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steve mcqueen and star machines fail to sell

If Mecum’s two-day Las Vegas motorcycle auction last weekend offered an opportunity to take the pulse of the market-place then the patient is weak.

Bikes that were expected to sell for big numbers, including several celebrity machines, often didn’t and some remarkable bikes went for very reasonable prices.

A Triumph Rocket III sold in excellent condition for just $5225. A BMW R69S with the optional fairing and additional gas tank, documentation and the original instruction manual fetched $27,500.

The well known “Rat Pack” of Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis, Peter Lawford and friends is well documented, but at the same time there was another group of celebrity friends who spent even more time hanging out together on motorcycles. The core of the group was actor Steve McQueen, racer Bud Ekins and artist Kenny Howard (Von Dutch), but the extended group included racer Malcolm Smith, film-maker Bruce Brown and leading male actors Lee Marvin, Charles Bronson and James Coburn.

All that star quality didn’t do much for the prices of their bikes, mostly two-stroke dirt bikes, which always sell cheaply.

Bikes that sold:

$104,500 | 1950 Vincent Black Shadow

The most expensive sale of the weekend. A restored, well presented, known and authentic motorcycle. Initially passed in for failing to meet reserve, the deal was done after the hammer on the most expensive sale of the auction.

$93,500 | 1920 Henderson ACE Four

A first-year specimen of William Henderson’s second attempt to build a four-cylinder motorcycle. An original 1912 (first model) Henderson sold for $539,000 in January 2017 with original paint and original tires.

$93,500 | 1951 Vincent Rapide

One of the most valuable post-war Rapides yet sold.

$84,700 | 1932 Indian Chief

A former “front cover” restored 1932 example of Indian’s best known model, which was produced from 1922 to 1953, evolving incrementally in design over three decades. This bike is rare, and includes many “one year only” parts, and fetched one of the highest prices ever for a Chief.

$74,250 | 1914 Indian 8-valve Racer

This lot and the next one are both perfect examples of Indian’s production racer of the period which was fearsome fast. The 8-valve was a dominant force on the board tracks of the period, and one was timed at 114.17 mph in 1920. That’s a 1000cc v-twin engine with four valves per cylinder. The difference between the two lots is that one is “as raced” and retains its original everything, including what is estimated to be 70 percent of its original paint. In perfect running condition. Auction Description.

$74,250 | 1913 Indian 8-valve Racer

The other end of the restoration scale is an identical bike that has been returned to “as new” condition. The two lots sold for the same amount, about 45 minutes apart on Friday night.

$68,750 | 1906 Indian Racer

An award-winning restoration done in the 1970s. A rare bike in many ways, this was at the end of the period where Aurora manufactured the Indian designed-engine but still only serial no #3052. $67,100 | 1931 Indian Four

From the Bud Cox Collection. Restored in 1996 and still fresh.

$66,000 | 1929 BMW R62

The R62 was the first of the first 750 BMW designed for touring use and this bike dates from the first few years of motorcycle manufacture, and was only produced for two years for a total of 4,355 built and far fewer extant.

$56,100 | 1913 Pope Model M 622cc

The Model M was the first Pope single and the first American motorcycle to employ overhead valves in the engine. A significant motorcycle historically and one with the original century-old paint. Auction Description.

$49,500 | 1982 Honda XLV750R

Malcolm Smith is one of the all-time-greats of motorcycle off-road racing, so any bike he has owned and ridden is worth having. This bike is worth having anyway, as it is one of just three made for promotional purposes with high output engine, and has covered just 1,800 miles.

Bikes that didn’t sell included:

1938 Indian Super Six 2000cc, 1952 Vincent Black Lightning Replica, 1968 Husqvarna 250 Commando (Steve McQueen), 1938 Indian 438 Four, 1948 Vincent Rapide Series B Hillclimber, 1941 Indian Four, 1971 Husqvarna 400 Motocross (Steve McQueen), 2010 Confederate P120 Combat Fighter, 1971 Husqvarna 400 Motocross (James Coburn), 1971 Husqvarna 360 Enduro (Lee Marvin), 1968 Husqvarna 360 Sportsman, 1971 Husqvarna 400 Motocross (Charles Bronson), 1970 Husqvarna 250 Motocross (Bruce Brown).

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