The Quail car show is one of many chichi events leading up to the grand Concours d’Elegance at Pebble Beach every August. This year motorcycle buffs will be looking for something special as they mingle on the lawn: a 1954 AJS E95 “Porcupine” motorcycle expected to fetch $750,000 at auction there later that week.
The Porcupine is expected to set a world record because of its singularity, rarity and racing history. British manufacturer AJS developed just four of them during World War II as a way to use forced induction to get more power without having to make a bigger, bulkier bike. Famous racer Les Graham won the 1949 Grand Prix World Championships with the Porcupine–his only major title.
This particular Porcupine–nicknamed for the spiked cooling fins on its head–has been on loan for the past 20 years to the National Motorcycle Museum in England; another won First in Class at the Pebble Beach Concours d’Elegance in 2009, the first year motorcycles were ever admitted.
The last Porcupine to sell was the privateer-raced Tom Arter E95 Porcupine, which brought $258,500 in 2000. The estimate of $750,000 for this particular Porcupine is “quite reasonable,” Bonhams says, because of a significant increase in demand for historical and rare machines at the top of the market. (Word is the current owner is elderly and wants to “simplify his life” by selling the piece.)
A 1915 Cyclone Board Track Racer holds the current motorcycle record with a 2008 sale of $520,000–the Cyclone is a rare bike made by the Joerns Motor Manufacturing Company in St. Paul, Minn., and had been owned by the famous motorcycle racer Shorty Tompkins.