Up for sale through Heroes Motors of Los Angeles is a 1919 Indian Power Plus, and not just any (very) old motorcycle. It was a board track racer in its day and raced at the Los Angeles Motor Speedway; there is a chance this very bike is one of the motorcycles in the above video from 1921!
Heroes Motors has limited information on the machine, except that its owner moved from the United States to France with this bike after World War II, and the machine was then sold to, and stored in, a museum in France from the 1970s through the 1990s. The current owner bought the bike from that museum. It remains in unrestored condition (though some of the leather pieces like the seat have been replaced).
The Indian Power Plus, while a throwback now and certainly bearing little resemblance to modern motorcycles, was well ahead of its time. It was truly a marvel of engineering. Indian employed engineers as well as their factory racers to design the engines and frames of these bikes. These were the machines that set speed and distance records in their day.
The oval board track racers regularly saw speeds of 100mph and better, which is pretty impressive for a machine that put out just a hair over 15hp. The demons who rode them did not have the benefit of modern safety gear but instead donned leather helmets, and their clothing sometimes had wooden armor. This didn’t help a whole lot when a crash occurred on the speedway, where riders would sometimes (gird your loins here, friends) end up with twelve-inch splinters from the wooden track.
Fire up your imaginations; can you begin to believe what these races must have been like?
Mike Wolfe is known as an American picker. He’s a TV star, author and entrepreneur.
But mostly, he’d tell you, he’s an Indian Motorcycle® enthusiast. He loves them for their history and heritage, and for their ride. His “best pick – ever” (and what got him in the business full-time) was when he scored a treasure trove of Indian® motorcycles at a Pennsylvania farm.
Mike called the farmer about his classified ad, then drove 800 miles and slept in his van in the farmer’s driveway. The next day, the farmer opened two barns, revealing 10 vintage Indian® motorcycles and tons of parts. Mike Wolfe discovered heaven on earth.
In his picking business, Mike encounters antiques of every kind. But his greatest picking passion is Indian® motorcycles. He collects them. Gets them running. And mostly, he rides. He loves dings, dents, scratches and rust. Forget cosmetics or fresh paint. Just ride. After all, it’s an Indian®.
Indian Motorcycle is excited to be working and riding with Mike Wolfe. He’s helping us bring back the passion this iconic brand deserves, and is energized to ride with us into the exciting next chapter of Indian Motorcycle® history.
John Gee’s extraordinary Antique Motorcycles collection
Antique Motorcycles, in Moorabbin, outside Melbourne, Australia(Credit: Loz Blain/New Atlas)
VIEW GALLERY – 46 IMAGES
Tucked away in Melbourne’s urban sprawl is one of Australia’s true hidden gems. Antique Motorcycles features the amazing and ever-changing motorcycle collection of owner John Gee, who was nice enough to take us on a guided tour and tell us about some of his favorite machines.
I’ve lived in Melbourne, Australia nearly 40 years, and been into motorcycles for about half that – and yet this hidden treasure has somehow managed to remain completely off my radar until now. Tucked away beside Moorabbin Airport is a historic motorcycling wonderland, almost a museum, built on one man’s personal collection.
Antique Motorcycles is a monument to owner John Gee’s passion for anything interesting with two wheels. Walking in the front door, through the cafe/bar area, you step into a huge showroom/museum area where dozens upon dozens of bikes sit in beautifully chaotic displays. Model planes, minibikes, snowmobiles, bicycles and speedway cars hang from the rafters, and the place is chock-full of all kinds of memorabilia.
John took the time to take us through the museum area and talk about a few of his many favourites. We’ll let him take it from here in his own words:
Antique Motorcycles started in 1988, believe it or not. I’ve been going to the States since 88, buying classic bikes and bringing them back to Australia.
I got bitten by the motorcycle bug as an 8-year-old and the bug kept getting worse. By the time I was an apprentice motorcycle mechanic at 17, I owned half a dozen road bikes that I kept at a friend’s house so my parents wouldn’t know. It was around this time I started buying and selling bikes, and building a collection.
In the late 80s, I was traveling across the United States, and I noticed that Triumphs, Nortons and BSAs were cheap. So I planned a trip over there, went and bought 30-odd bikes, shipped them back, and I’d spend the year doing them up in the garage. Eventually when you amass a collection of motorcycles it attracts other people with the same passion. Before you know it, you’re importing bikes for other people and working on their projects for them. One day you wake up and you own a motorcycle shop! It doesn’t happen overnight, but if you do it long enough, you end up with a place like this.
We’ve got a bit of everything here. I’ve got a pretty big mini-bike collection – a hangover from that bug I had as a kid. I prefer original condition bikes. I’ve spent most of my life taking chopper forks and handlebars and Craig Vetter fairings and touring bags off motorcycles and returning them to their original condition. I’ve got choppers from the 70s, I’ve got turbo bikes, I like my British bikes, I love my German bikes … but Indians is my #1 passion.
We became a dealer for Indian about 12 months ago. We’re very happy to sell them, they’re not a hard product to sell at all. They sell themselves out of the box because they’re such a good bike. It’s great to see a serious competitor to Harley Davidson.
Destroyer II – Billy Gibbons’ custom Kawasaki Z1R
We’ve got a lot of famous stuff here … This is a bike that Billy Gibbons, from ZZ Top, had made. He called it Destroyer II, because that’s the kind of guitar he plays.
He got a ’78 Z1R turbo, which was probably one of the most expensive bikes available on the day, and he sent it back to the factory. They put a stage 3 kit in it, which is a bigger sump, a welded crank, 6:1 forged turbo pistons, undercut the gearbox, all that sort of stuff.
Then they sent it off to this mob called RC Hill’s of Orlando, and they did all the gold plating, and the painting, and the custom work.
We haven’t restored the seat, because the seat had Billy Gibbons on it. The time’s come, it sort of needs to be done, but I’ve held back, because it’s Billy’s own seat. Pretty cool bike, it’s only done about 6,000 miles.
I found it in a collection in Michigan. I was buying about 20-odd bikes off one guy. It was in a pretty poor state. But they were the fastest bike in the world at the time. They still currently hold the record for an 11-second quarter mile, sitting on the bike backwards. Quite incredible!
Mad Max Honda Four
This bike here’s out of Mad Max. The guy lived five Ks from here, and he came in and said he had an old Honda and he wanted to sell it. I went and looked at it, I didn’t know it was out of Mad Max, he wanted too much money … I was leaving, I was in the car ready to drive away.
But just as I was leaving, he told me the story of how he rode the thing in Mad Max, and I quickly changed my mind and bought it. There’s a picture of it, right here… There was only two Honda Fours in the film.
When you watch the movie and slow it down, you can see the Star mags, you can see the twin-disc front end, which is unusual for a Honda, they only had a single disc front end. And you can see the calipers are behind the fork – normally Hondas had the caliper in front. He customized his own bike, way back when, ’74 or 5.
They had a Mad Max reunion last year. We all went to Clunes. And they had just about every vehicle from every Mad Max film made. All the people in the clothing and whatnot.
I had this bike there, and nobody knew about it – it doesn’t exactly jump off the page. By the end of the weekend, I found out I had the only genuine vehicle out of any of the Mad Max films at the event. There were at least 10 Interceptor cars, and the MFP police cars, 10 or 12 of those … There’s a lot of passion out of there for Mad Max.
TZ750 race bike
Here’s a TZ750, this was one of Trevor Flood’s bikes. Reputedly raced by Michael Dowson … and Kevin McGee in the ’84 Swann series. I think they raced it to second place in the championship.
It’s a GP bike you could buy off the shelf. This one’s got around 130 horse, it’s running Lectron flat-slides, White Power suspension, Dymag wheels and Brembo brakes. All products that the Floods were the importers for at the time. I bought it from a deceased estate about 25 years ago.
I’ve ridden this one on track. You go flat chat down Phillip Island straight, and when you hit the hump where the tunnel goes underneath, the thing does a huge wheelstand and you have to back off. Whenever you ride this bike, you have the utmost respect for it. When you get off in the pits, you’re shaking, and you go “whew… I lived!”
2002 Indian Chief: Schwarzenegger bike from Terminator 3
This is out of Terminator 3, Arnie Schwarzenegger. They made four bikes, they destroyed two, and two survived. This is the one he actually rode in the scene where they’re chasing the crane truck, and the crane’s jib is pointed sideways and the whole world’s blowing up. It’s taking down the power lines, flipping all the parked cars upside down. Pretty spectacular scene.
This particular Indian was known as the Gilroy Indian. Made in Gilroy, California. Not to be confused with the Polaris product of current times, which is a much superior motorcycle. The chase scene was only a small part of the movie, but Indian fans would’ve been sure to notice what Arnie was riding. It was the first time an Indian had been used in a movie in a very long time. They had a lot to live up to, as previous Terminator chase scenes involving Harleys were also spectacular.
Honda CBX1000 Turbo
In 1978, Honda came out with the CBX1000 six cylinder. A stunning bike, with a motor that was described as “a block of flats.” Absolutely an instant classic. So what to do to improve it?
Meet the Honda CBX turbo! They only made 10 kits, which were dealer fitted. They weren’t factory endorsed, but the factory would’ve been happy they had a product that could run with the Kawasaki Z1R turbos of the time … So that’s one of ten of those. I’ve had a fascination for turbos and have owned many examples, from all the four Japanese brands. I currently still have quite a few, and also some pretty wild Frankenstein home-built turbo bikes. Always fun.
This kit doubles whatever horsepower it had. What’d they have, like, 75 horsepower new? Not much … It might have 140 now.
1942 Harley-Davidson WLA
This WLA was restored by the US army, it’s probably the best example of a WLA in the world. It’s cool shit. Like all bikes here, it goes. Bit of fuel, bit of choke, couple of prime kicks, ignition … (bike starts) Hey? Not bad!
It had the radio instead of the Thompson machine gun. It’s a communication bike. It’s probably the best example of a WLA in the world, since it was restored by the army. It’s not like WLAs are very rare – they made 90,000 of them. But they are rare to find like this.
I didn’t have to do any work on it. The work I had to do was count out the bills and hand ’em over. Haha! Serious stuff. This bike is now owned by one of our very best customers, and is part of his extensive collection.
1951 Harley-Davidson WR
WR Harley-Davidson up there, a 1951 WR, they made 23 in the world. That was Harley’s weapon on the flat tracks. This bike comes from one of the oldest Harley Davidson shops in the USA. It was a spare bike that only saw a few practice laps in its life.
In ’52, they already had the KR top end on the WR – the WR was on its way to morphing into the KR. By ’53, WRs were gone and the KR was born. Very fast bike for the time. They’d pull wheelstands down the main straight at over 80 miles an hour, I’ve seen it myself at the Davenport flat track.
1966 Triumph Bonneville XR750
That’s a Triumph. We use that to test whether people know their shit or not. You just failed. Haha! I just put a Harley tank on a Triumph, because it fit … I was building a bike to race in New Zealand at the Burt Monroe challenge, and the tank came up in Just Bikes magazine, and it had a brand new paint job on it, so I stuck it on there. I was reluctant to take the Harley badge off, because I didn’t know if I was going to keep that tank.
One thing led to another, next thing, people are coming in and telling us they used to have one exactly like it … We left it on there for a bit of fun, we use it to qualify people. It’s amazing how many people will swear black and blue, that that’s exactly how the one they owned was – much to our bewilderment!
1975 Hercules Wankel
We’ve got two Hercules rotaries, we’ve got two Norton rotaries, the water-cooled and the air-cooled, and a Suzuki RE5 Wankel.
They’re a different thing to ride. We don’t call ’em a motorcycle, we call ’em rotorcycles. They’re a bit … heavy and slow to get going, but they’re quirky, and we still like ’em. When I was an apprentice motorcycle mechanic, we used to work on these things. I’ve got fond memories. We used to look at the engine and go “what the hell do you do with that?”
The Hercules is a very surprising motorcycle to ride. It is very quick off the line, it has unexpected power delivery, and it’s very quick and nimble. Quite the opposite to the Suzuki RE5.
The Garage display
That’s the old garage. We use all the stuff in here. It’s all rare stuff. ’23 Indian, there’s a ’39 Indian engine, a ’38 Indian engine, all kinds of important stuff in there. Transmissions, magnetos, carburetors … Whenever we’re restoring an old bike, this is where we come to get our bits.
We did it up like an old ’20’s servo you’d find in outback Australia. Couple of gas pumps out the front, a collection of stuff under a lean-to. We’ve got a bit of junk piled up in there today, it’s not really as good a display as it normally is …
Steve McQueen sidecar
Chad McQueen was just in Australia. I know Chad from the States, he’s one of those identities that kind of turns up at a lot of things.
I met him up at the Rock Store once, up on Mulholland Drive. He was driving an old Porsche. I just noticed this car, you know, it had cut slicks, and a full camber job, and all the body panels were fiberglass, and racing seats … It was a pretty rough old looking car.
I was looking at it, and this guy yells out from across the street, “get in! knock yourself out!” Like Americans do … Next minute, of course, he’s there, and he’s on for a chat. I was asking questions about his car, like how fast does it go, it looks pretty serious … He said “aw look, I’ve lost my nerve these days, after I hit the wall at Daytona doing 200 …” I was thinking to myself, typical American, bragging, or making up stories …
Anyway, he said “what’ve you guys got?” Well, I told him we had a rental car and we weren’t very proud of it, we’d parked it ’round the corner. But we’re into Indian motorcycles in a big way, and that’s what we ride at home. He said he had an Indian motorcycle with a sidecar. So we listened to his story about that. And I said, well, I’m not a fan of sidecars, but I do have one. I only keep it because it belonged to Steve McQueen … And he said “well that mah daddy!” And then I realized, shit, this is Chad McQueen – and that story about hitting the wall at Daytona at 200, that was actually true!
That’s the sidecar up there, and that’s the bike it was on, down below. It got caught in a fire at my previous address – one of the buildings burned down. It got a bit singed, but it’s still in pretty good condition. And I told him about it. He remembered the bike – and he said he hated it, because his dad used to make him polish it! Pretty funny.
1951 Indian Squad bike
This is my favourite Indian, it’s a 1951 New York police bike. It’s got a siren on it, still. I bought it off the original cop. Some of the towns, depends where you came from, you had to own the bike to be a cop. I don’t think that’s what happened to him, I think this was a fleet bike.
It was never a pursuit bike, it was a parade bike. So, when the president or whoever came to town, there’d be two of these out in front and two behind as a police escort, that kind of thing.
I’ve ridden it around the grand canyon, I’ve ridden it around New Zealand … It’s been my rider for about 25 years now. I can’t put my finger on why, this bike has something that reaches out to me. Whenever I’m going out for a ride, I look round the shop, and I always end up choosing this one. Actually I’d better get that bike up on the bench, I’ll be riding it the weekend after next. We’re going up to Mansfield in the high country. We’re doing the 25th annual Great Race – Harley vs. Indian.
2016 Indian Scout custom cafe racer
Here’s one we’re building right now, a cafe racer, something a bit different. It’s home grown, right here. We’re just giving people examples of what can be done using a Scout as a base. It’s about getting people’s imagination going, so they can then buy a bike and either get us to customize it, or run off and go and customize it themselves. It’s an awesome platform – 100 horsepower and very nimble handling.
1974 Norton Commando (supercharged)
There’s another bike up here that’s a bit far out … That’s a supercharged Norton Commando. You could buy a kit back in the 70s, bolt on a Drouin supercharger, and double your horsepower. So that’s just one that I knocked up. It’s a … let me think, a ’74 Commando. It’s got a Dunstall kit, Norman Hyde fork brace, alloy rims and clip-ons, a 2-into-1 exhaust …
Not everything’s for sale. Obviously I got into this because I was passionate about bikes and I wanted to build a collection of bikes. All of a sudden you end up being a motorcycle shop, and you’re buying and selling and you’re head-first into it.
But my passion is still collecting. And there’s still plenty of bikes on my bucket list that I want to get before I’m done. So once in a while, maybe I’ll sell a couple of bikes to get something else on my bucket list. It’s about experiencing them.
I got to about 130 bikes in my collection, that was stupid, I couldn’t keep the tires pumped up. It was a major job just looking after them, and there were bikes in there that were quite rough. So I cut it back. I’m probably at about 70 or something at the moment. I try to keep it round about there.
I’ve got a warehouse over the road, I keep a bunch more over there. I like to swap ’em around, keep it all alive. This isn’t a museum you walk into one time – you come back next week, it’s different. Come back the week after, it’s different again. There’s always a reason to come back.
Same with the museum we’re building upstairs. I know a lot of people with collections of very rare and exotic motorcycles. We’ll do a Brough Superior display, we’ll do a Harley-Davidson display, we’ll do all sorts of things, maybe an American brand display with Thors and Merkels and Popes, things like that. It’s always going to be changing, so it’s important to keep coming back.
Friday nights we have our Tapas night, which is where we open the bar and get drunk. There’s some live music, lots of fun. Two bands every Friday, and the cafe’s open every day except Sunday. So there’s the new Indian dealership, and the workshop and the team of mechanics. We work on vintage and classic bikes, which not a lot of shops would touch.
We’ve also got the Classic Racer Club based at the shop, we have rides every Saturday morning, 8 o’clock, heading off in whatever direction the riders choose on the day. Anywhere between 5 and 40 bikes, it depends who turns up.
After several hours chatting with John and photographing the bikes out back, I never felt like I’d scratched the surface of what’s in there – and John’s perfectly happy about that, telling me I should come back again and feature more of the bikes he rotates in and out of the museum.
We might take you up on that, John! There’s a ton of other stuff in the shop we’d love to feature.
Motorcycle board track racing was the deadliest form of racing in the history of motorsports. Hundreds of lives were lost, both racers and spectators, during the relatively short-lived era of the boards. Yet in spite of, or perhaps partly because of, the dangers, motorcycle board track racing in the 1910s was one of the most popular spectator sports in America. Races attracted crowds of up to 10,000 fans. Young riders knew of the dangers, but chose to ignore them because the payoffs were so lucrative. Top racers could make $20,000 per year racing the board tracks, nearly a half-million dollars in today’s currency. From America's Historical Newspapers. The reasons for the lethal nature of motorcycle board track racing were easy to understand. Motorcycles, even in the 1910s, the heyday of the board track era, were capable of speeds approaching 100 miles per hour. The boards were oil soaked and slick due to the engines being of “total loss” design, meaning oil pumped by the riders to lubricate exposed valves and springs sprayed freely into the air behind the speeding bikes. Riders raced with just inches between them, sometimes even touching as riders jockeyed for position. The machines had no brakes, and spectators were separated from the speeding machines by just couple of 2×4 boards nailed between fragile posts.
The first decade of the 20th century, with the advent of automobiles and motorcycles, saw an explosion of race track construction. The mention of motordromes in newspapers began as early as 1901. In the July 18, 1901 edition of the Kansas City Star there was news from Europe of government officials threatening to exclude automobile racing from all public roads and that motordromes could be the solution.
“Automobile News from Paris,” Kansas City Star, (07-18-1901), 7. America’s Historical Newspapers.
Motorcycle racing in America during the early 1900s was primarily confined to city-to-city runs and races on bicycle velodromes. But as engines became more powerful it was clear that the small bicycle tracks were not large enough to showcase the capabilities of motorcycles.
In 1910 the Los Angeles Motordrome, built in the resort of Playa Del Ray, was the first large board track built in America. The Salt Lake Telegram reported on April 9, 1910, that world records were broken in auto races on the new board track. The Albuquerque Journal on the previous day gave some of the specs of the new track. It reported the track “a perfect circle, a mile in circumference, banked one foot in three. The grand stands are placed above the forty-five feet of the inclined track. The surface consists of two by four planks laid to make a four-inch floor and laminated to give great strength. About 3,000,000 feet of lumber and sixteen tons of nails were used in the construction of the ‘pie-pan,’ as it has been dubbed.”
“World’s Records Are Broken On New Board Track,” Salt Lake Telegram, (04-09-1910), 23. America’s Historical Newspapers.
Jack Prince, the builder of the Los Angeles track, traveled the country proposing board tracks to city fathers and motor clubs. The Salt Lake Telegram reported on April 26, 1910, that Prince planned to build a half-mile motordrome in Salt Lake City at a cost of $100,000. The paper later reported, on June 18, 1910, that the new board track at Wandamere Park in Salt Lake City was constructed in less than two weeks.
Soon motordromes were being built across the country. And the races drew large crowds. The Salt Lake Telegram on July 4, 1910, reported a crowd of 8,000 to 10,000 on the grand opening night of the Wandamere Motordrome. The race featured Jake De Rosier, the great Indian Motorcycle factory rider, as the main attraction.
The Philadelphia Inquirer on June 15, 1912, reported the grand opening of Philadelphia’s Pointe Breeze Park Motordrome. Pointe Breeze would become one of the most successful board tracks with a regular weekly program. Two of the leading motorcyclists of the era Morty Graves and Eddie Hasha were the featured riders that opening night at Pointe Breeze.
“Motorcycle Races New Motordrome at Point Breeze Opened Today,” The Philadelphia Inquirer, (06-15-1912), 11. America’s Historical Newspapers.
The safety failings of board track racing became all too obvious not long after the facilities were built. The Salt Lake Telegram on July 5, 1912, reported a serious accident in which a rider named Harry Davis was killed and seven spectators injured when Davis’s motorcycle crashed into and snapped a light pole. Throughout that summer a week rarely went by without reports of a rider or spectators being killed at the motordromes.
Two accidents in particular permanently tainted the reputation of the motordromes and eventually led motorcycle racing’s governing body to no longer sanction board track races. The first was a tragic accident at the motordrome in Newark, New Jersey, on September 8. 1912. The Lexington Herald on Sept. 9, 1912, reported that two racers (Eddie Hasha and Johnny Albright) died when they crashed into the outside rail. Four spectators were killed in the incident as well and 19 others suffered injuries. The story of this accident ran in newspapers across the country.
“Eddie Hasha and Five Others Are Killed Outright. Thirteen More Are Badly Injured in Frightful Motorcycle Accident at Newark Motordrome,” Lexington Herald, (09-09-1912), 1. America’s Historical Newspapers.
The following summer, on July 20, 1913, a freak accident at a board track across the river from Cincinnati in Ludlow, Kentucky, caused more outrage. A racer named Odin Johnson crashed; his motorcycle hit a light pole, kicking off a tragic domino effect. The motorcycle’s gas tank exploded. An exposed electrical wire from the light pole then sparked the fuel, spreading flames into the crowd. The ultimate death toll was eight as reported by the Salt Lake Telegram on August 1, 1913. Afterwards the widow of Johnson vowed to devote her life to ending races on board tracks.
The headline of an editorial in the August 1, 1913, edition of The Evening Press (Grand Rapids, Mich.) put it succinctly—“Thrills and Funerals.” The board tracks were referred to as “Murderdromes.”
“Thrills and Funerals,” Grand Rapids Press, (August 1, 1913), 6. America’s Historical Newspapers.
A Salt Lake Telegram article on August 22, 1914, tracked the rise and fall of the motordromes, citing the numerous deaths as well as revelations of fixed races as the causes of the decline of motorcycle board track racing.
By the end of the 1910s the board track era was largely a thing of the past. Besides the dangers of racing the boards, the tracks rapidly deteriorated and many burned down. A thrilling but deadly chapter in American motorsports came to a close.
Three motorcycles owned by actor Steve McQueen will go under the hammer on January 8, once more threatening auction records. This article chronicles the history of cars and bikes formerly owned by…
Unlike many screen heroes whose world-beating antics were entirely restricted to celluloid, McQueen was the real deal. Congruence and authenticity list high among his brand values. As a motorcycle rider, he represented America in the International Six Day Trial (now ISDE – the world’s oldest international off-road competition) and he was an international class racing car driver.McQueen had genuine speed, something that cannot be learned or purchased. He also performed all his own stunts when the film studios allowed it and his premature death from cancer at the height of his popularity seems to have frozen his brand attributes in time, something that those idols that live on cannot hope to emulate. As a race driver, he won’t get slower. As a heart-throb, he will not grow old and wrinkly.Unlike Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, John Lennon and a handful of other public figures who continue earning more than US$10 million a year after their death, McQueen’s star quality can also be measured by the multiplication of value he has bestowed upon anything that he has touched.
If any living creature really has had something resembling the legendaryMidas touch which Dionysus bestowed on the King of Phrygia (enabling him to turn whatever he touched into gold), then it’s Terrence Stephen McQueen.McQueen’s star quality means that the many cars and motorcycles he collected generally fetch far in excess of their book value when they reach auction. Here are a few examples:
The Porsche 911S which he drove through the French countryside at ballistic speed for the first three minutes of the same film makes number six on the same top 10 movie car list, having sold for US$1.37 million at a Pebble Beach auction by RM Auctions in 2011. That’s about ten times what you’d pay for an identical car.
Perhaps the best example of this is a 1970 Kawasaki G31M Centurian given to Steve McQueen by the Japanese manufacturer to be used as a paddock bike during the filming of Le Mans. Sold at any other auction without McQueen’s ownership in its resume, the 44 year-old 100cc motorcycle would not fetch US$1000 yet , it fetched US$55,575 at auction in 2007.McQueen owned seven of the top 100 motorcycles ever sold at auction and he has two bikes just outside the top 100. Check our analysis of the most collectible marques and you will see that only three manufacturers (Brough Superior, Vincent-HRD and Harley-Davidson) have more bikes in the top 100.Crocker, the American manufacturer of pre-WWII superbikes has the same number of bikes as McQueen in this hyper-elite listing. Behind McQueen’s seven, BMW has six bikes, Indian has five and Ducati has four. What’s more, if it weren’t for McQueen’s influence, Indian would not have nearly that many bikes in the top 100 sales.
The first to sell will be lot 124, a 1936 Indian Chief, (pictured above) which was part of the original McQueen Estate Auction in 1984 and comes with the certificate of authenticity and a Bonhams’ estimate of US$ 80,000 to US$100,000 on its anticipated sale price.McQueen’s Indian Chief will probably sell for more than that figure, probably a lot more, and here’s why. Firstly, we noted in our analysis of the top 100 motorcycles that Indian was McQueen’s favourite marque.In the book McQueen’s Machines: The Cars and Bikes of a Hollywood Iconby Matt Stone, McQueen biographer William Nolan conveys that in the fall of 1951, a pre-fame McQueen had saved enough money to buy a battered cycle with a sidecar (removed at an unstated time), which he proudly tooled around the (Greenwich) Village. “It was my first bike and I loved it,” admitted Steve. “But I was going with a girl who began to hate the cycle – just hated riding in the bumpy sidecar. She told me, ‘Either the cycle goes or I go!’ Well, there was no contest. She went.” That battered cycle was the 1946 Indian Chief pictured below.
In 2013, Auctions America sold the 1946 Indian Chief for US$146,750 at a sale in Los Angeles.There’s more McQueen history with Indian motorcycles at auction, and it all suggests that this bike (lot 124) will enter the top 100 most expensive motorcycles ever sold at auction.
At the same 2006 Bonhams’ sale, a 1000cc 1920 Indian Powerplus “Daytona” Racer (pictured above) formerly owned by McQueen sold for US$150,000.
At Bonhams’ 2014 Las Vegas Auction, a first-year 1923 Indian Big Chief, complete with an original Indian Princess sidecar (pictured above) sold for US$126,000. The bike was beautifully restored by McQueen’s great mate Kenny Howard, aka “Von Dutch”, adding to its celebrity status, but without McQueen’s name it would have sold for considerably less.Which brings us to lot 124. It’s not a restored motorcycle. In fact, it’s very original and in exactly the same state that it was when McQueen last rode it.
By comparison, you can have a fully restored Indian Chief for a fraction of the price if the McQueen name is not important to you. Just down the road in Vegas, Mecum is auctioning no less than eight Indian Chiefs within a day or two of the Bonhams auction of the McQueen Indian Chief.
The bike above, from the Kenny Price Collection, is a beautifully restored 1923 Indian Chief which Mecum expects will fetch between US$40,000 and US$44,000. The other Indian Chiefs on offer are all expected to fetch less than US$25,000 with some lower estimates reaching US$15,000 (use thesearch function on Mecum’s site to find them all). Some people believe McQueen’s unrestored model may reach ten times that amount.Bonhams also has a pair of Indian Chiefs beyond McQueen’s at its auction, being a 1947 model (US$20,000 to US$24,000) and a 1948 model(US$32,000 to US$36,000).
1912 Harley-Davidson X8E Big Twin
Harley-Davidson offered both a single or twin-cylinder model in 1912, with the X8E being Harley’s top of the range model, costing $10 more than the standard 6.5hp twin’s $310.Late-1912 8hp Harley twins are rare, as mid-year the engine capacity was increased from 49 cubic inches to a full 61 cubic inches to create the first Big Twin. This ex-McQueen matching-numbers 1912 Harley-Davidson X8E Big Twin was purchased at the 1984 Steve McQueen estate auction and comes with a certificate of authenticity. It is believed that McQueen rode this Harley in at least one Pre-1916 event.
The bike comes with a distinctive paint scheme. Legend has it that McQueen and his buddy Von Dutch rattle-can painted the bike red during a late-night drinking session. That unconfirmed legend alone is probably worth an extra US$10,000 to the price, and virtually guarantees the bike will forever retain its impromptu paint job with what appears to be the original factory paint beneath. This Big Twin is in full running condition, and Bonhams estimates it will fetch between US$120,000 and US$140,000. Multiply the rarity by the McQueen factor and you could get a lot more than that. Bonhams gets these bikes to sell because it is the most respected auctioneer of extremely rare motorcycles. More than half of the bikes on our top 100 list have been auctioned by Bonhams.
1971 250cc Husqvarna Cross
Further compelling evidence of the McQueen-effect can be seen whenever a two-stroke motorcycle bearing his provenance reaches auction. Two-strokes are generally not the stuff of collectors – older two-strokes live in a white cloud of unburnt hydrocarbons and burned oil and don’t sound like bikes worth coveting. Despite the fact they could induce lifelong tinitus, you have to have been there and held the throttle when the expansion chambers heralded the coming of genuine power to truly appreciate a two-stroke. They may have sounded like a tin can full of ball bearings, but they went MUCH faster than the agricultural four-strokes of the day.While McQueen obviously had an appreciation of the wonderfully rich heritage of American motorcycling, he was also very practical, was a big fan of “what works” and when it came to competition riding, he liked to be competitive.When McQueen was part of the very first American ISDE Vase team that competed in the gruelling six day event in September 1964, he rode a Triumph TR6 750. It was state-of-the-art at the time, but within a few years the two-stroke engine offered a much lighter bike with a far more usable power spread and McQueen became an immediate fan.
A terrific article on the first American Vase Team in the 1964 ISDE can be found in this official FIM magazine. That’s McQueen on the Triumph at left, and his international competition licence in the centre of the right hand page.
In the legendary motorcycle film On Any Sunday, McQueen rode a Husqvarna 400 and the success of that film and the subsequent appearance of McQueen riding a Husqvarna on the cover of Sports Illustrated magazine, was one of the principal reasons for the acceptance of the Swedish brand in the American marketplace.
There are only two two-stroke bikes on our top 100 list and McQueen is responsible for both of them. The first is a Husqvarana 400 dirt bike. It’s not the bike McQueen rode in the film, but without McQueen’s ownership in its resume, the US$144,500 1971 Husqvarna 400 Cross (above) would be worth closer to one hundredth of that value.
The other two-stroke on the list is a Scott Flying Squirrel (above), which was restored by his buddy Von Dutch, and achieved many multiples of the price of similar Scotts.
Which brings us to the third and final bike with a McQueen pedigree to be sold by Bonhams this coming January 8 (2015). Its a 250cc Husqvarna Cross that McQueen purchased through his Hollywood production company, Solar Productions, in 1971. That’s it directly above.Bonhams estimates the bike will sell for between US$70,000 and US$90,000, though it is close to identical to the aforementioned 400cc version which sold for US$144,000, so clearly there’s a lot of wiggle room in the estimate.One final reflection on the potency of the McQueen name is the coincidental auction in Paris in early February of a 1970 Husqvarna 405cc cross that is again near identical to the McQueen bike which sold for US$144,000 at Quail Lodge in 2011.
This particular Husqvarna was campaigned by Swedish ace Bengt Åberg during the ten-race 1970 InterAm Series in America in which he finished second. This was a time when factory Grand Prix riders rode exactly the same bike that was sold in the showroom.Åberg rode a near identical machine to the 500cc World Motocross championship in 1969 and 1970, and was part of the Swedish team that won the Trophée des Nations in 1968 and the Motocross des Nations in 1970, 1971 and 1974.Åberg was a motorcycle legend before coming out of retirement to win the Swedish ice speedway championship in 1995 at 51 years of age, which sealed the deal for a second time. You don’t heal as quickly once your age passes 30, and winning a title in a (ridiculously) dangerous and demanding sport like ice racing is … the stuff of legend.This bike won’t sell for anywhere near $144,000 though. Even with a history that includes being campaigned by one of the greatest riders in history, it will probably achieve around ten percent of that price because it was not owned by Steve McQueen.The provenance is just as tangible though. If it’s the provenance you are buying at auction when you purchase a world class machine of yesteryear which has been campaigned by one of the greats, then this bike’s wonderful history has been discounted 90 percent compared to the McQueen machine and in the grand scheme of things, it represents extraordinary bang per buck. Anyone who wishes to chime in with an opinion as to why this bike is worth only ten percent of the price of an identical bike that has been ridden by a movie star is welcome to use the comments section.Bonhams is only expecting between €15,000 and €18,000 (US$18,000 to US$22,000) for this bike. Bourgeois quality at a proletarian price.
McQueen’s legend is fixed and three decades after his death, it isn’t going to change. He raced cars and bikes, he smoked and drank and he was the real deal as far as adrenalin fans are concerned. He is and will always be the “king of cool.”There are a limited number of motorcycles which McQueen owned, and that number will not get any bigger. Supply is fixed.The amount of money being diverted from traditional instruments of wealth creation to “investments of passion” is growing, and the number of High Net Worth Individuals on Planet Earth grows at around 9 percent per annum. Demand for “investments of passion” is growing steadily and relentlessly.You don’t need to be a Rhodes Scholar to calculate the fairly logical conclusion. Therefore, based on the laws of supply and demand, whatever these bikes sell for, I think it’s pretty obvious that they will continue to appreciate in value.One of our more contentious office debaters argues that petrol heads are dinosaurs and will follow them into extinction in the next fifty years, causing the collectible car and motorcycle markets to tank. It’s the first plausible theory I have heard that threatens the possibility that rare cars and motorcycles will appreciate in value forever.I think we’re safe for a lifetime or two though. My recommendation: BUY!
In 1901, bicycle racer and builder George Hendee teamed up with engineer Carl Oscar Hedstrom to build a 1.75 hp single cylinder motorcycle prototype with a revolutionary chain drive. This motorized bicycle met with immediate success, and the 1933 Indian Motorcycle. Indian Motocycle Company was soon formed in Springfield, Massachusetts.
Crocker & Indian Shared a history – Let’s read about the revival….
After nearly twelve years of hassles and legal setbacks, a brand-new Crocker Big-Twin motorcycle has emerged from a hangar in SoCal. Learn more at Cycle World now.
After nearly twelve years of hassles, legal setbacks, a change of countries, and one nasty recession, a brand-new Crocker Big-Tank motorcycle has emerged from a hangar in SoCal. Michael Schacht is at no loss for words in describing the ordeal he’s overcome to reach the point of turning a key, kicking over the 80 cubic-inch V-Twin, and hearing an engine he literally built from scratch rumble into throaty life. His first complete Crocker sits unpainted, brazed joints bright and cast iron dull, spun metal fenders covered with a zillion tiny scratches, the big aluminum tanks resplendent in their own bare-metal shine.
Schacht was a staunch Indian man a dozen years ago, and still rides a 1929 ‘101’ Scout nearly every day. His restored Indians brought him to the attention of a branding company who owned the Indian name in Canada. His machines were used for promo work and he gradually became ‘involved’ with the company, which was mostly interested in T-shirt sales at that time. When talk began of making an Indian motorcycle by re-badging a Ural, Schacht ran away. The idea of resurrecting an important American motorcycle marque stuck with him though, and while looking over two Crockers at a friend’s restoration shop, the big light went on and his destiny was set. “The Crocker name is so pure, nobody had tried to make a new one, even though several people tried to claim the name. It took some work, but I was finally able to secure the name with the intention of starting production of Crockers.”
Few people have made an entire motorcycle from scratch. Schacht admits he knew little of making castings, metallurgy or even production machining before he embarked on his dream. “I was lucky, and hired some incredibly talented people. I moved my facilities from Canada to Southern California, so that the Crocker would be made 100% in the U.S.A. It was important to me that such a historic name was built, again, in the country it started from. This is an all-American deal.” Schacht also wasn’t an expert on Crockers, but enlisted the help of collectors who are, such as Chuck Vernon. “These guys are the keepers of the flame. They know everything about these machines and helped me tremendously to sort out exactly how the original Crocker was made.” While the new Crocker is as faithful to Al Crocker’s original machine as possible, a few of the materials have been upgraded. “Better steels are available now, stronger and lighter, and while the appearance is identical with a 1939 bike, what’s inside is better.”
The Crocker Motorcycle Company does not, Schacht insists, produce ‘replicas’ of the motorcycles last produced in 1942. “These are continuation machines, built by the legal owner of the Crocker motorcyclename.” The new engine is certainly more powerful than a standard 61-inch Crocker from the 30s, pumping out a whopping 85 horses from the 80-inch V-Twin to push the same 500 pound machine. “We’ve just finished it, and there are a few minor bugs to sort out, but basically, she’s the best sounding motorcycle I’ve ever heard, is really, really fast, and handles beautifully. That was one of my biggest surprises about the Crocker; this is a serious performance machine.”
Stay tuned to Cycle World for additional information about production plans for these machines and a potential modern “retro-bike” in the works.
1912 Indian Single is a two-wheeler that Jay Leno just couldn’t pass up. In this episode he highlights the stock 1912 Indian Single and talks to its owner. The motorcycle was part of the Motorcycle Cannonball Ride and given its age, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to try it out. Yes, this 1912 Indian Single can still hit the streets. It’s owner Alex Trepanier tells us more about its history.
According to him, the 1912 Indian Single has been in their family since before he was born. His dad bought it for $650, back in 1962. Leno, of course, was pretty quick to offer twice the price. However, in this state, the 500cc bike has a current market value in the $70,000 range. Given the fact that it is unrestored and is still functional, the prize range makes sense.
When it comes to power, the 1912 Indian Single has a 4-horsepower single-speed. It has completed more than 3,000 miles in the Cannonball event. Also, it features a total-loss lubrication system. Thus, an interesting fact is that the engine probably consumed 5 quarts of oil each day.
Nevertheless, what Jay Leno is trying to point out is how much effort was put into making motorcycles in the early days. Not many could do it as Indian’s hand clutch and twist-grip throttle was pretty challenging. That’s why it took several false starts by Leno to make the vintage thumper run along. The 1912 Indian Single motorcycle’s top speed is around 35 mph.
But be that as it may, it surely is an exceptional experience to hop on this machine nowadays. The sound of the engine isn’t as pleasant as you would imagine but, all in all, it’s totally worth it. Check it out!