Bonhams to auction American motorcycles from a private European collection

. April 30, 2012

A selection of important motorcycles from a prominent private collection has been entrusted to Bonhams for their annual Quail Lodge sale held during the famed Pebble Beach Car Week.

Consisting of exquisite models from Indian, Harley-Davidson and Crocker, it’s the collection’s Crockers (acquired 12 years ago in the US) that are drawing the most attention.

Known as the “Duesenberg of motorcycles,” Crocker is the definitive American motorcycle – handmade, powerful and fast. Very much a Hollywood “hot rod” bike, Crocker was created in and shaped by the culture of pre-WWII Los Angeles, California, by former Indian distributor Al Crocker. When it debuted in 1936, the upstart founder brazenly challenged world dominators Harley-Davidson, boasting of superior technology, performance, handling and raw power. In fact, Al Crocker famously advertised that if any of his bikes were ever beaten by a stock Harley, he would refund the owner’s money. No refunds were ever requested.

As a bespoke machine, each Crocker was made to the specifications of its buyer. This expensive and time-intensive approach meant that quality remained high but production output low. Total Crocker numbers never exceeded more than 125 units before World War II forced the firm’s closure, and today only around 50 of those units are accounted for, making Crocker motorcycles extremely rare.

After fading into relative obscurity for half a century, two major events transpired that vaulted Crocker to the consciousness of collectors worldwide. First, the Guggenheim Museum’s ground-breaking 1998 exhibit The Art of the Motorcycle prominently featured a Crocker (owned by famed auto collector Otis Chandler). Then, the seminal 2006 Legend of the Motorcycle Concours d’Elegance presented Crocker as a featured marque with a record-breaking 20 examples on display. The attention provided by these two events – highlighting the marque’s unique history, success and rarity – suddenly made Crocker one of the most desirable and expensive motorcycles in the world.
“Having three documented Crockers in one sale is very momentous,” says Malcolm Barber, CEO of Bonhams Group. “Very seldom does a Crocker ever come up for sale, so this is an extremely unique opportunity for collectors and one we are privileged to present.”

Bonhams’ 2012 two-day sale will take place Thursday (dedicated to motorcycles) and Friday (dedicated to motorcars), August 16th and 17th at Quail Lodge in Carmel, California.

Category: Auction News

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