The Classic Motorcycle
An American Best in show
Best in show winner at Stafford 2022 was Steve Marks’s 1920 Henderson Model K, which, is some ways, was a strange choice, as the machine has been rebuilt and modified for riding, but it’s been done so well and tastefully, everything appears in keeping. Actually, it makes it even more deserving of the accolade, in that it looks as good as a show bike, but, in fact, is a ‘proper’ rider, and there’s quite some story to it, too.
In 1993, Steve Marks’s father-in-law Derek Frapple proposed a project to Steve, in the shape of a 1920 Henderson Model K. Steve baulked immediately; there was hardly any of it there, while what was present looked far past it’s best – besides which, Steve had only even vaguely heard of the company. But Steve, almost against his better judgement, decided to take it on – 14 years later and after huge amounts of time, he had a finished motorcycle. Which on the first ride stopped at the end of the road and refused to restart, resulting in an ignominious push home, with, as Steve remembers thinking, “What a waste of time.”
But Steve persevered and gradually became acquainted with the riding quirks of the inline four, using it for events home and abroad – a week in Wales, the Coventry to Brighton
Run, and rode it to France. All-in-all he did 8000 miles on it before, in 2014, disaster struck, when he and the Henderson were hit by a car. The Henderson was extensively damaged, including the frame being snapped. Steve gamely set about re-restoring it and duly completed the work, though confesses he’s never used it as much as in its first incarnation.
Examining it at the show, Steve pointed out some of the modifications he’d made. “It didn’t have a front brake originally,” he explains, before going on to say he made his own brake plate, which is fitted in a Triumph hub. The wheels are also an update, as Steve wasn’t keen on the original beaded edge tyres, so changed to a more modern set up. Though he did update, much is ‘as was’ and Steve went to great pains to search and research, with items coming from far and wide.
There are great stories with so many bits, ranging from cylinders from America (‘bloke said he had three good ones and others not so good, so he’d send the best of the rest; I couldn’t tell which was which to be honest’) and saddlebags from Canada, plus a rare, correct Corbin speedo from Kempton Park, though the chainguard story is a stand out.
As Steve explains: “I was at a rally in France and there was a chap there who apparently had a 1920 Model K, a Norwegian guy. I found him and asked if I could borrow the chainguard to copy, or make sketches, or photograph it/if he could photograph it, anything really, as I had nothing at all to go on. Every request I made, he, Tom, just said ‘no.’ Then he said, at the end, with me a bit exasperated, ‘I will make you one’ which he duly did!”
Steve, though, made plenty himself, from the controls and levers, to things like his auxiliary fuel tank. “It’s such a comfortable thing to ride, the size of the petrol tank is the biggest limiting factor, only 70/80 miles of range, so I addressed it,” pointing to the extra fuel tank which nestles on the side.
The Henderson bristles with such little touches, its immaculate condition belying how much it has been used. Its blend of sophistication and enhanced practicality means it’s a really fabulous vintage motorcycle. No wonder Steve says he’ll never part with it.
Proving that Brough Superior enthusiasm is as strong as ever, a brace of fabulous SS100 restoration projects achieved considerably above estimate at the Stafford show Bonhams auction, each realising more than £200,000.
First up was a 1929 996cc JAP-powered SS100 ‘Alpine Grand Sports’ sprint special, which had been campaigned by notable Brough-Superior riders Reg Barton and
Dick Knight. It doubled its pre-sale top estimate of £100,000, finally selling for £253,000, following a spirited, tense battle between determined online and physically present bidders, earning applause from the packed Bonhams saleroom when the gavel finally fell.
The top lot of the sale had been fitted with an ex-Eric Fernihough Brooklands racing engine and was offered for sympathetic restoration to retain its ‘warhorse’ character, with its original gearbox, tank and front numberplate.
Second most expensive lot of the day was a 1936 Brough Superior 982cc SS100, one of the earliest Matchless-powered SS100s, which achieved £235,750, also earning an enthusiastic reception from the room. This machine had been owned by its vendor for more than 50 years, during which time he achieved 90mph on one occasion at Pendine Sands. Retaining its original frame and engine, the Brough was offered as an exciting restoration opportunity.
Other motorcycles finding new owners at Stafford over the weekend included a 1951 Swiss Grand Prix-winning 1948 Velocette 348cc KTT Mk.VIII. Ridden to victory in Switzerland by the first 500cc Grand
Prix World Champion, Les Graham, the beautiful Velo sold for £57,500, just pipping the £57,000 achieved by a 1977 MV Agusta 832cc Boxer motorcycle, originally loaned to world champion motorcyclist Phil Read.
One of only two Boxers imported into Britain before the model’s name was changed back to ‘Monza’, the ultra-rare machine was loaned to the seven-time world motorcycle GP champion and former factory rider, when new. It was offered in excellent condition, having covered just over 11,500 miles from new, and having been museum stored in a temperature-controlled environment since 2009.
Another highlight of Sunday’s sale was the auction world record set by a rare
1921 Wooler 348cc Model B, known as the ‘Flying Banana’, which sold for £40,250, also doubling its pre-sale estimate.
The first day of the auction offered more than 300 lots of spares and memorabilia, including three considerable collections, and was a white glove sale, with 100 sold.
A remarkable result was achieved by a dismantled, incomplete very early in production Series B Rapide Vincent project, which made £41,880 – four times its pre-sale estimate. Compare that to the less-than-£30,000 achieved by a missmatched numbers/restamped but smart and complete Series C Rapide, which just goes to prove what is popular with current buyers – numbers are king.
James Stensel, head of Bonhams Motorcycles (UK), said: “The Bonhams Stafford Sales continue to set a benchmark, attracting a truly international audience, with bidders from no fewer than 36 countries – living up to The International Classic MotorCycle Show’s name.
“We are pleased to have been entrusted by our clients to offer so many of their prized motorcycles, and the team look forward to returning to Stafford in the autumn for another exciting auction.”
Ben Walker, global head of Bonhams Motorcycles, added: “This bellwether sale demonstrates that the market is strong for collectors’ motorcycles despite the challenging past couple of years.
“Having recently signed for a further three years as the exclusive auction partner to
The Stafford Classic Motorcycle Shows, we look forward to continuing to achieve these fantastic results at Stafford.”
Bonhams will return to Stafford on
October 15/16 for their autumn sale, for which consignments are currently being invited, following a visit to Rome for the department’s first sale in Italy – Passione Moto – taking place at the world-renowned Moto de Miti in Civita Castellana, near the Eternal City two weeks earlier (October 1/2).