages; Volume II, 473 pages. Approx. 990 color and b/w images.
  • Publisher: Taschen GmbH, Hohenzollernring 53, 50672 Koln, Germany
  • Numbered print run: 9000 examples
  • ISBN: 978-3-8365-9501-8 (Collector’s edition); 978-3-8365-9543-8 (Famous First edition); 978-3-8365-8579-8 (Trade edition)

Ultimate Collector Motorcycles Price: £250 MSRP

The 100 Ultimate Collector Motorcycles

  • 1894 Hildebrand & Wolfmuller
  • 1904 Alcyon 1000cc OHV V-Twin Racer
  • 1906 Anzani Three-cylinder Racer
  • 1907 Harley-Davidson Model 3 “Strap Tank”
  • 1907 Curtiss V8 Land Speed Racer
  • 1909 Harley-Davidson 5-D V-Twin
  • 1909 Wilkinson TAC Model 4
  • 1911 Pierce Four
  • 1912 Henderson Model A “Henderson Four”
  • 1913 BAT TT Roadster
  • 1914 Flying Merkel Model 471
  • 1914 Feilbach Limited V-Twin
  • 1915 Cyclone Model 7, R-15 “Stripped Stock” Board Track Racer, Ex-Steve McQueen
  • 1916 Militaire Model 2
  • 1919 Indian Powerplus Board Track Racer
  • 1921 Mars A20
  • 1922 Sgonina Special
  • 1922 Megola Sport Tourer
  • 1922 Brough Superior SS80 “Old Bill,” ex-George Brough
  • 1923 Ace Four Sporting Solo
  • 1923 Harley-Davidson eight-valve racer, ex-Freddie Dixon
  • 1924 McEvoy British—Anzani eight-valve racer
  • 1924 Croft Cameron Super Eight Sports
  • 1924 BMW R 32
  • 1925 Sunbeam 500cc OHC “Crocodile” Grand Prix Racer
  • 1926 Indian A45 OHV 750cc Road Racer, ex-Zdensk Pohl
  • 1927 H.R.D. “Howard Davies Super 90”
  • 1927 Coventry-Eagle Flying 8 OHV Model C160
  • 1928 Harley-Davidson 74 CI JDH “Two Cam”
  • 1929 Brough Superior SS100 Alpine Grand Sports, ex-T.E. Lawrence
  • 1929 Cleveland Century
  • 1930 Majestic 350
  • 1930 O.E.C. Temple-JAP 1000cc
  • 1930 Zenith “Super Kim”
  • 1930 Excelsior Super X “Streamliner”
  • 1931 Windhoff 1000cc Four Prototype
  • 1931 Moto Guzzi 500/4 Works Grand Prix Racer
  • 1932 Brough Superior Straight Four Combination
  • 1934 Henderson KJ Streamline Custom
  • 1934 BMW R7 Prototype
  • 1935 Husqvarna 500cc Works Grand Prix Racer, ex-Ragge Sunnqvist & Stanley Woods
  • 1936 Scott Model 3S
  • 1936 Harley-Davidson E “Knucklehead”
  • 1937 DKW 250cc URe Works Racer, ex-Ewald Kluge
  • 1938 Brough Superior “Golden Dream”
  • 1939 Vincent-HRD Series A Rapide
  • 1939 AJS 500cc V4
  • 1939 BMW RS 255 Kompressor
  • 1939 Gilera 500cc Rondine, ex-Dorino Serafini
  • 1940 Crocker 61ci “Big Tank”
  • 1947 Indian Chief Model 347 Clubman
  • 1947 Moto Major Prototype
  • 1948 Velocette DOHC KTT Works Grand Prix Racer, ex-Freddie Frith
  • 1948 Vincent Black Lightning John Edgar Prototype, ex-Rollie Free
  • 1949 NSU PK 500 Kompressor
  • 1950 Benelli 250cc Works Grand Prix Racer, ex-Dario Ambrosini
  • 1951 Vincent Series C Red White Shadow
  • 1954 AJS 500cc E95 “Porcupine” Works Racer
  • 1954 Norton Manx 500cc “Proboscis” Works Grand Prix Racer, ex-Ray Amm
  • 1954 BMW RS 54
  • 1955 Wooler Flat Four
  • 1956 Ducati 125 Gran Sport “Mariana” Works Racer
  • 1956 Ariel 500cc HT5 Trials Motorcycle GOV132, ex-Sammy Miller
  • 1956 MV Agusta 500 4C Championship—winning Works Grand Prix Racer, ex-John Surtees
  • 1957 Moto Guzzi 500cc V8 Works Grand Prix Racer
  • 1957 F. B. Mondial 250cc DOHC Works Grand Prix Racer, ex-Tarquinio Provini
  • 1957 Gilera 500/4 Works Grand Prix Racer, ex-Derek Minter
  • 1959 Honda RC142 Isle of Man TT Works Racer, ex-Naomi Taniguchi
  • 1959 MZ RE125 Works Grand Prix Racer, ex-Luigi Taveri
  • 1959 Ducati Desmo 125 Barcone Grand Prix Racer
  • 1960 Norton 350cc 40M Lowboy
  • 1963 Moto Morini 250cc Bialbero Works Grand Prix Racer, ex-Tarquinio Provini
  • 1964 Benelli 250cc Works Grand Prix Racer, ex-Tarquinio Provini
  • 1964 Bianchi 500cc Grand Prix Prototype Racer
  • 1964 Honda RC165 250cc Works Grand Prix Racer, ex-Jim Redman, Mike Hailwood, Stuart Graham
  • 1965 Ducati 125cc four-cylinder Prototype Grand Prix Racer
  • 1967 Suzuki RS67 Works Grand Prix Racer
  • 1967 MV Agusta 350C Works Grand Prix Racer , ex-Giacomo Agostini
  • 1968 Paton 500 “Bicilindrica” Works Grand Prix Racer, ex-Billie Nelson
  • 1969 Arter Special MK3 Matchless G50 “Wagon Wheels”
  • 1969 Clymer-Münch IV 1200 TT-S “Mammoth”
  • 1970 Münch-URS 500 Grand Prix Racer, ex-Ferdi Kaczor
  • 1970 Husqvarna 400 Cross, ex-Steve McQueen
  • 1972 Ducati 750 Imola Works Racer, ex-Paul Smart
  • 1972 Harley-Davidson XR750 TT Works Formula 750 Racer, ex-Cal Rayborn
  • 1974 Bimota HB1 Formula 750 Racer
  • 1976 Suzuki RG500A XR14 Championship—winning Works Grand Prix Racer, ex-Barry Sheene
  • 1978 Ducati 900 TT F1 World—championship and IOM Race Winner, ex-Mike Hailwood
  • 1978 Laverda 1000 V6 Prototype Endurance Racer
  • 1978 Yamaha YZR500 OW35K Works Grand Prix Racer, ex-Kenny Roberts
  • 1983 ELF e 1000cc Honda RSC Works Endurance Racer
  • 1990 Ducati 851 F90 Superbike Works Racer, ex-Raymond Roche
  • 1991 Britten V1000 Superbike Works Racer, ex-Andrew Stroud
  • 1992 Honda NR RC40
  • 1997 Morbidelli 850 V8 Prototype
  • 2006 Vyrus 985 C3 4V
  • 2007 Ducati Desmosedici GP7 Works Grand Prix Racer, ex-Casey Stoner
  • 2009 Confederate P120 Fighter
  • 2011 Black Falcon by Falcon Motorcycles
  • 2020 Aston Martin AMB 001

Ultimate Collector Motorcycles Book Review Photo Gallery