Von Dutch orig­i­nals dom­i­nate mem­o­ra­bilia sec­tion of Bon­hams’ Las Ve­gas sale


Se­ries of mo­tor­cy­cle en­gine draw­ings by leg­endary Von Dutch go un­der the ham­mer

Kenny ‘Von Dutch’ Howard was a com­pli­cated char­ac­ter who di­vided opin­ion dur­ing – and af­ter – a life cut short by ill­ness in 1992. Born the son of a Los An­ge­les sign­writer in 1929, Howard was earn­ing money as a pin-striper to the cus­tom car move­ment by the age of 10. De­vel­op­ing a unique style, he was also a skilled me­chanic, me­tal fab­ri­ca­tor and some­time gun­smith, and he be­came an in­te­gral part of the Kus­tom Kul­ture scene.

Though Howard’s artis­tic tal­ent is un­doubted, many con­tem­po­raries say he had a darker side. Robert Wil­liams, one-time friend and fel­low artist, said he could be, “quite a racist, didn’t like any­one.”

What­ever the truth about the enig­matic Howard, his art has lived on – and 14 orig­i­nal Von Dutch art­works went un­der the ham­mer at the Bon­hams Las Ve­gas sale on Jan­uary 25.

All were pen­cil-on-pa­per sketches re­flect­ing Howard’s pas­sion for mo­tor­cy­cles (and, in one ex­am­ple, firearms), plus a sin­gle sur­re­al­is­tic work. And the 12 bike draw­ings re­veal an un­der­stand­ing of (and in­ter­est in) the me­chan­i­cal side of bike de­sign, rather than the cus­tom paint he’s bet­ter known for.

Sub­ject mat­ter in­cluded a cut­away sketch of a car­bu­ret­tor float bowl, a fan­ci­ful de­sign for a twin-cam Tri­umph twin, and a com­plete mo­tor­cy­cle with a Sun­beam en­gine in a Tri­umph frame with BSA, Ve­lo­cette, In­dian and BTH com­po­nents. All the il­lus­tra­tions are more artis­tic works rather than de­tailed en­gi­neer­ing draw­ings, and the en­ergy, cre­ativ­ity and flair of a flawed ge­nius shine out of the weath­ered pa­per. Es­ti­mates ranged from a low of £300 for an un­named sin­gle­cylin­der en­gine de­sign, to £940 for the sur­re­al­is­tic work of a winged ques­tion mark. In­ter­est in the draw­ings proved strong, how­ever, with only one of the bike-re­lated works – an Ariel logo – fail­ing to sell over its top es­ti­mate.

A de­sign for a ‘re­verse flat­twin’ en­gine, with op­posed pis­tons meet­ing in a cen­tral com­bus­tion cham­ber and a pair of out­board cranks, made $1187 (£863), while the ex­ploded draw­ing of a 500cc al­loy sin­gle en­gine de­sign went for $1750 (£1228). Top-sell­ing Von Dutch mem­o­ra­bilia proved to be the dohc Tri­umph twin de­sign sketch, which made an im­pres­sive $4000 (£2809) – con­sid­er­ably more than its $750 high es­ti­mate. Some­one’s work­shop or study wall is go­ing to look pretty cool.


4 1 Not an en­gi­neer­ing draw­ing, but ex­ploded sin­gle demon­strates me­chan­i­cal un­der­stand­ing 3 Sketch for a dou­ble-over­head­cam Tri­umph made a tidy £2809 4 Not your usual op­posed twin – pis­tons face each and cre­ate a shared com­bus­tion cham­ber

2 Bosch brand is an intricate de­tail on the points-end cam bear­ing hous­ing on this sin­gle 5 Far bet­ter on the work­shop wall than a wa­ter­colour land­scape 5

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