Deciding to splash out on a classic marque should never be taken lightly – especially if that decision could see you forking out hundreds of thousands of pounds on a passion purchase. Here are the top 10 most valuable motorbikes to go under the hammer…
1. 1976 Captain America Harley-Davidson, £836,337
Emblazoned with stars, stripes and shiny chrome, Harley-Davidson’s Captain America, from the 1969 classic film Easy Rider, is every bit the American dream. Although it smashed through every motorcycle auction record, the tale is a little more complex than just one man and his bike. Owner Michael Eisenberg decided to auction the legendary bike in October 2014, and it raised a cool $1.35 million – the highest amount ever paid for a motorbike. But shortly after the sale, the authenticity of the classic was called into question when Texan Gordon Granger claimed that he was in possession of the true Captain America. To-ing and fro-ing ensued, with both parties attempting to prove that they had their hands on the original. Although rumour has it that the sale was nullified, the auction house confirmed it had been finalised, so official records suggest the star-spangled Harley is the most expensive motorcycle ever sold.
2. 1915 Cyclone Board Track Racer, £573,600
Owned by none other than Steve McQueen. Buyers couldn’t wait to get their hands on this rare classic marque, one of just six in existence. Selling for a handsome sum of $852,500 at a Las Vegas auction, the 1915 vintage bike became the highest priced motorbike in existence. That is, until Captain America stole its mantle. With just a 45bhp engine, reaching speeds of 115mph was a massive achievement for a motorcycle of that time.
3. 1907 Harley-Davidson Strap Tank, £481,000
Original Harleys don't come with much more prestige than the Strap Tank – one of the first 100 motorcycles ever made under the Harley-Davidson banner. The bike sold in March 2015 for a hefty $715,000.
4. 1910 Winchester 6 HP, £360,500
Between 1909 and 1911, the Edwin F. Merry Company produced just 200 Winchester 6HPs. More than a century afterwards, this 1910 model is one of the last remaining two in existence. The name Winchester is synonymous with the making of guns, so it comes as no surprise that this sterling example was bought by an anonymous gun collector for $580,000.
5. 1932 Brough Superior 800cc model BS4 project, £331,900
Just 10 of these models were made and only seven survive. This specific bike was ridden by Hubert Chantrey in the MCC Lands End Trial motorcycle race in 1932. Bonhams sold the bike for £331,900 in April 2016.
6. The 1925 Brough Superior SS100, £315,100
This bike was a replica of the motorcycle ridden by record-breaking racer George Brough, during the Alpine Trail speed race in Austria in 1925. In total, Brough won six trophies on his machine, including one for best performance. This model was another Bonhams sale, going under the hammer in London for £315,000 in November 2014.
7. 1951 Vincent White Shadow, £333,518
One of only 15 ever made, this 1951 classic is a specialised upgrade on the Black Shadow, replacing its black crankcases with cool, bare metal. This particular model is in 'Chinese Red' and it’s so rare that it’s believed to be the only one of its kind. Bonhams sold the marque in Vegas in 2016, for a gobsmacking $484,000.
8. 1939 BMW RS 255 Kompressor, £298,000
Something of a Frankenstein of motorcycles, this pricey Kompresser combines a genuine 1939 engine and a 1951 Rennsport 'plunger' frame. It sold at Bonhams in 2013 for $480,000.
9. The 1922 Brough Superior SS80, £291,200
Another marque ridden by the classic brand owner George Brough, “Old Bill” reportedly won 50 races in a row back in the 1920s. H&H Auctions sold the model for £291,000 on October 23, 2012.
10. 1911 Flying Merkel Board Track Racer (US $423,000) £283,000
Hidden in storage for 70 years, this Board Track Racer proved the model wasn't extinct when it showed up. This bike was raced regularly up until WWI, when it’s assumed it was put into safe keeping. Taken out of storage in the 1980s, it only needed new tyres to be good as new, and was an exhibition piece until selling at an auction in Las Vegas. The twin factory racer sold in March 2015 for $423,000.