New world sales record set at motorcycle auction


The nearly $1 million sale of a rare Vincent Black Lightning has set a new record for the highest price ever paid for a single motorcycle at a public auction.

Going under the gavel at $929,000 at a Bonhams auction held at the Rio Hotel and Casino, the unrestored Vincent bested the previous sales record set in 2015 when a 1915 Cyclone, once owned by the actor-rider Steve McQueen, went for $775,000.

The historically significant 1951 Black Lightning race bike is one of only 30 similar models built by Vincent in Stevenage, England. After leaving the factory, the special order Vincent was exported to Australia, where under the ownership of racer Jack Ehret it would go on to set that country’s land speed record.


The bike’s racing history, combined with the rarity of the model and its unrestored condition, contributed to the record-setting sales price.

“The sale was a trifecta — an original, storied, Lightning — which is a magic combination,” said motorcycle historian Paul D’Orleans, who provides commentary for the Bonhams event. “The sale proves the value of an original-paint competition bike loaded with history.”

The Bonhams auction was one of two taking place this week in Las Vegas. The larger Mecum Las Vegas Motorcycle Auction, which will see more than 1,700 motorcycles offered, has also seen brisk business.

Mecum representatives said more than 90% of motorcycles offered for sale were changing hands, with only a small percentage being held back because they did not reach reserve prices set by the seller. That auction concludes Saturday.

Bonhams, participating in its eighth consecutive Las Vegas January auction, did not include buyer’s or seller’s fees in the $929,000 total. Those could push the final price of the transaction over $1 million.