Bonhams returns to Nevada on January 25 for its eighth annual Las Vegas motorcycle auction, which this year features almost 90 machines with a combined value of just under $4.5m. Offerings range from a humble (but almost unused) 1983 Suzuki moped to a super-tuned Harley Davidson XRTT track bike, but the undisputed highlight of the sale is one of the most celebrated Vincents in existence – the Black Lightning on which racing star Jack Ehret set the Australian land speed record of 141.5mph near Gunnedah, New South Wales, in January 1953.
The Black Lightning was the factory-built, high performance version of the Black Shadow and a mere 33 are believed to have been built, making it one of the most sought-after of all classic bikes – with this one having extra appeal due to its record-breaking history. Offered in perfect running order and original, patinated condition after being recommissioned (but not “restored”) by French Vincent guru Patrick Godet, it could realise in excess of $750,000.
Fans of large-capacity, prewar American iron, meanwhile, will be drawn to the remarkable collection of 18 bikes amassed by New England enthusiast Jim Jalbert over the past 20 years. Highlights include a 1929 Henderson 1301cc Four ($75,000-$90,000) and a 1929 Excelsior 750cc Super-X ($65,000-$80,000), with the bulk of the collection comprising 11 Indian machines, notably two pristine 1939 models produced to celebrate that year’s World’s Fair in New York ($40,000-$70,000) and a 1938 Chief with a luxurious Princess sidecar attached ($40,000-$50,000).
Classic Japanese road bikes include a 1990 Honda RC30 – the celebrated “road-going racer” of the era – which has covered a mere 14 miles from new. It is estimated at $40,000-$50,000, with an example of its contemporary rival, the Yamaha OW01, also being set to cross the block for an anticipated $30,000-$35,000.
A selection of highly desirable Italian sports bikes is highlighted by an immaculately restored 1975 MV Agusta 750S America at $85,000-$100,000, a 1977 MV 850SS at $98,000-$110,000 and the actual 1985 Ducati NCR 850, which won both the 1987 and 1988 AMA Pro-Twins GP2 championship. In race-ready condition, it could realise up to $120,000 – while a less ferocious, 1957 Ducati 125cc GP bike, which has been extensively documented in books about the marque, could top $100,000.