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Vintage Motorcycles at Bonhams Stafford Sale 27th April

Highlights of the annual April Stafford motorcycle sale include two of the Vintage era’s most highly regarded and sought after ‘superbikes’ – Brough Superior SS100 and Coventry-Eagle Flying-8.

brough-superior-ss100.jpg1934 Brough Superior 8/75hp ‘Two-of-Everything’, Lot 505

Legendary superbike of motorcycling’s between-the-wars ‘Golden Age’, Brough Superior – ‘The Rolls-Royce of Motorcycles’ – was synonymous with high performance, engineering excellence and quality of finish. Always the perfectionist, Brough bought only the best available components for his bikes, reasoning that if the product was right, a lofty price tag would be no handicap. And in the ‘Roaring Twenties’ there were sufficient wealthy connoisseurs around to prove him right. One such was T E Lawrence – ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ – who owned several Broughs and was killed riding an SS100.

First shown to the public in 1924, the SS100 employed an entirely new 980cc JAP v-twin engine. And just in case prospective customers had any doubts about its performance, each machine came with a written guarantee that it had been timed at over 100mph for a quarter of a mile – a staggering achievement at a time when very few road vehicles of any sort were capable of reaching three-figure speeds. Broughs set countless speed records in the 1920s and 1930s, and the outright motorcycle lap record at Brooklands was set on one. A measure of the Brough Superior’s exclusivity may be gained from the fact that in 20 years only some 2,800 machines were produced, a figure BSA could better in a single month. Of those, around 280 were JAP-engined SS100s.

Representing the JAP-engined SS100 in its ultimate form, the 8/75hp ‘two of everything’ (carburettors, magnetos, oil pumps) example to be sold is one of only six made to this specification in 1934 and retains its original frame, engine and registration mark. The machine formed part of the Murray Motorcycle Museum Collection in the Isle of Man from 1973 to 2005, when it was acquired by the current owner, and is offered fresh from a mechanical and cosmetic restoration only completed in 2007. (Estimate £120,000 – 140,000)

1928 Coventry-Eagle 1,000cc ohv Flying-8, Lot 517

Established in Victorian times as a bicycle manufacturer, Coventry-Eagle built a diverse range of motorcycles, the most famous of which was the Flying-8. With its 1.0-litre JAP v-twin engine and muscular good looks, the Flying-8 was a worthy rival for the Brough Superior and a formidable Brooklands racing machine. Introduced in 1923, the Flying-8 was not Coventry-Eagle’s first v-twin, but it was the first to establish a sporting reputation thanks to its special 976cc sidevalve engine that guaranteed a top speed of 80mph, an exceptional performance at the time. In 1926 the sidevalve version was joined by a new overhead-valve engined Flying-8. Within a few years however, the onset of the Depression had forced Coventry-Eagle to change tack, the firm concentrating on bread-and-butter lightweights until it ceased motorcycle production in 1939. The last ohv Flying-8 left the factory in 1930 and the final sidevalve model the following year.

One of only a relative handful of overhead-valve-engined Flying-8s known to survive, this 1928 example has been in the vendor’s family’s possession since December 1982, having previously belonged to VMCC Coventry-Eagle marque specialist, Ken Hodgson and to motorcycling journalist/publisher, Bruce Main-Smith. Highly original and presented in ‘oily rag’ condition, the machine has not been used since undergoing mild mechanical re-commissioning in the early 1990s and is offered for sale for the first time in 25 years. (Estimate £50,000 – 60,000)

Joining the Brough Superior SS100 and Coventry-Eagle Flying-8 there will be a typically eclectic mix of machines from all eras, ranging from a 1900/01 Chater Lea to a 1999 Egli-Vincent.

Founded during the closing years of the 19th Century, Chater Lea, lot 446, started out manufacturing high quality products for the emerging British motorcycle industry before making its own complete machines around 1900 using the proprietary Minerva ‘clip-on’ engine. The ultra-rare ‘Veteran’ example to be sold by Bonhams was found in a Somerset barn and has been in the current owner’s hands for approximately the past 36 years. Its restoration began 30 years ago and is almost complete. (Estimate £7,500 – 10,000).

One of the world’s best known motorcycle frame makers, Swiss engineer Fritz Egli, lot 549, built his first frame in order to tame the wayward handling of his Vincent v-win racer. The prototype’s trademark large-diameter spine has been a feature of virtually all Egli’s frames since then, proving adaptable to almost all types of motorcycle engine layout. Egli-Vincent is these days widely regarded as a marque in its own right. Commissioned by the immediately preceding owner and assembled by professional restorer John Mossey, the example for sale with Bonhams was completed in 1999 using a replica Egli frame and a genuine Vincent Rapide engine. (Estimate £16,000 – 20,000).

Continuing the Vincent theme, Bonhams will sell two examples from opposite ends of the Stevenage company’s manufacturing career: a 1938 Series-A Comet single, lot 550, and 1953 Series-C Black Shadow v-twin. The single-cylinder Series-A Comet and Meteor were the first machines to feature the firm’s own engine, effectively kick-starting the Vincent legend, and as such are highly prized by collectors. The Comet to be sold has continuous history and was purchased by the current owner in 1964. It has covered only some 35,000-or-so miles from new and remains in outstandingly original condition. (Estimate £18,000 – 20,000).

The Series-C Black Shadow, lot 506, is a highly sought after all-matching-numbers example and comes with an exceptionally comprehensive file of history, having had only three owners from new. Supplied new via Jordan’s of Hull, the machine was first owned by two brothers and had been off the road for 27 years when it was purchased by the vendor in 2001. It will be offered for sale fresh from an award-winning, concours-standard restoration and has covered fewer than 38,000 miles from new. (Estimate £30,000 – 40,000).

A v-twin of considerably greater rarity, the 1922 Martinsyde Quick Six, lot 524, in the sale is believed to be the sole surviving example of this model out of the 100 made. The British firm of Martinsyde was founded in 1908 to build aircraft, and by the end of the first world war it was Britain’s third largest manufacturer. Martinsyde turned to motorcycle production at the war’s end and made its first public appearance at the 1919 Motorcycle Show at Olympia. Sadly, a disastrous fire in 1922 destroyed the factory and Martinsyde went into liquidation having built around 2,000 machines. Some 30-or-so are believed to survive. The Quick Six to feature in Bonhams’ sale was restored in the late 1980s and went on to win concours awards at the VMCC’s Banbury Run and Bristol Classic Bike Show. (Estimate £32,000 – 36,000).

While locating Martinsyde spares might be rather difficult, finding Vincent parts could not be easier thanks in no small measure to the Vincent Owners Club’s Spares Company. To demonstrate that point, the VOC has constructed a brand-new Series-C Black Shadow from spare parts, and Bonhams’ Motorcycle specialists are privileged to offer for sale this unique machine on the Club’s behalf. Completed and registered for the road in 2007, it is the first new Vincent (as opposed to Eglis and other ‘specials’) made since the factory closed its doors over 50 years ago. Lot 522. (Estimate £35,000 – 40,000).

With very few of the works BSA-Triumph 750cc three-cylinder racers now remaining in original condition, the 1970 BSA Rocket III, featuring in the sale, possibly represents a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to acquire a genuine example. The machine is one of only two Rocket III production racers prepared at BSA’s Competitions Department in Armoury Road, Birmingham. Ridden by BSA factory rider Bob Heath in UK events throughout 1970, it finished 5th place in the Isle of Man Production TT, and later that year contested the Bol d’Or at Montlhéry, France where it was ridden by Graham Saunders and Don Jones. At the end of 1971 the BSA was bought by the vendor, who campaigned it for the next two seasons in the Coupe d’Endurance Championship supported by Bill Crosby’s Reg Allen Motorcycles Ltd. In 1974 the ex-works Triple was sold and after a period of duty as a road bike, it was reacquired by the vendor who set about returning it to original condition for display at The London Motorcycle Museum. (Estimate £30,000 – 35,000).

Memorabilia associated with star riders always generates considerable excitement, and the collection of racing helmets from ex-Suzuki race-team manager Merv Wright is without doubt one of the finest to be offered at auction. Merv Wright managed Suzuki’s racing activities in the USA before being recruited into the UK’s Heron Suzuki team in 1975, which brought him into contact with some of the finest riders of the day, including World Champions Barry Sheene, Phil Read and Roger De Coster. Estimates range from £400-1,500. In addition to these lots, the Wright collection features helmets worn by Gerrit Wolsink, John Williams, John Newbold, Paul Smart, Jody Nicholas, ‘Tepi’ Lansivuori, Dave Aldana and Gary Nixon.

More unusual but equally collectable are two trophies from Honda Racing commemorating John McGuinness’ historic first 130mph lap of the Isle of Man TT course, achieved last year at the centenary event. Made by the Honda Racing machine shop staff using actual engine parts from the Senior Race-winning CBR1000RR, each consists of a piston, connecting rod and four valves mounted on a metal base. Offered separately and complete with certification, they are estimated at £1,000 – 1,500 each.