Gearhead heaven: Las Vegas motorcycle auction offers 600-plus bikes

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Ric Anderson / Las Vegas Sun staff

Bidding in the Mecum Las Vegas Motorcycle Auction is scheduled to get underway Friday, June 2, 2017, at the South Point Exhibit Hall.

Fri, Jun 2, 2017 (2 a.m.)

With wheels about as big around as a soccer ball and a top speed that wouldn’t get you ticketed on most Las Vegas streets, the 1974 Honda Trail 70 up for bids in the Mecum Las Vegas Motorcycle Auction might not seem nearly as impressive as the custom chopper sitting two bikes away.

But take a closer look with a trained eye, like Rick Doughty’s, and the little Trail 70 more than holds its own with its flame-painted neighbor.

“There were a couple of guys looking at it, and one told the other he thought it would go for about $3,000,” said Doughty, who’s been buying and restoring bikes for 30 years. “I said, ‘Look at the odometer.’ It has two miles on it. To find a machine that’s been preserved so well over so many years is remarkable.”

Doughty estimated that the Trail 70, one of more than 600 bikes on the block in the auction, would sell for $5,000 or more. Not bad for a bike that sold for about $700 new, according to Doughty.

Doughty is among several hundred buyers expected to turn out for the two-day auction, which begins today at South Point’s Exhibit Hall.

They’ll be bidding on bikes ranging from antiques from the early 1900s to powerful modern machines like the stripped-down, bare-steel 2010 Confederate P120 Combat Fighter, which looks like a Terminator robot on wheels.

The bikes in between show the progression of motorcycle design. There are 1910s Harley-Davidsons and Indians that look more like bicycles with engines than contemporary motorcycles, 1930s and 1940s street cruisers with art deco-style flared fenders, a large number of 1960s and 1970s dirt bikes and modern sport bikes and street cruisers.

Mecum’s last Las Vegas auction, held in January, yielded more than $13 million in sales, with 868 of the 949 bikes on the block being sold.

Doughty, the owner of Vintage Iron motorcycle restorations in Yorba Linda, Calif., said that he expected this week’s bidding to be brisk. He was among buyers who turned out for a preview Thursday.

“Like everything, the (motorcycle collector and restoration) market dropped off in 2008, but it’s been coming back up ever since,” he said. “I’d say we’re above the pre-recession level now.”

The top seller in January was a 1912 Henderson Four that sold for $490,000. This week’s featured items include a dirt bike once owned by actor Charles Bronson, a sidecar-equipped 1937 Harley-Davidson and a rare 1971 Honda cafe racer.

Doors open at 8 a.m., with auctioning scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. Tickets are $30.

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