Mecum Auctions, 2020
By Shannon “Dazzlin” Venturo
Hundreds of motorcycles crossed the auction block as Mecum Auctions brought its annual vintage and antique motorcycle auction to South Point Hotel & Casino January 21-26 in Las Vegas, NV. Patrons can always count on Mecum to find a huge variety of motorcycles up for sale, including dirt bikes, cruisers and racing bikes. Motorcycles from as far back as 1900 were on display and up for grabs. About 1,750 of some of the most sought after collectable and rare motorcycles took their place on the stage with all eyes on the prize. While there were indeed so many under one roof, this is a tale of two bikes!
Previously the “Captain America” Harley Panhead Chopper, ridden by Peter Fonda in the 1969 “road movie” Easy Rider, boasted to be “the most expensive motorcycle ever sold at auction,” at a cool 1.3 MILLION dollars. But in all actuality, the sale subsequently fell through. So now Mecum owns the bragging rights to this accomplishment due to the sales of two amazing custom choppers owned by Indian Larry.
Stunt rider and ultimate bike builder, Indian Larry’s 1956 Harley-Davidson “Grease Monkey” sold for $220,000, and his 2004 “Chain of Mystery” sold for $165,000. The gavel dropped on both bikes to one owner. What a collection. Grease Monkey was Indian Larry’s daily rider. This gorgeous chopper was on the cover of Easyriders Magazine’s September 1998 issue, and snowballed into further fame in the television show Motorcycle Mania II. Indian Larry’s name can be found in gold leaf on the tank, which is said to have driven the bidding war even higher. The hand-tooled seat by Paul Cox, caught my eye immediately. The blingy red metal flake and pearly white flame paint job had everyone snapping pictures. Ultimately Indian Larry lost his life in 2004 at age 55, after falling off this motorcycle while performing a stunt he called “the crucifix” pose. He would stand balanced on the seat and stretch his arms out into a “T” pose.
According to Mecum Auctions, “Indian Larry’s ‘Chain of Mystery’ bike is an irreplaceable piece of custom motorcycle history.” It was featured on Jesse James’ “Biker Build-Off” and is one of the finest examples of motorcycle artisan workmanship ever seen. His inspiration was to build a frame entirely from chain links, welded link-by-link by Eddie McGarry. People said it couldn’t be done and would never hold up. But it held up perfectly. The engine, hand engraved and very ornate, is a mix of two favorite Harley-Davidson top ends: a Shovelhead rear and a Panhead front. The bike had never been registered so the winner is really the first owner. The family told me it was just finally the time for them to share the amazing motorcycle with the world. It’s a unique piece of Indian Larry history. His wife Bambi was on stage during the sale of these bikes and it was obvious she had mixed emotions as the bidding was complete and both bikes went home with the same owner. It was nice to see that they pair would stay together, at least for the time being. Both a far cry from his first chopper build which is rumored to have been built by combining his sister’s tricycle with a lawnmower engine. All in all, this auction was truly special. One can only imagine what Mecum will have in the works for next January in Las Vegas