Mecum 2020 Las Vegas Preview
Mecum’s annual Las Vegas auction is quite the spectacle for any lover of two-wheeled machines. The sheer volume of machinery offered at this iconic Vegas event is staggering. If the number of bikes rolling over the podium isn’t enough to make your eyes cartoonishly bulge out of your head, then consider the outstanding quality and rareness of their offerings. Here is a preview, only a tiny portion of what grabbed my attention and screamed “run the tires off of me!” Make sure to digitally thumb through the entire collection of nearly 1,600 bikes heading for the auction block January 2020:
It may not have the swooping fenders and giant gas tanks of the golden era machines, but these little Japanese bikes came onto the scene with quite a splash. Born on the racing circuit after a pile of GP victories for the team, the CB750 is officially revealed at the ‘66 Tokyo Motor Show. The CB750 hit the US shortly after in 1969 establishing the Superbike category forever changing the landscape of the motorcycle world. The inline 4-cylinder pushing these bikes was rated for an astonishing 67 HP at 8,000 RPM with a 5-speed transmission, and the CB750 was the first factory production motorcycle with a disc brake. This one being a ‘69 falls within the early production sandcast method of crankcase production that would be abandoned shortly after for the faster and cheaper, die-cast molds. Rare. Fast. Cool.
There are plenty of original production bikes in the auction and this list, but no motorcycle list is complete without a nod to the long and integral history of motorcycle customizing. It is Mecum after all, which means even the custom bikes are built out of the coolest of the cool antique bikes. This ‘59 Triumph Tiger Custom is equally classy as it is ready to take your lunch money. Sitting on a no nonsense hardtail frame, its black on black on black color scheme, and its high-class british heart, it makes sense that this bike has won both best bobber at The Clubman show in 2017 and best custom at The Quail Motorcycle Gathering.
Some classics didn’t get their seat at the table for being well designed, trailblazing, or attractive. Some of the greats are just great because they simply make us smile. Three wheelers are really good for much other than flipping and getting right with the Lord — the split second before you flip. All that being said, they are a hell of a good time and of that, they cannot and will not be denied. The ATZ 250R was bestowed with the one thing three wheelers really never needed — more power. These rare, third generation R-designated machines were single-cylinder two-stroke watercooled 250cc death thrones, which were bigger, wider, and faster than the plain models. Three wheelers are a reminder not to take all this too seriously. Smile, give it the beans, and proceed to smile wider.
I know, I know. There are arguably more exciting motorcycles at the auction, but let’s be honest, the XL Sportster has likely done more for motorcycling than any other bike in history. It is the door in which many took or will take to enter the wild world of biking. This first-year example of the Sportster as we know it, is responsible for so much of what we love about riding bikes. These were smaller, cheaper, and all around friendly bikes than the American manufacturers typically did. Again, if we’re honest, they look fantastic; sporty, compact, but still quintessentially American.
Although maybe not quite as iconic as the Chief, the Indian Four feels so true to American motorcycle making. At the time the straight-four cylinder motor was the largest capacity motor offered on the production market. The solidness of these huge motors and single line design of the exhaust, makes these bike stick out unlike anything else at the time. Endlessly cool and super rare, this bike appears to be a really tastefully restored example of one of coolest bikes ever to be made.
Y’all don’t need me to tell why I would pick a pre-war Knucklehead — Just look at it. This bike is particularly special, though. “Greenie” who earned its nickname by its obviously remarkable “Hollywood Green” original factory custom paint, has a bit of a storied past, with a great deal of information along with it. This bike broke the record for the most expensive of its type, last time it came up for sale. Although many questioned the authenticity of the bike’s many anomalous features, the buyer knew better having heavily researched the factory order records and countless bits of factory paperwork. He had found evidence that this bike was in fact ordered and delivered in this Dupont custom color and nickel plating instead of chrome, as well as other custom odds and ends. This bike has influenced the vintage-Harley market in more ways than one. This is a true unicorn wrapped in green.
Within the modern motoring world you can’t have a well rounded discussion about motorcycles without hitting the massively popular Adventure Bike class. The R80 G/S was the literal and figurative trailblazer for this category. In 1980 when the G/S bike first launched it would come to be widely accepted as the first of this nomenclature designating its proficiency both on and off road. The R80G/S cemented its place in the motorcycle pantheon by seeing massive success in one of the most famously grueling motorcycle events in the world; the Paris-Dakar Rally. BMW would come to build a massive part of their motorcycle division on the shoulders of these bikes.
Whether chainsaws or dirt bikes, the Husqvarna name has long been synonymous with toughness and grit. Superstar motorcycle racer, Bud Ekins, personally rode this bike to victory in the 1967 Polish International Six Days Trial. This is only one of five to have been made the factory for the US team. A massively capable bike that positively drips with history and provenance.
With a company as extensive a history as Indian, you might think it would be tough to pick the best from over a century of bike building, but simply isn’t the case; The Chief, Indian Four, original Scout, and early board-track racers were all beautiful and legendary bikes, but most agree that the 101 Scout was the best to ever leave the Wigwam. The 101 replaced the original scout in 1928 with a number of features to increase handling and power starting with a new frame and a 45 cubic-inch motor, although the original 38ci was still available. The 101 had a longer wheelbase, longer front fork rake, and lower seat. The increase in handling and power made these bikes massively popular with racers and even the trick riders of the day.
While the sidecar lost most of its functionality off the battlefield, many manufacturers kept slapping them onto bikes well after the war, but few of them ever did it with as much style as the BMW R bikes with Steib sidecars. There is something undeniably lovely about a bike as no nonsense as a R60/2 attached to a highly stylized and dare I say, opulent a sidecar as a Steib. A Pair as beautiful as this will always stand out even in a grouping of bikes as rare and incredible as these.
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