Chasing the Horizon
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Auctions, auctions and more auctions

Posted By Wes Fleming, Thursday, October 27, 2016

I have always been fascinated by auctions. eBay is one thing, but a live auction is an electric event. I'm the type of person that watches the Barrett-Jackson auctions on TV and reads up on what Sotheby's is doing. Remember when Christie's auctioned off 100 of Eric Clapton's guitars, pulling in over $5 million for his Crossroads Foundation? Or the Bonham's auction of 75 more of Clapton's guitars and 55 of his amps in 2011?

It's possible I remember those more than most people because in addition to motorcycles, I'm also interested in guitars. And Eric Clapton.

But I digress.

I love motorcycle auctions for the same reasons many of us scroll through want-ads on the MOA Marketplace or IBMWR - because I'm always excited about that steal of a deal bike, like that R 50/5 I stumbled across for $1,000. Buying at auction seems both exciting and safe - you have to figure somebody's vetted the bikes, unlike when you buy an old rusty chunk off that guy who thinks his barn collapsed in 1972, but he can't quite recall.

BMWs don't figure heavily in the world of motorcycle auctions - yet - so when I come across them at auction, I try to pay attention. BMW has crafted a few collectible bikes over the decades, and there's always some race bike out there waiting to go for top dollar (or euro).

Did you know that the late Steve McQueen owned seven of the top 100 motorcycles ever sold at auction? It's true - several Indians (including a sidecar rig), Brough Superior, Husqvarna and even a Scott Flying Squirrel. He also drove a 1968 Ford Gulf GT40 in the film Le Mans, which at $11 million is the highest-selling movie car in auction history.

Sorry, another digression.

Motorcycles. BMW MOTORCYCLES! The highest-selling (at auction) BMW motorcycle to date went in a Bonhams auction in 2013. An RS 255 Kompressor owned by BMW works rider Walter Zeller sold for $480,000 - seriously, nearly a half-million dollars. The bike sported a 1939 Kompressor engine in a 1951 Rennsport plunger frame and a bunch of other modifications - a really stellar reproduction of an RS255 Kompressor.

    Other high-dollar BMWs
  • 1925 R 37 - $235,400 (Mecum, 2014)
  • 1954 RS 54 - $224,078 (H&H)
  • 1954 Rennsport RS 54 sidecar - 167,800 (Bonhams, 2013)
  • 1924 R 32 - $163,438 (Bonhams, 2009)
  • 1925 R 32 - $139,000 (Bonhams, 2011)
  • 1939 R 51 RS - $130,200 (Bonhams, 2011)
  • 1954 Rennsport RS 54 - $126,000 (Bonhams, 2014)
  • 1970 Rennsport Sidecar (500cc) - approx. $112,700 (Bonhams, 2011)
  • 1956 Rennsport RS 54 - $103,500 (Bonhams, 2014)
  • 1928 R 63 - $101,504 (Bonhams, 2009)

At this point, you can probably understand why I'm looking forward to an RM Sotheby's auction, the Duemila Ruote auction taking place in Milan, Italy at the end of November 2016. They're auctioning over 430 cars, bicycles, boats, bobsleds and items of memorabilia along with the motorcycles.

The motorcycles include a bunch of BMWs, and some really nice ones, too. There's a few nice-looking vintage BMWs, but what caught my eye (because how many R 50s am I really going to be able to afford?) was the more recent bikes - and yes, even some Airheads.

Note: these photos are courtesy of RM Sotheby’s.

The first ones I noticed were a pair of stunning K bikes, a dark and mysterious 1990 model and a stunning red 1989 example:

K bikes get a lot of guff from some circles in the MOA, but DAMN! Those K1s look sweet!

A pair of HP2 bikes also piqued my interest, starting with this 2005 Enduro that may need a new rear shock

and followed by this 2008 Sport

There's this sweet-looking 2004 R 1100 S Boxer Cup Replica

And yes, there's even some vintage bikes, such as this cool looking R 75 with its Steib sidecar, leather saddlebags and dual ammo cases

Not to mention an R 69 S

It would have been nice for the website to list the years of those last two bikes, but what can you do. I sent them an email, but haven't heard back yet. They probably know I'm not a serious bidder.

They have a good number of other BMWs in this auction as well, including (of course) a bunch of GS bikes: '84 R 80 GS (which we're still hoping to see a tribute to in the R nineT line), '96 R 80 GS Basic, '89 R 100 GS Paris Dakar (best looking GS BMW ever made!). There's a sweet 1975 R 90 S in the orange fade paint scheme and some vintage bikes, too (R 50, R 51/3, R 60), and some airheads. I'm not sure how an '05 R 1150 GS Adventure made its way into a big international auction, but they've got one of those, too.

If you're interested in learning more about the Duemila Ruote auction, check out these two websites: where the auction is being held (Fiera Milano) and the auction broker (RM Sotheby's).

And don't forget to let me know if you pick up a bike at a good price!

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