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Top 10 most expensive motorcycles from the world's most valuable collection

If you need to ask, you can't afford it

WHAT amounts to probably the most valuable motorcycle collection in the world went under the hammer last weekend. 

Only the rarest or rare machines make it into the legendary bike collection of American collector EJ Cole, so it’s no surprise to see that some went for insane money.

While none managed to breach the $1 million mark, as had been expected in some quarters, Mr Cole still walked away from the sale a with a couple of hundred fewer motorcycles and many millions more dollars.

Here are the 10 most expensive machines from the sale:

=9. 1907 Indian Tri-Car with Sedan Chair - sold for $165,000

Not one for the performance fans here, the Tri-Car looks more like a Victorian mobility scooter than a motorcycle. But its age, rarity and originality meant that it took a massive $165,000.

=9. 1930 Harley-Davidson Factory Hillclimber - sold for $165,000

At the same price as the Tri-Car, but probably a bike more likely to find favour among Visordown readers, was the H-D Hillclimber from 1930. Using a twin-cam, 45cu-in V-twin and dubbed the DAH, it’s reckoned to be one of the rarest Harleys in the world; this very example was even used as a model for a statue that now stands outside Harley’s own museum.

8. 1917 Henderson 4 - sold for $190,000

Four-cylinder Hendersons are pretty rare and expensive at the best of times, and this one can count a certain Steve McQueen among its previous owners, which pushes the value higher still.

7. 1912 Henderson 4 - sold for $205,000

This Henderson wasn’t owned by Steve McQueen, but it was pricier still at $205,000. That’s because it’s from the first year of production, one of just six survivors that can make that claim.

6. 1912 Harley-Davidson Model 8A - sold for $215,000

Never underestimate the collectability of early Harleys. This bike was expected to take $100,000-$150,000 at the auction, but in fact blew past that to $215,000. Its attraction comes from being one of the first twin-cylinder Harleys and, like so many of the Cole collection bikes, its originality and condition.

5. 1928 Indian Altoona Hillclimber - sold for $225,000

In case you’re wondering, Altoona was the name of a board-track circuit in Pennsylvania, and just as later bikes took on the names of circuits they won at (Daytona, for instance), Indian celebrated its successes by naming its machines Altoona in 1927 and 28 after setting a speed record there in 1926. This Altoona was modified in period for hillclimbing, and remains in tatty condition, just as it was put away after its last ever competition many decades ago.

4. 1942 Crocker V-twin Big Tank - sold for $350,000

Crocker is one of those motorcycling names that has become a legend despite only being made in tiny numbers. According to the auction information, only 72 Crocker V-twins were ever made, over a period of several years, and 1942 was the last year of production. So it’s no surprise that this is an expensive bike, but at $350,000 its sale price was right at the top estimate. 

3. 1911 Flying Merkel Board Tracker - sold for $385,000

Another legendary brand, Flying Merkel made its name in competition and this board tracker is exceptionally original. It would be criminal to restore it, as every chip and oil stain tells a story of its competition history more than a century ago. $385,000 is a lot of money, but the value of this bike is only likely to go in one direction.

2. 1907 Harley-Davidson Strap Tank - sold for $650,000

This Harley was thought, before the auction, to have the potential to reach $1 million, but actually sold for less than its low estimate of $800,000, making ‘just’ $650,000. That’s either a bargain or a ridiculous amount of money, or more likely a bit of both. Mecum reckons it’s the best unrestored ‘strap tank’ Harley in the world.

1. 1915 Cyclone Board Track racer - sold for $775,000

At $775,000 the Cyclone beat its top estimate of $750,000 and the reason is probably because, yes, it’s another bike that was once owned by Steve McQueen. Dating back to the days when riders were regularly killed by splinter injuries on board tracks, this 45bhp machine could top 110mph. Cole bought the bike direct from McQueen’s estate in 1984, so there’s no questioning its heritage. Is it worth more than ¾ million dollars? To some bidders it clearly is.

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