Mona Shield Payne / Special to the Home News
Friday, Jan. 9, 2009 | 3:56 p.m.
With a daredevil grandfather who used to race motorcycles through walls of fire at fairs back in the '30s, Ray Suiter's love for motorcycles is based in a rich family history.
"I have a pic of him on a 1936 Harley Davidson... that actually looked a lot like that one," he said as he gestured to an antique blue Harley that was being rolled to the auction block Friday at the South Point Events Center.
The Harley was among 200 vintage motorcycles that were scheduled to be auctioned during day two of the three-day MidAmerica's 18th Annual Las Vegas Motorcycle Auction.
Suiter, who used to race old motorcycles and started mechanic school at the age of 14, said he had a bike on the event center floor that would later be up for bid.
His 1979 Yamaha XS 650 Street Tracker was placed up for sale to make his wife happy, he said, but if it did actually sell, he joked that he might just have to buy another.
Any new bikes would be among the 14 or so bikes he already has on display at his office back in Arizona.
"It's all about reliving your past, getting back those memories and stuff," he said.
Colorado resident Dan Chase said while growing up on a horse ranch he traded some livestock to get his first motorcycle at the age of 12.
"Now I have about 35 to 40 bikes, hopefully after today it won't be 41," he said with a laugh as he checked out the worn leather case attached to one old bike.
Unlike many of the hundreds of people who wondered the events floor checking out motorcycles, Chase said he doesn't put his collection on display.
"I play with them and ride them," he said.
As the auctioneer spouted out numbers in rapid succession on the other side of the room, Houston resident Dan Farr wondered the rows of bikes soon to be up for bid.
For him, he said the old bikes are more of an investment.
"I like to see what's here that I'd like to have to hold on to," he said.
While he said he doesn't purchase bikes with the intent of keeping them forever, he admitted he hasn't sold anything in more than 40 years from either his own collection or the collection he inherited from his father, with one exception.
"I have sold one motorcycle, and that was to get married. I had to buy a wedding ring," he said with a laugh.
Among the more unique bikes up for auction were a 1957 Triumph that was still in its original factory shipping crate.
A group crowded around it reading the placard that described how the untouched bike had been discovered in a Canadian military storage area.
A 100 percent original 1917 Excelsior Super-X Twin that had been discovered in a Northern Utah barn also garnered a lot of attention from attendees.
"That's the type of thing I have my eye on," Chase said.
Since the auction's inception in 1991, 90 percent of the 5,600 motorcycles that have gone up for auction have been sold, bringing in more than $45 million in sales.
Prices range from a few hundred to tens of thousands of dollars.
The MidAmerica Motorcycle Auction will run until about 6 p.m. Friday at the South Point Events Center, 9777 Las Vegas Boulevard South. The event resumes at 9 a.m. Saturday. Tickets are $15 per day and are available at the door. The auction will feature 225 motorcycles Jan. 10.
In conjunction with the auction, the Champion Indoor Short Track Motorcycle Races will begin at 7:30 p.m. Jan. 9-10 in the South Point Arena. Tickets are $20 a day. The program is produced by Gene Romero and his West Coast Flat Track Series.
Ashley Livingston can be reached at 990-8925 or [email protected].