Can you imagine squeezing behind the fairing of this 1969 Benelli 250/4 as its engine screamed towards 16,000rpm and 150mph? For about $11,000 you could do just that; this Benelli is just one part of the latest collection of important vintage and collector’s motorcycle to be auctioned by Webb’s of New Zealand. Below you’ll find details and high-resolution images of eight of our favorite bikes from this collection, as well as the complete catalog.
Note: 1 New Zealand Dollar equals .73 American Dollars. Prices are NZD.
1953 Puch EMC 125
$8,000 – $16,000
The motorcycle arm of the Austrian company Steyr-Daimler-Puch began with Puch, which introduced its first motorcycle in the early 1900s, and then amalgamated with Daimler in 1928 and Steyr in 1934. While Puch also built cars, commercial vehicles and railway locomotives in its early years, these days the firm is best remembered for its pioneering ‘split-single’ two-stroke motorcycles, the first of which was developed in the 1920s. It was this design that positioned Puch as innovative and, at times, evangelistic with respect to the potential power and glory of the two-stroke configuration.
The other component to this story is a man named Joseph Ehrlich, a gifted engineer who migrated to Britain from Vienna to escape the Nazis in 1937 and founded EMC – Ehrlich Motorcycle Company – in 1946. He, too, was a dedicated two-stroke believer who quickly gained a reputation for putting together unlikely and well-fettled two-stroke machines. Launched in 1947 and utilising the somewhat exotic split-single layout, EMC’s first machine was not accepted by the conservatively inclined motorcycling public. Nevertheless, Ehrlich was soon involved in racing, with an EMC winning the 250 race at the 1947 Hutchinson 100 in Les Archer’s hands.
For another six years, EMC continued to produce a small but extremely interesting range of small-capacity highly refined race bikes which attracted the interest of some of the world’s best riders of the day, including John Surtees, Sammy Millar and Mike Hailwood.
This particular example was manufactured in 1953, the final year that Joseph Ehrlich and EMC were solely dedicated to the production of ultra-fast lightweight motorcycles. It was acquired in 1954 by a Christchurch-based speedway engineering company called Uniworld. The bike was first raced around the Bromley cemetery circuit (Christchurch) and then, in 1954, it attained the New Zealand land speed record in its class. Legend has it that the record was achieved with a slipped clutch!
To hear this machine is something else – winding out to 12,000rpm, the yowl is like no other. It would be remiss also not to comment of the overall look of the machine: it is, without doubt, one of the most unlikely and successful designs to be offered in recent years. The ambition of the bike is without question – minimal weight and maximum velocity . However, everything else about the bike in some way challenged the norm of the day – the aesthetics are at once loose and highly spacious from one angle, then pinned and viciously refined from another. The philosophy of ensuring maximum power within the lightest configuration is achieved at the same time as delivering all that is required from a well-fettled race breed. There are few if any reference points for Ehrlich’s highly refined and unique machine. Joseph Ehrlich went on to work and consult for a range of race factories for another 25 years, achieving significant success. From 1981, his 250cc EMC motorcycles won four Junior TTs at the Isle of Man, and one of them was the first 250cc machine to break the 110mph lap record. This particular Ehrlich built machine is a rare jewel indeed.
1929 Scott Flying Squirrel 600
$11,000 – $14,000
THE PINK SMOKER
It was Alfred Angus Scott, one of the great innovators of early motorcycling history, who patented the first form of caliper brakes (1897), a fully triangulated frame, rotary induction valves, unit construction, the first motorcycle kick-start and much more. In short, Mr Scott was prolifically innovative when it came to motorcycle advancement. What also made him a true champion was his headstrong dislike for four-stroke side-valve technology at a time when there was really nothing else; this placed him on the edge of decent society during the early 1900s. However, what he built were fast and light two-strokes which ensured him victory in the Senior TT in 1912 and 1913, much to the chagrin of the rest of the (four-stroke-obsessed) industry.
Up until Ernst Degner invented the disc valve in the 1950s, the Squirrel in many ways encapsulated all that is worth knowing about two-stroke technology. With simplicity at the fore, it was not until 1926 that the legendary Squirrel gained a third gear. It was in this 600cc configuration that Scott succeeded at the 1929 Isle of Man. Unfortunately, Alfred Angus Scott was not there to see the +90mph two-stroke take the four-strokes as he died about a year earlier on a potholing trip (a recreational pastime of exploring wild cave systems that the Yorkshireman apparently enjoyed).
1947 Indian Chief
THE BEAUTIFUL AND THE DAMMED
If ever there were a machine that captured the industrial design sensibilities of the roaring twenties it was, without a doubt, the Indian Chief. Designed with the throttle in the left-hand side of the machine to allow the police to brandish their pistols in the comic pursuit of all manner of bootleggers and slapper crooks, the Indian Chief was and remains the classic art deco machine of the 20th century. Inspired at a time when youth culture was ‘the lost generation’ and F. Scott Fitzgerald was prolifically writing his most enduring novels such as This Side of Paradise, The Beautiful and Damned and The Great Gatsby, the Chief was somehow able to sit on both sides of the law and win.
The Indian Chief, designed by Charles B Franklin, in some ways reflects the excesses of this success. However, the true mark of success in any piece of machinery is endurance and endure the Chief did, remaining in production for over 30 years. Throughout that time, the machine enjoyed numerous development improvements including the pioneering adoption of front brakes in 1928 and no less than 34 colour options thanks to the factory’s connection with E Paul Du Pont who bought the company in 1930. In 1940, the Chief was fitted with the large skirted fenders which have become the firm’s trademark; they also gained sprung frames that were superior to those of Harley-Davidson. The 1947 Chief is a handsome and comfortable machine. The machine is production year correct.
1952 Manx Norton 350 long stroke
$45,000 – $55,000
With a history stretching back almost to the beginning of motorcycling history itself, the Norton single is without doubt one of the greatest over-the-counter production racers ever produced – The Manx is the epitome of the British racing single. These extremely ‘cammy’ Norton’s dominated road racing at a Grand Prix level until they were finally eclipsed by the Italian and Japanese multi-cylinders. Even then, both factory and privately entered Manx models put up some tremendous performances often against heroic odds to win countless races well into the sixties. Mechanically, the Manx was immensely strong and, because of this, it earned a unique place as the privateer’s preference: a machine on which you could represent your Nation and heroically campaign the Grand Prix.
This 1952 350 was originally owned and fettled by famous racer tuner and Manx maestro Ray Petty. Its subsequent life saw it travel to Australia where it was campaigned at a National level. It has recently received a full mechanical rebuild using nothing but the best components available. It is currently ready for final construction with all required material to complete the machine. Note: The last Ray Petty Manx to be offered on the open market (2006, UK) fetched a world record price (approx. $90,000).
$5,000 – $10,000
The DOT company was founded in 1902 by pioneer racing motorcyclist Harry Reed who by 1906 had built a motorcycle which he rode to claim the World Championship for the Flying Kilometre at Blackpool. Reed went on to win the twin cylinder class in the 1908 TT on a brutal 680cc Peugeot powered machine. But the hey day for Dot were the 1920’s when they were building fast agile low capacity machines with Bradshaw motors and large powerful beasts with high performance 986cc JAP’s which secured many other competition successes until motorcycle production ceased temporarily in the early 1930’s.
Under the new ownership of Burnard Scott Wade and on the back of the commercial success of 3-wheel cycle and motor delivery trucks which he designed, DOT went back into motorcycle production after WWII. Again DOT tasted racing glory by winning the Manufacturer’s Team Prize in the 1951 Ultra-Lightweight TT. But it was DOT’s ability to develop some of the most interesting purpose built dirt bikes of the day that rest in most people’s mind. There something particularly handsome and squared jawed about the DOT that is specifically English. Ridden aggressively these machines consistently punched above their weight beating machines twice their size from major marquee such as BSA matchless and Triumph. It was DOT’s early design philosophies that you see in this model that lead to lighter more maneuverable competition machines of today. This fine example also offers a rare period correct after market alloy cylinder head and trick ignition. The other unique aspect of this machine is the exhaust which was known as the “bluely” as it quite often set the dry grass field’s on fire because of its radically short open profile. The note of this machine is also extraordinary for its period. DOT effectively ceased production in 1965.
1964 Greeves MX1 Challenger Desert Racer
$5,000 – $10,000
Greeves Motorcycles began as a manufacturer of three-wheeled cars for the disabled but is better known for the humane work it carried out for the dirt bike enthusiasts of the early 1950s. Its first dedicated trial bikes were produced in 1954, both powered by two-stroke Villiers 200cc engines. From the very outset, Greeves’ machines were easily identified by two unique Greeves features: the leading link front fork and the cast aluminium ‘down beam’ which can be seen here. The MX1 challenger is significant for a number of reasons but primarily for the all-Greeves engine. Prior to this model, Greeves purchased complete engines from other manufacturers (mostly Villiers) and then extensively modified them (stripping and replacing just about everything other than the cases). Starting with the MX1, Greeves cast its own cases in its foundry and assembled its own complete engines. The cases were so strong that they were used as stressed members. Distinctive and, again, uniquely English, Greeves achieved a high level of competitive success prior to the onslaught of Japanese domination in every class of competitive motorcycle racing.
1969 Benelli 250/4 Genuine Replica
$15,000 – $25,000
THE SCREAM OF THE WILD
Benelli is the only factory to have been established by a woman, Teresa Benelli, who was widowed in 1911. Teresa invested all of the family capital into the business in the hope that it would offer stable work for her six sons: Giuseppe, Giovanni, Francesco, Filippo, Domenico and Antonio. By 1913, this matriarchal vision delivered Benelli’s first stand-alone design – a single-cylinder 75cc strap-on. By the 1930s, Benelli’s machines were fast and powerful, securing the world speed record in 1936 in the 250cc class. Benelli won its first world title with the 250 single-cylinder, two-shaft model in 1950. It would be another 29 years, hard fought, before Benelli would find itself back on centre podium and it was this design that took them there. Piloted by Australian Kel Carruthers, the wild (50hp at 16,000rpm + 150mph) 250cc four-cylinder race machine marks a pinnacle in Benelli’s ongoing history. This example was meticulously rebuilt from all original Benelli components.
1974 Norton John Player Special 850 1 of 250 Only
$25,000 – $35,000
No other British marquee had the ability to hound success on the racetrack as Norton did. From the 1920s’ CS1 to the 1950s’ Manx, Norton’s ability to convert racetrack success into sales was well recognised. Even during the darkest days of British motorcycling, Norton was determined to snatch victory from the rising tide of Japanese domination. And so it was, at the 1973 Isle of Man, that Mr Peter Williams archived the fastest lap ever recorded by a 750cc around the infamous and much-loved 37¾ mile circuit. In recognition of this achievement, Norton produced approximately 240 John Player Special café racers, one of which you see here. Named after the English tobacco company that backed the team and many other great motor-racing talents, the prototype offered a dramatic three-quarter Avon fibreglass fairing that swept towards the high-backed monoposto seat: a faithful nod to the racer save for the two bug-eyed 6-inch lamps. Powered by the then-new 850cc motor, this machine represents a time when the British were still valiantly fighting off their inevitable demise with machines that required the very best pilots to compete. Not quite a race bike but more than a sports bike, the Norton JPS 850 illustrates a classic British twin at the apex of its development, with handling characteristics and power delivery that were competing directly with BMW’s famed R90S. This particular example (one of only 240) is in complete, original condition, right down to the factory-correct tyres.
All these bikes and more are available at Webb’s, who’d be happy to ship stateside. The auction takes place on Oct 5 and online bidding is available.