Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2012 | 2 a.m.
Hundreds of motorcycles and millions of dollars are expected to change hands this week when three collector bike auctions are held in Las Vegas.
The sales are scheduled Thursday through Saturday at South Point, the Rio and the Imperial Palace and will feature vintage bikes, modern machines and motorcycle memorabilia. January bike auctions are suddenly on the rise in Las Vegas, having grown from one to three in the last two years.
Here are a few of the items that will be up for sale as the auctions get under way.
1971 Husqvarna 400
In the vintage motorcycle world, items with a connection to Steve McQueen are like Mickey Mantle memorabilia to baseball fans.
Why? Because the iconic actor was a serious motorcycle enthusiast, to the point he did some of his own riding in movies and built a large collection of bikes.
This one, the headliner of the MidAmerica Auctions sale at the South Point, was pictured in an August 1971 Sports Illustrated cover photo for a story about McQueen’s interest in motocross riding.
Ron Christenson, director of operations for MidAmerica, said the photo touched off a dirt bike craze. “U.S. sales of motocross bikes went up 40 percent in the next six months after that cover came out,” he said.
1915 Harley-Davidson Model 11-F
Meet your great-grandfather’s Harley.
With rudimentary suspension and gas-fired headlights and tallights, the Model 11-F was no cushy road cruiser built for all-day comfort. But it was a gee-whiz machine for its day, with what was then a cutting-edge three-speed transmission and an engine that had undergone more than two dozen refinements for that model year.
Auctioneers say this bike, being sold at the Bonham auction at the Imperial Palace, is particularly valuable because it is in original condition.
Part motorcycle, part bicycle and part Wild West locomotive, this relic was powered by coal-fired steam heat.
Bad idea? Well, consider: The Motorcycle Hall of Fame Museum’s website says the man who invented the thing was killed on one when it went out of control.
But the Roper on the block at Auctions America RM’s sale is being touted as a possible record-breaker.
“The record price paid for a motorcycle is about $500,000,” said Ed chief financial officer and principal partner in Auctions America RM. “This one should reach seven figures. There are only two of them in existence, and the other one is in the Smithsonian.”
2010 Campagna T-Rex
Not all of the machines and memorabilia on the blocks this week will be old. This bike, featured in Auctions America RM’s sale, was featured in Criss Angel’s “Mindfreak” TV show.
Also from Angel’s collection will be a 2006 Harley-Davidson Fat Boy cruiser customized for the magician by the manufacturer, and an Angel-themed chopper built for charity.
Hundreds of motorcycle parts and memorabilia items will be sold as well. Among them are a public relations photo featuring Henry Winkler as “Happy Days” hero Arthur Fonzarelli, and a TV Guide cover featuring Winkler and cast member Ron Howard.