Judging by the numbers seen out cruising on sunny Sunday afternoons, classic motorcycles are booming.
The riders, clad in uniform black, are likely to be professionals or chief executives during the week or, in one case, a Qantas pilot. His is a typical scenario. He has a couple of relatively modern bikes for regular riding, a few older examples to be used for shorter distances and, locked in the back shed, three or four unfinished projects.
These are scheduled for restoration during retirement, but at the moment act as a kind of therapy. After a long-haul international flight he likes to sit in the shed with these old bikes and de-stress. This is a common activity for those who love motorcycles. No one has admitted it to me yet but I get the feeling that some may even have a quiet chat with their machines, such is the bond that forms.
Classic bikes on the block
Auction in Sydney on October 21 will see a pack of classic British bikes, plus part of a collection of vintage Harley Davidsons go under the hammer. Photo: Ben Rushton
Next Monday, Shannons is selling two significant Australian collections of classic and vintage motorcycles at its Sydney Spring Classic Auction.
One collection consists of some of the rarest Harley-Davidsons in Australia, assembled over 45 years by the owner, a Sydney businessman who prefers to remain anonymous. His initial aim was to have one of each model produced by the factory, and indications are he came pretty close. His collection totalled about 60 machines, plus a few truckloads of spares.
There are so many he is selling them in stages. Nine appeared at the previous Shannons MotorEx auction, with all selling at or above estimates after being offered without reserve.
There was some international interest then which should also apply to the feature attraction at this Monday's sale, an extraordinary 1914 Model 10F V-Twin with two-speed rear hub. It is complete, original and sold in unrestored condition, complete with traces of rust, oil stains, faded paint and perished rubber tyres. It has only had three owners and only the first of those actually rode it.
Next year, this bike will be a 100 years old.
Such examples, known as survivors, are the growing trend among classic motorcycle (and car) collecting.
A majority would leave it as it is, says Shannons' two-wheeled specialist Stuart Roberts. Some would add new tyres and cables and try to get the thing running, even if they never intended to ride it. Most will leave all the dirt and grime on it, and retain that patina of age.
Estimates are $24,000 to $28,000 which Roberts says are conservative.
He's expecting bids of around $50,000, especially if the Americans decide to get involved.
The other eight Harleys listed range from a 1920 Model W Flat Twin (estimates $6000 to $9000) to a 1977 AMF XLCR 1000 Cafe Racer in original, unrestored condition ($9000 to $15,000). Photos and details on the online gallery.
Of special interest is a 1942 XA 750 Experimental Army model ($18,000 to $22,000). The nine listed are in various stages of restoration, none running or registered at the moment. This does not seem to affect demand in any way. Several are being offered without reserve.
A later sale will possibly include the ultimate Harley in this collection, a genuine board-track racer from the 1920s. These machines were specially built for a lethal form of racing on steeply-banked velodromes up to a mile in circumference. If it does go on sale, expect estimates around $100,000.
A second collection listed at Monday's auction features a variety of mainly British classics, including Ariel, Norton, Royal Enfield and Triumph models, all with no reserve. Star attraction here is Lot Y, a 1954 Matchless G45 500cc Production Racer.
There are fewer than 20 of these left in the world, Roberts says. Estimates are around the $45,000 mark.
Shannons Sydney Spring Sale, featuring two collections of classic motorcycles, is on Monday, October 21 at 7pm at 65 Reserve Road, St Leonards. Viewing is on this weekend, Saturday, 9am to 4pm, Sunday, 10am to 4pm.