Radical Alt Fuel Motorcycle up for Auction

November 2 2011

The inaugural Las Vegas Premier Motorcycle Auction, which will be held on January 12, 2012, will showcase a radical, alternative fuel motorcycle as part of the over 400 collectible bikes that will be open to bidding.

Event organizers Auctions America anticipate that the special motorcycle, an 1894 Roper Steam Motorcycle, will set a new record for a motorcycle sold at auction. The current world record, which was set in 2008, is held by a 1915 Cyclone Board Track Racer that sold for $520,000 USD.

At 117 years of age, the steam-powered Roper is one of the oldest motorcycles in the world. It was the second motorcycle of a two motorcycle production run manufactured by Sylvester Roper, a Roxbury, Massachusetts, inventor and one of America’s first auto manufacturers. The alternative fuel machine was built on the frame of a Columbia bicycle and featured such revolutionary components as a compact rectangular boiler, and a small steam engine. Sylvester Roper gave the machine a familiar shape by installing a water tank above the boiler, and a smoke vent that protruded toward the rear of the bike like a howitzer-sized exhaust can. He also had the foresight to locate all of the bike’s controls on the handlebar, and since his design lacks pedals, it’s complies with the classic definition of a motorcycle.

Auctions America claims that the Roper Steam Motorcycle comes with a remarkable provenance, which includes a known and unbroken history from the day it was built. The steampunk machine was apparently used on a regular basis by Sylvester Roper back in the day, and even puffed its way to a speed record of 40 mph for the measured mile in May 1896. Following Roper’s death in 1896, the motorcycle was sold by an heir to a Long Island museum. Over the years that followed, the Roper passed through several other museums and the hands of two private collectors. Its current owner obtained the machine in 1996; since then it has seldom left his sight, but was recently on display at the Motorcycle Hall of Fame in Pickerington, Ohio, to help celebrate the induction of Sylvester Hayward Roper as America’s first motorcyclist.

The only other Roper, number one off the assembly line, is part of a long-term display at the Smithsonian Institution.

Some of the other notable and extremely rare machines that will come under the hammer during the upcoming auction include: an early, original-paint 1902 ‘The Whitley of Coventry’ – the only known example of this bike in existence; a 1911 Wagner Single; a fully-restored 1917 Henderson Four-Cylinder Board Track Racer; and an award-winning 1936 Harley-Davidson LE Knucklehead.

The auction will also feature several motorcycle-related seminars, including a presentation by Buzz Walneck, founder of Walneck’s Classic Cycle Trader. Complete auction details, including a list of the motorcycles that will be up for sale, can be found at www.auctionsamerica.com or by calling 877-906-2437.

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