Most of you work in big companies so you know the most important job you have every day is to suck up to the boss. Well, occasionally I have to write about motorbikes because my boss is a temporary Australian who, like our food ruler, John Lethlean, rides a motorised velocipede and is running a one-person (well, two if you count JL) campaign to convert the rest of us and threatens to fire me if I don’t write about bikes at least twice a year.
The third-highest price paid for a motorbike at auction was this month at Monterey, where someone with a death wish paid $1.2 million for an 83-year-old Crocker Small Tank 1000cc V-twin. Think about it. This bike is nearly as old as the man so good his parents named him twice.
You could buy the Royal Hotel in my favourite Australian town, Leyburn, for that, put Coopers Sparkling and Jim Barry wines on tap and the world’s best retired footballer and former owner, Shane Webcke, would probably come back and give (real) footy lessons to your kiddies.
You could buy an Alpina, a Porker GT3 RS, a Hyundai 130N, a 2016 Maloo ute (Australia’s best sports car: buy in preference to a new Mustang and see the value go up), a Nissan GTR track edition and the WART BMW 3 series with the Alpina engine and same tyres we used in Targa and the Leyburn Sprints for less.
Anyway, this was Production No 12, one of 14 hand-built by Al Crocker and Paul Bigsby and, unusually, completely unmolested. It believed to be the only unrestored, comprehensively documented, real Crocker V-twin in the universe. The small tank was the fastest production motorcycle in the world, leaving Harleys and Indians for dead.
Another (but this one was restored) Crocker Small Tank brought a mill (both sold by Mecums), Bonhams got a 1938 Brough Superior SS100 away for $465k and a 1912 Indian Twin Board Track Racer doubled estimate to sell for $376k (sold by Mecums). It’s worth pointing out that while cars generally performed badly, the top-selling bikes all beat high estimate.
If you’re in the market for two-wheel fun then Shannons has a few well-priced numbers up for sale at its Spring Classic Auction in Melbourne next month. If I were you, I’d focus on the 1965 Sunbeam Tiger MK1 Convertible for about $70k. Being sexist for a moment and offending Sunbeam drivers, the Sunbeam Alpine was a lady’s car. When the Rootes Group (later taken over by Chrysler and called, presciently, Chrysler Rootes Australia) got Carroll Shelby to shoehorn Ford’s small-block V8 into the engine bay it became a 200km/h beast. Now, the guidance on this looks low but probably reflects some modifications and lesser condition. Really good low-mileage examples are bringing $100k. Last Monday night Shannons sold a 9.5 condition Tiger for $132k. At the right price you could have a lot of fun with the Melbourne car.
But I’ll be bidding on the very pretty blue, immaculate, 1966 Vespa Super 150cc Scooter (about $5k) for the boss. They are all the go around the millennial coffee shops of Sydney’s Surry Hills. Or why don’t I just buy the 1978 Lambretta 150cc Scooter with Side Car for both the boss and JL? The insider tip at this auction is the 1959 black with parchment interior Mercedes-Benz 190SL Convertible at about $200k. Complete history, Australian-delivered, super restoration, factory correct and way more comfortable than a Crocker Small Tank.
Talking of Ford V8s, Falcon GTHOs are now million-dollar cars. Fifty years ago, work started on creating the first at Lot 6, 224 Mahoneys Road in Thomastown under the guidance of Ford Detroit muscle specialist Big Al Turner. Al is a legend and without him Ford of Australia would never have experienced the magic of the Ford GTHO and the speed of racing. He was and is always a great supporter of Australian ingenuity and motorsports in general. Just to show you how much, Al will be at Lot 6 on Sunday, October 13, when $250 gets you in to kiss the ground, meet Al and his old team and, of course, watch the Supercheap Auto Bathurst 1000 live on Kayo.
All funds will go to enabling a young mechanic to develop their career in Motorsport to the highest level of F1, through the support and participation of Kangan Institute and RMIT. Sign up at firstname.lastname@example.org. Al tells me his living in sunny Florida is flattered by my comments and can’t wait to get some performance tuning tips and Coopers from the old bloke and I in October.
While new car sales are in the toilet (Subaru is doing some super deals on the WRX but not the BRZ tS: do yourself a favour and test drive the BRZ tS) motorcycle sales are doing OK. Listed bike seller MotorCycle Holdings this week reported overall motorcycle sales up 4 per cent. New sales dropped 1 per cent compared with a national market drop of 11 per cent while old bike sales were up 11 per cent.
Talking of great events, the Noosa Beach (South Yarra by the Sea) Classic Car Club has invited your WART car and team to the Summer Hill Climb up the picturesque Gyndier Drive, Tewantin, where the committee thoughtfully place concrete barriers on the toughest corners to protect the environment. Past drivers have included Vern Schuppan, Kevin Bartlett and Dick and Steve Johnson, and, of course, being Noosa, you can expect plenty of Fezzers, Porkers and very valuable old classics (apart from Vern). Unfortunately, Mick is having a haircut that weekend (an annual event) but we have promised club boss, the aptly named Mike Rider, we will be there next year.