It’s the end of January, 2023, and that means the yearly edition of Mecum Las Vegas just drew to a close. Cars, tractors, automotive art, and of course plenty of motorcycles have crossed the auction block and changed hands.
From a pristine Kawasaki Z1 900 to what may possibly be the finest example of a Harley-Davidson Strap Tank currently in existence, one thing is for sure: A whole lot of very special machines will soon be on their way to their new homes. No matter what kinds of bikes are your favorites, there’s a whole lot for fans of motorcycle history to appreciate.
Here’s the full list of the top 10 motorcycles that brought in the highest bids at Mecum Las Vegas 2023.
10. 1931 Indian 402
Selling price: $159,500
This bike is an early production 1931 Indian 402, with a comprehensive restoration that includes engine work by Mark and Loring Hill of 4th Coast Fours, which is known for handling many of the antique four-cylinder machines that populate the Motorcycle Cannonball. Pat Murphy handled the Indian Canoe Green and Apache Grey paint scheme, which is correct for this bike. This also marked the first year that Indian offered factory chrome accents on its machines, of which you can see several on this bike.
1931 marked a turning point in Indian’s evolution. The company acquired the rights to Ace motorcycle parts and tooling back in 1927. Shortly thereafter, it began to incorporate these new elements into the Indian lineup, starting with 1928 models that were badged “Indian-Ace.” These bikes used up some of the parts that Indian acquired in the deal.
By 1929, the 401 was developed to utilize what it had absorbed from Ace, but presented in a form that more closely aligned with Indian’s existing styling. Finally, in 1930, Indian introduced the 402—which is where it really made the integration complete, added a 77 cubic inch (1,260cc) engine that produced a claimed 32 horsepower, and weighed in at a relatively low weight of 445 pounds.
9. 1916 Henderson 4 Cylinder
Selling price: $165,000
This 1916 Henderson Model F four-cylinder machine features a completely rebuilt engine, including new gaskets and hardware. The restoration also includes such minute attention to detail as a hand-rubbed paint job, expertly applied freehand pinstriping, a period-correct messenger-style seat, as well as white tires. Rare optional equipment also abounds on this machine, including an acetylene headlight and tank, horn, and Stewart speedometer/drive assembly.
Company founder William Henderson was born into the Winton Motor Carriage Company family, with his dad being the vice president, and his grandfather having founded the company. For Henderson’s part, he too loved engines—only he really wanted to experiment with motorcycles instead of carriages. Thus, even after joining the family business, he simply couldn’t get a design for a four-cylinder motorcycle engine out of his mind.
Finally, his dad told him to go and make it happen, and so the young William Henderson did exactly that. He built a prototype machine in 1911, and the results were so favorable that soon after, he and his brother Thomas were able to raise money from family and friends to form the Henderson Motorcycle Company.
8. 1914 Henderson C Model
Selling price: $176,000
This 1914 Henderson C was the 2022 Best In Show winner at the Antique Motorcycle Club of America (AMCA) meet in Dixon, California. It features a restoration by marque experts Matthew Smith and David Bettencourt, as well as a numbers-matching engine rebuild by Mike Lynch. That 65 cubic inch, air-cooled, inline four-cylinder engine is just one of the many reasons that Hendersons were (and remain) so highly prized. Factory acetylene lighting, a gear-driven speedometer, horn, upgraded rear brake, and an extremely rare Thor two-speed hub are just some of the optional features to be found on this example.
7. 1938 Zundapp K800 with Sidecar
Selling price: $187,000
This 1938 Zundapp K800 with a 1938 Stoye TS Luxus sidecar won two first place awards in 2022, at the 2022 La Jolla Concours d’Elegance, and also at the 2022 Quail Motorcycle Gathering—and it’s not difficult to see why. Both bike and sidecar received a ground-up restoration, and the end result is an impeccable machine that’s absolutely packed with extras. It comes with a rare Noris headlight and Veigel scroll speedometer, a combination running board side stand, period-style leather luggage and rally badges, and even a period motorcycle tool kit.
6. 1922 Ace Sporting Solo
Selling price: $198,000
We’ve already seen two other machines from William Henderson on this list, and this is the third. For those unfamiliar with Henderson or Ace history, World War I caused many motorcycle marques of the time (among other businesses, of course) to struggle. William Henderson eventually sold the motorcycle OEM that bore his name to Ignaz Schwinn, of both Schwinn bicycle and Excelsior motorcycle fame.
Both William and his brother Thomas took jobs at Schwinn, but then William decided he needed a change just a year later. He was still dreaming about four-cylinder motorcycles, it seemed—but he needed to come up with something that wouldn’t infringe upon the work he’d already done with Henderson, and that would also represent an improvement to that work.
In 1919, Henderson both secured the finances necessary, and also established his new place of business at the Savage Arms building in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. His newest (and final) baby, the Ace Four, was a 75 cubic inch (1,220cc) inline four-cylinder design that made a claimed 20 horsepower. Henderson went on to his death while testing an Ace Sporting Solo in 1922, and his fledgling new company was purchased by Indian, and the rest is history.
This particular 1922 Ace Sporting Solo is unrestored, and features both original paint and matching numbers. It also comes with a known owner history that dates back to the 1950s. It was sold on a bill of sale, and is not approved for road or highway use.
5. 1927 Indian Ace Four
Selling price: $214,500
The 1927 Indian Ace Four you see here is one of only 260 ever built, and spent but a single year in production. It represents the early integration of Indian’s acquisition of Ace into its organization, and is a rebadged Ace at heart. As William Henderson had died in 1922, Ace’s designs, tooling, and parts had been sitting around for the past five years, until Indian purchased the company and all associated rights, to use for its own purposes.
This example was restored to concours condition, and features Ace’s 78 cubic-inch (1,278cc) inline four-cylinder engine, along with a three-speed gearbox and magneto. It was also sold on a bill of sale, and is not currently approved for either road or highway use.
4. 1925 BMW R37
Selling price: $220,000
The R37 was BMW’s first-ever competition motorcycle—and only 152 of these machines were ever built. The example you see before you is number 125, and was discovered in an extremely original condition at the Marxzelle Museum in Germany, about 25 years ago. It underwent a full restoration, courtesy of noted prewar motorcycle (and BMW) specialist Hubert Fehrenbach.
This machine features an M36a engine, but modified both steel cylinders and aluminum overhead valve cylinder heads. A stronger, pressed-together crankshaft and single-piece connecting rods further strengthened the unit for the inevitable beatings it would undergo while living that competition life.
Although the R37 was based on the R32, the modifications nearly tripled the horsepower, to a claimed 16 at 4,000 RPM (which may not sound like much in 2023, but please remember that it’s all relative). Would BMW Motorrad’s racing machines have evolved the way that they did without this model and the nearly 100 races it went on to win? For fellow motorcycle racing fans, thankfully we’ll never have to find out.
3. 1925 BMW R32
Selling price: $220,000
The R32 was the first motorcycle that BMW ever produced—and as of 2023, the model is officially 100 years old. This specific example was restored by BMW expert Hubert Fehrenbach, and was featured in the Guggenheim Museum’s The Art of the Motorcycle exhibition. It’s extremely original, and has matching engine, gearbox, and frame numbers.
While Fehrenbach did his best to restore this bike using as many original parts as he possibly could, as you can imagine, OEM R32 parts in any condition aren’t exactly the easiest things to find. As a result, he did end up commissioning a bespoke sheet metal battery box from an expert fabricator. Still, the carburetor, Bosch electrical system, and speedometer are all quite rare—and all quite original.
It even comes with a 1926 Groszer Preiz von Deutschland badge on the tank, which Fehrenbach says simply indicates that the owner of this bike at that time attended that race—and not necessarily that this bike was raced in that event. It’s a small but very cool nod to a life well lived by this proud centenarian.
2. 1938 Vincent HRD Series A Rapide
Selling price: $330,000
This 1938 Vincent HRD Series A Rapide is one of just 78 produced, and features a 1938 engine with 998cc of displacement inside an original 1939 frame. It also comes with a Vincent Owners Club certificate, and was restored by an unspecified but reportedly renowned Vincent expert, who used OEM parts where and when possible.
1. 1908 Harley-Davidson Strap Tank
Selling price: $935,000
Here in 2023, chances are excellent that even people who couldn’t care less about motorcycles are well aware of the inextricable link between Harley-Davidson and Wisconsin, and so can appreciate that it’s kind of amazing that this machine spent nearly its entire life there. It’s a highly original machine, and fewer than a dozen of the 1908 bikes are believed to still be in existence today, let alone in this condition. It underwent a full restoration in the hands of Harley expert Paul Freehill, and an original tank, wheels, engine belt pulley, seat cover, and muffler sleeve are included in the sale of this extremely special piece of motorcycle history.