BIGGEST OLD BIKE AUCTION YET
E.J. Cole Collection reads more like a history of American-made motorcycles
THE motorcycle world will hold its breath tomorrow and Saturday, when the largest and most significant collection of motorcycles ever auctioned at one time will sell at “no reserve” in Las Vegas.
The 220-motorbike catalogue for the E.J. Cole Collection Auction reads more like a history of American-made motorcycles than a normal auction catalogue, with examples of many of the most important motorcycles ever made in the United States going under the hammer.
While there may yet be a bigger auction in the next 85 years, the E.J. Cole Collection represents the most important motorcycle auction that has been held in the last 130 years.
To date, only 27 motorcycles have ever sold for more than $300 000 at auction. The Cole Collection contains five motorcycles that Mecum Midamerica estimates will sell for at least that amount.
The 220 models contain several hidden gems and a “bolter” might well emerge during the bidding if two collectors covet the same rare motorcycle. In the world of collectibles, value is in the eye of the beholder.
Bidding starts at at 4 pm (Vegas time, 5 am SAST) tomorrow and 11 am (2 am SAST) on Saturday. Expect the highest bids to go on the three Harley-Davidson Strap Tank Singles in the collection. The strap tank single is the popular name given to Harley-Davidson’s first motorcycle, a 440 cc single cylinder motorcycle with nickel-plated steel straps attaching the oil and main fuel tank to the frame.
These bikes are the most sought-after of all Harley-Davidson models and when the Otis Chandler Collection was sold in 2006, a 1907 Strap Tank Single sold for $352 000. It will be interesting to see how this bike sells because the original Otis Chandler bike, which set the record for a “strap tank”, appeared at auction again earlier this yearand only fetched $165 000.
Lot F19 – estimated $18,000 to $20,000
Sadly, with an estimate of just $18 000 to $20 000, the delightfully eccentric 1922 Ner-a-car (above) isn’t really a contender for a top 250 spot, but it is yet another indication of the levels of innovation the American motorcycle industry once exhibited. The feet-forward, hub-centre steered, Ner-A-Car in many ways attempted to do what Honda succeeded in doing with its step-through design 50 years later, and was marketed as a low-cost alternative to a motor car. Like Honda’s ubiquitous (at least in Asia) scooters, the Ner-a-car offered freedom from road grime and engine fluids, enabling riders to wear ordinary clothes. The company was funded by King Gillette (of safety razor fame) and one of its strongest advocates was the legendary Cannonball Baker who rode one from New York to Los Angeles in 1922, with the total journey of 3,364 miles taking 174 hours and costing $15,70. Baker later started a Neracar dealership in Los Angeles. Around 10 000 were manufactured in the United States and another 6 500 were produced under licence in England by Sheffield-Simplex.
Though only built for two years (1910-11), the Detroit motorcycle uses very largediameter tubing for its frame, which contains both the gas and oil tanks, similar to the Pierce motorcycle. The Detroit features a direct flat-belt drive and leading-link fork, and the engine is a 30.5 cu-in. (500cc) F-head single, with the throttle and ignition controlled by twistgrips on the handlebars, and rods to the carburettor and points assembly. This 1910 Detroit single is built around an original engine, and is extremely rare, being one of just three known to exist.
One of the true classics in the Cole collection, this 1907 Indian Tri-Car With Sedan Chair is for all intents, a chauffeured armchair. It was made in the period where personal transportation was still finding its way, and while the pedalpowered rickshaw became commonplace in some countries, putting the passenger dead-centre in harm’s way proved folly and most tri-cars used the passenger space for more commercial endeavours and the transportation of goods.
1908 Reading Standard Single TriCar, Lot S115 – estimated $65 000 to $85 000.