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Resource Guide
Auction Central
By Larry Edsall
Back to Community

Oldest American motorcycle brings $155K at auction
By Larry Edsall

Larry Edsall at A 1903 Indian, a bike believed to be the oldest American-made motorcycle, sold for $155,000 as motorcycles, cars, railway accessories and other items from the estate of Charlie Adler Jr., were disbursed at a Wolfe Industrial Auctions event in Frederick, Maryland.

"This motorcycle predates the Harley -- the bike most Americans associate with homegrown motorcycles," said Steve Rinker, an Indian motorcycle restoration specialist from Romney, West Virginia. "The handful of 1902 Indian models that were built were deconstructed, their parts used to build the 1.75-horsepower 1903 models. And as far as we know, this is the only unrestored 1903 still in existence."

"What makes this bike particularly intriguing is that it's never been restored. Except for a few nuts and bolts used for early repairs, this bike is all original," added Josh Ruby, the Wolfe auctioneer. "And I do mean 'bike.' This is one of the most primitive motorized vehicles you'll ever see -- a real peek into what innovation looked like over a hundred years ago."

For 30 years, the 1903 Indian hang on a dentist's wall, and then was stored -- first in a garage and later in a basement. The bike has been owned by Adler's family since the 1950s.

Also on the block at the auction were several pre-1930 Indians and Harleys.

Wolf Industrial Auctions, based in Frederick, Maryland, specializes in the sale of heavy construction equipment.

McQueen's Husqvarna set for Greystone Mansion

Speaking of motorcycles, a 1970 Husqvarna 400 Cross formerly owned by Steve McQueen will move from the San Diego Auto Museum to the grounds of the Greystone Mansion concours d'elegance May 6 in Beverly Hills, Calif.

The bike is owned by Rob Phillips, who reports that during restoration, his team found an uncirculated 1960 Lincoln head penny in a plastic case tucked into the cavity between the engine and frame. Phillips doesn't know why, although McQueen's son, Cad, was born that year.

Concours calendar getting busy

Speaking of concours, the annual Keels & Wheels concours is scheduled May 5-6 at the Lakewood Yacht Club at Seabrook, Texas. The event is billed as the world's largest gathering of classic cars and vintage wooden boats.

Also on the calendar, for May 18-20, is the Marin Sonoma concours north of the Golden Gate Bridge, where the field will include the 1938 Talbot-Lago T150C SS "Goutte d'Eau" and the first 1947 Cisitalia 202 cabriolet, a car formerly owned by Juan and Eva Peron and currently part of the collection of the Academy of Art University in San Francisco. Featured classes at the event include French coachbuilders, Italian designers, Cords, closed-wheel sports racers, pre-1975 British motorcycles, military vehicles and wooden boats.

Larry Edsall at Bulgari's Buick best-in-show at Charlotte

A 1961 Buick Electra 225 convertible owned by Nicola Bulgari, a prominent car collector and grandson of the founder of the BVLGARI jewelry company, was awarded best-in-show honors at the annual Food Lion AutoFair at Charlotte Motor Speedway. Nicola Bulgari, an Italian who lives in the United States, collects American cars and has some 250 cars, many of them Buicks, Pontiacs, Oldsmobiles and Cadillacs.

"Growing up as a boy in Rome, Italy, he dreamt of and loved American cars – Cadillac, Buick, Pontiac," said Keith Flickinger, curator of Bulgari's collection. "As he was growing up, he just had an infatuation with these cars.

"So here you have this Italian, wealthy man, could have anything in the world – every Bugatti, Maserati, Gullwing, Alfa Romeo 2.9, and he didn't want any of them – didn't even want to look at them. He fell in love with Buick, Cadillac and really GM, where his real heart and soul is, just because of the elegance and the style.

"It's beyond a passion anymore. It's an obsession," said Flickinger. "Mr. Bulgari has been in love with Buicks since he was nine years old. Since that time, time he's always wanted a '61 – it had to be '61 – Electra 225... It's one of his favorites."

Bulgari is particularly fond of how the rear quarter panel on the Electra flows into the taillights so seamlessly it almost appears the car has no rear bumper, Flickinger said. But, for Bulgari, it's not enough that his cars look good. They have to drive well, too.

"When we restore a car, everything has to be redone – every screw, every nut, every washer. Not only for the case of it looking great, but Mr. Bulgari loves driving his cars. That's what cars are made for," Flickinger said.

The AutoFair also awards runner-up prizes. First runner-up was a 1968 Toyota Supra turbo and second-runner-up was a 1973 AMC Javelin.

80-percent sell-through for Mecum at Houston

Mecum Auctions had an 80-percent sell-through rate and sales totaling more than $18.5-million at its two-day event in The Reliant Center in Houston.

"There has always been a perception that no collector car auction company has ever been able to have a successful auction in Houston," said Dana Mecum. "I am happy to report that Mecum certainly made it happen in Houston. We certainly look forward to coming back to Houston in 2013."

The top sale was $177,500 for a 2010 Ferrari California Spyder. A 1931 Cadillac V12 roadster brought $165,000 and a 2006 Hummer H1 Alpha garnered $165,000. The next five best sales were all Chevrolet Corvettes: $139,000 for a '67 LS6 resto-mod, $137,500 for a '67 427 convertible, $132,500 for a '63 split-window coupe, $130 for a '66 427 coupe and $1119,000 for a '67 427 convertible.

The auction included a special Mecum Challenge scavenger hunt for Houston area school boys and girls in an effort to help boost their interest in science, technology engineering and math.

Collector Car Appreciation Day is July 13

The U.S. Senate-supported national Collector Car Appreciation Day for 2012 will be Friday, July 13. SEMA's SEMA Action Network (SAN) has been the driving force behind what is an effort to stage classic car shows across the country on the same day. This will be the third year Collector Car Appreciation Day will be celebrated.

Local clubs staging shows that day are asked to contact SAN director Colby Martin at for help in promoting their events.

Click here for event calendar.


Click here for more articles by Larry Edsall.

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