A motorcycle worth half a million pounds? It’s on the cards. Any number of cars sell for that amount these days but the £500,000 two-wheeler would mark a new high-point in the collectors’ motorcycle market.
MAY 22nd 2017
Could this Brough Superior "Moby Dick" bike make £500,000?
The bike in question is obviously something a bit special. It’s the 1928 Brough Superior SS100 well known to aficionados as “Moby Dick”. This was the name given it after Motor Cycling magazine tested it in 1931 and declared it “the fastest privately-owned machine in the world”.
How fast? It clocked 115mph in 1931, but reportedly later went on to hit 125mph in its top (third) gear. Any SS100 was fast in its day but Moby Dick was the fastest thanks to a thorough tuning job by George Brough and JAP on its 1140cc vee-twin engine. Apart from special oversize cylinders, it boasted higher compression ratio, high-lift cams, lightened valves and twin Amal carburettors. Power increased to 65bhp – 21 more than the standard engine.
No surprise then that it was a successful racer in its day in the hands of the Bilbé brothers. And it was their son Roger who reacquired the bike decades later and masterminded its 1997 restoration.
Moby Dick is being auctioned by RM Sotheby’s at its Villa Erba sale “Moto-Icons: From Café Racer to the Superbike” on the shores of Lake Como on Saturday 27 May. The guide price is €500-700,000, or £420-588,000. Moby Dick last sold in 2011 for £210,000. As the auction house says: “A more unique and historic road bike would be hard to find.”
Six-figure motorcycles – Brough Superiors especially – are not uncommon, but this one would set the world auction record for a bike if it achieved its guide. The current record price paid for a two-wheeler is £331,900 which Bonhams achieved for a barn-find 1938 Brough Superior BS4 at its Stafford sale a year ago.
There are four more Brough Superiors in the Villa Erba sale on May 27th, including one of just 102 SS110s built with a Matchless engine (guide: €180-250,000).
It’s not all British bikes at the top end of the market though, as two more bikes from the sale show:
1957 Gilera 500 4-Cilindri, €380-450,000,
“The ultimate racing bike of the golden era” it might have been but by 1957 the Gilera 500 GP was outclassed by more modern four-cylinder machines from Honda and MV. This didn’t stop six-time 500cc world champion Geoff Duke acquiring three works 500 GP bikes from Gilera for his newly-formed Scuderia Duke team. The bikes didn’t win in the 500cc class but they were raced by legends: Derek Minter, John Hartle and Phil Read. The bike in the sale is the last of 15 racing 500 GPs, and believed to have been owned by Piero Lardi.
2010 MV Agusta 500 3-Cilindri, €200-250,000
Fancy owning Giacomo Agostini’s own machine? That’s not an offer you hear every day. The bike was is a replica built in 2010 as one of six tribute machines to mark the partnership between MV Agusta and Agostini, a partnership that resulted in six successive 500cc world titles. Engineered from the original plans, the machine is said to be virtually indistinguishable from the 1970 Ceriani GP, the machine that took Agostini to his ’72 title. The bike in the sale is the last of the six, the only one actually owned by Agostini and last ridden by him at Dijon in 2014. The bike’s fairing bears Agostini’s signature and there’s a letter from the champion confirming his ownership.
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