5 Sensational Cycles From Bonhams Summer Sale

Every classic motorcycle tells a tale, whether it’s a hair-brained origin story or volumes from a lifetime of loving use. The best stories and biggest price tags don’t always go hand-in-hand, and we’ve combed the catalog of Bonhams’ upcoming Summer Motorcycle Sale to find the bikes with the most to say.
The online sale starts June 14th at 12:00 BST and runs through the 24th, and while there are scores of titillating bikes, projects and parts, these are the five lots we’ll be watching.

1980 BMW R65
Much of BMW’s illustrious desert racing history was built on the back of the GS, but that’s not to say it all started there, and racers had long been modifying boxers for off-road use before the dual-purpose GS debuted. A product of several skunkworks specialists, this 1980 BMW R65 has been heavily modified and campaigned in notable desert rallies throughout the 1980s.

Very little of the original R65 remains, with the frame gusseted in key areas, the boxer engine punched out to 1,020 cc with a Schek Motorad top end and full Acerbis bodywork. Since I know you’re wondering, the aftermarket fuel tank holds a staggering 43 liters [11.35 gal].
Of course, it’s the massive altitude adjustment that gives this R65 such a striking look, and the massive pogos out front came from White Power (now fittingly abbreviated to WP). The rear swingarm and driveshaft were extended for more travel by Arcueil Motors, and the lightweight spoked wheels are wrapped in Michelin Desert 1 tires.

Originally constructed by Bracken Motorcycle Workshop Ltd, the R65 was campaigned by Jon Watson-Miller through the late 1980s in events like the Pharaohs Rally, the Tunisia Rally, Baha Aragon and the Weston-super-Mare Beach Race.
Sitting for more than 20 years, Bohams reports that Lot 53 is not in running condition, and the engine does not turn over. I can’t imagine those big-bore top-end parts are easy to come by, and as such, the BMW is expected to bring just £2,000 to £3,000 [$2,500 to $3,800]. Even so, this old desert warrior is just cool to look at—there’s just nothing better than ’80s alcohol and tobacco liveries.

1957 Ariel Square Four MkII
Tampering with an investment-grade machine like the Ariel Square Four is ill-advised at best, and fans of the marque will immediately spot the swingarm and rear shocks in place of the original plunger rear end on this ’57 MkII Square Four. Before you cry sacrilege, hear us out, because this one has an interesting story.
Having saddled a Square Four in the past, it was my experience that the performance of the plunger rear suspension was about as antiquated as it looks. The front and rear ends of the bike do things on their own time, and it’s a strange sensation. So it comes as no surprise to hear that Ariel had been experimenting with a swingarm design before their doors closed in 1959.

This Square Four has been in the collection of the well-known British actor Sir David Jason for over 30 years, and somewhere along the way, he undertook a thorough restoration. Sir David stumbled upon an advertisement for Ariel parts, and found the man who posted it to be the son of an original Ariel employee.
As the story goes, this guy’s father had been working on the new swingarm design when Ariel closed its doors in 1959, and the family had kept the jigs. Inspired by the story, Sir David employed the owner to convert his bike to the swingarm design, and found a suitable donor frame to use for the conversion to preserve his numbers-matching chassis.

Looking at the Ariel’s revised side profile, I’m actually quite smitten. Nothing against the plungers, but the swingarm conversion was executed so well that it looks like a factory job. Along with the (predictably) improved performance, the rear of the bike is decluttered significantly, and the design is more fitting for a high-end motorcycle of the day.
Since Sir David’s bike was already a bit of a restomod, he saw it fit to address one of the Ariel’s other shortcomings—braking. The front drum was ditched in favor of a Grimeca 4 leading shoe front brake, and like the rear suspension, the visual effect is massive.
Arguably the bike Ariel should have built, Bonhams estimates Lot 8 will bring between £10,000 to £15,000 [$12,798 to $19,196].

1955 Vincent Black Knight
The Vincent Black Knight is said to be the bike you either love or hate, and I can’t say I’d take it over any other Vincent V-twin. While I can’t totally get behind the awkward plastic aesthetic of the Black Knight, I can certainly appreciate what Vincent was trying to accomplish—even if it did contribute to the marque’s decline.
The legendary Series C V-twins had cemented Vincent’s status as the world’s fastest motorcycle, and predictably, Phil Vincent was looking for new marketing ideas when finalizing the Series D bikes in 1954. A fully weatherproofed version of the Rapide was developed, with glassfibre panels enclosing the mechanicals and shielding the rider from weather and the greasy realities of the day—aptly named the Black Knight.

The idea was revolutionary for the time, and it got people talking, but the chatter did not translate into sales for Vincent. In addition to production delays for the glassfibre panels, Vincent found that the Black Knight and Black Prince models didn’t resonate with their normal clientele. Just 200 enclosed models were sold between 1954 and 1955, and Vincent lost money on every one. The factory would shut its doors for good in December.

Strange circumstances often contribute to rarity in motorcycles, and while the Black Knight isn’t the most desirable Vincent, it’s still a coveted Vincent. Lot 11 is a 1955 model with just two documented owners from new, boasting matching numbers and highly original condition. While it’s somewhat of a relic, it appears to be ‘all there’ and ripe for a sympathetic restoration. Bonhams estimates the bike will sell for £18,000 to £25,000 [$23,039 to $31,998].

2004 Voxan Black Magic
Long before Voxan made the world’s fastest electric motorcycle (with a 283 mph record set in 2021), the company had more worldly aspirations of sporty handling and grunty V-twin goodness. By all reports, Voxan delivered with the 996 cc Black Magic.
Jacques Gardette founded Voxan in 1995 and envisioned a high-end, French-built motorcycle offering sharp handling and soulful, real-world performance. He reached out to all the right people, with Alain Chevallier of French Grand Prix fame designing his chassis and tuning firm Sodemo Moteurs supplying engines. Voxan produced nearly a dozen models through the early 2000s, but could never escape financial troubles, and ultimately ended up in the hands of Monaco-based Venturi and rebranded as a high-performance electric bike firm.

Not unlike the V-twin offerings from Arch, Voxan’s boutique models boasted thrilling real-world performance with high-end craftsmanship and materials. These attributes are certainly evident in the stripped-back Black Magic model, equipped with a 996 cc, 72-degree DOHC V-twin and weighing just over 400 pounds.
Chevallier supplied a sharp aluminum double tube frame with a sporty 58-inch wheelbase, 17-inch alloys on both ends and an adjustable underslung WP rear shock. Raw, and a little rough around the edges, the Black Magic was a barnstormer in the bends, and certainly the visceral experience Gardette intended.

Besides a low odometer readout of 3,726 km, and being the 14th Black Magic off the line, this Voxan was formerly owned by the late grunge icon Chris Cornell. Cornell passed away unexpectedly in 2017, leaving behind a genre-defining music legacy with Soundgarden, Audioslave and Temple of the Dog.
Lot 42 was certainly enough to excite one of the greatest singers of all time (fact, not opinion), and now it could be yours. Bonhams estimates the Black Magic will bring between £7,000 and £10,000 [$9,000 to $13,000].

1981 Benelli 900 Sei
How does a 900 cc, six-cylinder Italian bike with angular ’80s styling sound? The answer is a bit like a Honda. I give you the 1981 Benelli 900 Sei, a surprising combination of something borrowed and something new.
Benelli was facing tough competition in the 1970s, and its small cc offerings were losing ground to more affordable and rugged offerings from Japan. Financial strain brought the company under the umbrella of Alejandro de Tomaso, who dreamed up the pragmatic approach of ‘if you can’t beat them, borrow their intellectual property.’

De Tomaso’s plan was to create a big cc flagship Italian motorcycle to bring buzz back to Benelli, but he needed a powerplant to do it. De Tomaso boldly tasked his engineers with making a direct copy of Honda’s CB500 four-cylinder, and the resulting engines powered the 750 and 900 Sei models. These engines are nearly nut-and-bolt copies of the Honda, with two extra cylinders and subtle changes to the cooling fins!
The plan worked for a while, as Benelli garnered headlines for building the first production bike with a six-cylinder engine, and the angular bodywork by Ghia was a hit. Unfortunately for Benelli, the 750 Sei was quickly outclassed by Honda’s CBX1000, prompting the release of the 900 Sei to stay competitive.
Despite its Italian flair, less than 2,000 900 cc bikes were built, and the last 900 Sei left the factory in 1989. A rare model with larger-than-life origins, the 900 Sei is certainly a conversation piece, and Lot 30 looks to be an exceptional example of the marque. Bonhams estimates the 1981 900 Sei will bring £9,000 to £12,000 [$12,000 to $15,000].
Source: Bonhams


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