Legend of the Motorcycle – Bonhams & Butterfields to Offer Motorcycles and Memorabilia

. April 30, 2008

Motorbikes owned by Steve McQueen, Evel Knievel, Private and Corporate Collections on the Block

An exceptional offering of celebrity motorbikes and rare models from private and corporate collections come to auction at Bonhams & Butterfields’ second annual auction in concert with Legend of the Motorcycle, the eagerly-anticipated international concours d’elegance returning to the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in Half Moon Bay, CA. The auction takes place on Saturday, May 3, 2008 and features a sexy Steve McQueen Indian motorcycle, an Evel Knievel Harley, memorabilia and decorative arts with biking themes and incredible motorbikes from several noted collections. The auction, much like the concours, offers participants an incredible array of biking history.

The auctioneer’s catalog opens with Vice President and US Motoring Dept. Director Mark Osborne’s remberences and tribute to the late legendary Bud Ekins (1930-2007). Ekins, a consummate off-road racer, bike dealer and restorer, stunt-rider and All-American hero, was a long-time friend of and stunt double for Steve McQueen. Ekins performed the memorable motorcycle jump in The Great Escape soaring through the air onscreen and into the hearts of millions of film and motorcycling fans.

indian-motorcycle.jpgThe 2008 offering features memorabilia and motorbikes from the Michael Corbin Collection – Corbin being an inventor and designer and the CEO of his family firm, in business since the late 1960s. Seat manufacturers, the Corbin company produced and sold custom vehicles and parts and sponsored a successful race team. Highlighting the bikes from the Corbin Collection is the Steve McQueen stripped down ‘bobber’ style 1940 Indian Sport Scout, expected to bring $60,000 to $80,000. Much to the delight of collectors, this bike and several others from the collection is offered without reserve. The bike, offered with a certificate signed by Terry and Chad McQueen, was part of the McQueen Estate auction in Las Vegas in 1984 and became a centerpiece of the Corbin Collection in 2000.

Indian bikes are well represented within the Corbin Collection, the earliest being a wonderful 1906 Indian “Camel Back” which spent time in a museum before joining the collection. The ‘06 is described as historic and having had only three owners in its’ 102 years (est. $80/100,000). A superbly restored 1912 Indian “Big Twin” is to be sold without reserve at $45/55,000, while other Indians represent nearly every decade of the company’s production: a famous 1929 Indian-Crocker overhead-valve conversion estimated at $80/100,000; an immaculate 1933 Indian-Crocker Speedway racing bike at $70/90,000; a 1940 Indian Four at $60/80,000; a 1947 Indian Chief “Hollister Special” and ‘skirted fender’ 1948 Chief; a clean 1951 Indian Brave; a rare 1970 Indian Velo Thruxton – one of only 46 machines made to detailed specification; and a 2004 Indian 100ci Chief linked to development of the limited edition series of T3 models created to celebrate the use of Indians in the feature film Terminator III. Also from the collection comes the ex-‘Smoking Joe’ Kopp 1982 Harley-Davidson XR750 racing motorbike ridden to win the AMA Grand National Championship in 2000, offered without reserve at $15/20,000.

Expected to excite auction bidders as well as concours visitors is the early prototype of a Corbin custom machine, a circa 2002 Corbin Merlin Roadster – a single seat three-wheeled open-topped vehicle dressed in black with red/orange flame designs (est. $16/20,000). Honda, Triumph, Norton and Vincent bikes from the collection should interest enthusiasts, as well, memorabilia from the collection includes original artworks, prints, limited edition bronzes and illuminated advertising signs for Indian, Harley-Davidson, Triumph, BMW and Yamaha, among others. Fun and destined for a familyroom are two recliners by Corbin featuring lush leather upholstery with actual Indian fenders forming the armrests, each estimated at $3/5,000. The same estimate has been placed on a Corvette loveseat by Corbin, featuring custom paint and detailing by Perowitz and custom leather and suede seating for two — fitted into the tail section of a Corvette, the taillights fully functional.

Seven Harley-Davidson bikes from the museum collection of the Santa Cruz, California Harley-Davidson dealership have been consigned for the sale, that business dating back to the 1920s when racer Lysle Muth operated a shop near the Boardwalk, a draw to both weekend enthusiasts as well as dyed-in-the-wool Harley veterans. The Harley motorbikes, formerly on view at the dealership’s museum, are offered without reserve and include: a 1929 JDH – at the time, the fastest road bike Harley offered to the public (est. $50/60,000); a 1930 VL with sidecar – found in Chile and now beautifully restored (est. $28/33,000); a 1941 EL; 1947 WL; 1967 FLH; and a 1978 XLH.

Additionally, a rare 1918 Harley-Davidson bicycle – people-powered rather than sporting impressive horsepower – will be included in the sale. An anomaly in the Harley-Davidson line, it was primarily marketed to children and ladies and was likely designed and manufactured in reaction to the success of Schwinn, the bicycle company whose proprietor also owned the Henderson and Excelsior motorcycle companies. Although the bicycles were well made and often painted and pinstriped in the same colors as their motorcycle brethren, they were seemingly out of place in most dealerships and sales did not meet expectations. This lady’s bicycle, with its wooden rims, was stored for over 50 years in the basement of a former US Postal carrier who used the pedal bike as her source of transportation. The original owner was born in 1899 and entered college in 1918. To pay for tuition she delivered mail as a rural route carrier.

From various owners come multiple desirable lots representing important marques and notable bikes, including the 2004 Harley-Davidson 88ci Heritage Softail formerly in the collection of Evel Knievel, an icon considered one of the world’s greatest stuntmen and member of the Motorcycle Hall of Fame as of 1999. The red, white and blue Harley displays the Evel Knievel logo on the gas tank and could bring as much as $50,000. Estimated at $15,000 to $20,000 is the Bud Ekins “Tribute Triumph,” a 1967 TR6R Trophy restored in honor of Ekins, who signed the gas tank.

Aficionados of motorcycling should vie for early examples and prototypes such as: a 1912 Excelsior belt-drive Twin (est. $50/55,000); a 1913 Excelsior ‘Big Twin’ (est. $60/70,000); a 1914 Indian ‘Hendee Special’ electric start model (est. $90/100,000); a 1928 Harley-Davidson factory experimental Hillclimb Special 61ci bike (one of only two known and considered “a jewel,” estimated at. $75/95,000); and two factory prototypes of 1976 BMWs.

Several of the motorbikes on the block have garnered accolades in juried shows, including the 1947 Indian Chief restored by Jim Crocker and the 1940 Indian ‘Bonneville’ Sport Scout restored by the late Francis “Cliff” Clifford. A lot offered in “barn find” condition retaining its original paint and an acetylene headlight is a 1914 Excelsior Model 7-C which, selling for $225 in 1915, was a luxury ride in its heyday (est. $55/60,000). Harleys, a 1955 Vincent 998ci Black Knight (est. $60/70,000), racing bikes by Augusta, Ducati and Triumph, and others should entice bidders, while multiple examples by Moto Guzzi, Matchless, BSA and Honda round out a superlative array of bikes destined for new collections, roadway use and, most certainly, future concours on the international stage.

The illustrated catalog for Bonhams’ 2008 Legend of the Motorcycle sale is online at www.bonhams.com/us for review and purchase. The offered lots open for preview on Saturday, May 3 as of 9am. The auction begins at 4:30pm in the Ballroom of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel at One Miramontes Point Road in Half Moon Bay, CA.

Category: Auction News

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