Each and every year for the last 17 years, the Carole Nash Classic Motorcycle Mechanics Show has been held at the Stafford County Showground in the UK. This year’s event was hosted over the 16 – 17 October 2010 weekend. The Show has no lack of entertainment. They often bring in any number of motorcycle industry luminaries and motorcycle racers from past and present; the guest of honor this year was one Eddie Lawson. Also on display are large numbers of classic and vintage motorcycles from numerous riding clubs and even private collections. However, one of the most important attractions for visitors to the show is the Bonhams Auction held on Sunday morning.
The 2010 auction was an overwhelming success – over £1.4 million (US$2.3 million) of items changed hands on that single day. One might think that the economy in England is seeing a real recovery.
One of the more noteworthy machines sold at this event was the 1968 URS motorcycle and sidecar with which the legendary Helmut Fath took to the Sidecar World Championship that year (Hurst Owesle piloted it to win it in 1971). It was initially estimated to go for somewhere between £60,000 and 70,000, but it sold for an astounding £102,700 (~$167,200)! The URS was part of a private collection which also included a 500cc URS/Seeley prototype which was ridden by John Blanchard and Tony Jefferies; it sold for £76,300 (~$124,200), again more than the initial pre-auction estimate.
Among the many other bikes for sale was a 1929 Brough Superior Overhead 680, which was taken by the new owner for £93,900 (~$153,000). The actual MV Agusta 832cc Monza from 1977 that The Motor Cycle magazine rode to a 147mph top speed making it the fastest production motorcycle in the world at the time; it went for a relatively tiny £31,050 (~$50,550), right at the estimate.
The Classic Motorcycle Show landed a large crowd with over 33,000 attendees – a new record. There were demo fleets from Harley-Davidson and Royal Enfield, great stories from Lawson, over 1000 machines on display from an unbelievable number of different marques, an impromptu ‘stunt’ ride by the editor of Classic Dirt Bike magazine (Tim Britton), and an enormous swap-meet-style marketplace. One neat detail is the story of a visitor who purchased a Yamaha FZ1000 which he discovered after the sale was previously owned by British road racer Steve Plater.
The Bonhams Auction added a nice bookend to the weekend and did demonstrate that interest in vintage machinery is still solid even during the worst economy in generations. Maybe it is an increasing interest or a realignment of values, but human psychology may be at the heart of the explanation – after so much chaos in the investment world, actually owning something that has more than just perceived value is a good idea. Preserving these bikes and showing them off to an adoring public – some of whom may get to take one home - is what brings people to the Carole Nash Classic Motorcycles Mechanics Show. The 2010 event succeeded well above all projections and sets up a challenge for the 2011 show…it will be here before you know it!