Exif Picks: Mecum Glendale 2023 Auction

Skoal Bandit Suzuki GSX-R 1100
Big auto auctions are good at a few things, namely presentation and drumming up some serious dream machines. But in the case of the upcoming Mecum Glendale, Arizona, auction (March 28 to April 1), we felt there were a few fantastic bikes that didn’t receive due credit. Either underrepresented, or a bit inaccurate, it was our duty to give these rides their time in the spotlight.

1987 Honda VFR400
1987 Honda VFR400 NC24 If you were a fan of sportbike racing in the late 1980s, you probably knew, and longed for, Honda’s VFR750R RC30. With multiple Sportbike World Championship titles, Grand Prix victories and a lap record at the Nürburgring’s Nordschleife loop, the RC30 had more than proven its mettle, even into the early 1990s. Expensive and built in limited numbers, the RC30 wasn’t the most practical street machine for everyone. Honda had a solution for the motorsport masses, though, in the form of the scaled-down VFR400.

Honda unveiled the NC21 VFR in 1986, powered by a 399 cc, 16-valve V4 built in the spirit of the RC30. The bike was designed primarily for the Japanese market, where the sub-400 cc engine skirted tougher licensing regulations for higher cc bikes. But don’t let that statistic fool you, as the VFR400 has plenty of bite to match its bark.
1987 Honda VFR400
The 90-degree V4 is good for 59 hp at 14,000 rpm (in the NC24 version), and its valvetrain is operated by straight-cut gears that produce a significant whine throughout the rev range. Honda also went to great lengths to incorporate all the 750’s attitude into the VFR400, utilizing similar geometry that placed the rider right over the top of the 17-inch front wheel. Clip-on bars, rearsets and minimal upholstery meant that you rode it like a proper sports bike, and huge dual-discs up front provided confidence in the bends.

Out back, Honda incorporated a single-sided “Pro-Arm” swingarm, making it one of the first companies to do so in a production bike. The rear wheel was affixed with four bolts (sometimes hidden by a plastic cover), and the exhausts were routed high to avoid obstructing the eight-spoke cast wheel. Mecum’s Lot W7 looks to be a very original, rider-quality NC24 VFR with just over 36,000 miles on the clock. This gray-market example is a rare sight in the United States, and its hammer price will certainly outpace your average 400 cc bike of the day.
1978 Harley-Davidson MX250
1978 Harley-Davidson MX250 It’s no stretch to say that Harley-Davidson has characteristically been set in its ways, but that wasn’t always the case. Back in the 1970s, dozens of small cc bikes carried the HD nameplate from the acquisition of Italian Aermacchi, and snowmobiles hit the trails wearing AMF-HD decals. Attempting to cash in on the booming motocross scene, Harley-Davidson poured a hefty investment into an all-out 250 cc motocrosser for 1978, dubbed the MX250.

Like any other two-stroke HD of the era, Aermacchi was tasked with the construction of the MX250, but it proved to be an uphill battle. Initial attempts in 1976 resulted in a clumsy looking bike, with an underpowered engine and a set of modified forks grafted onto the rear swingarm. Harley and Aermacchi returned to the drawing board with motocrosser Rocket Rex Staten on board to improve the program, resulting in the new ’78 MX250.
1978 Harley-Davidson MX250
Looking like a much more serious contender, the new MX utilized a more powerful, 242 cc Aermacchi engine with a 38 mm DellOrto carburetor — good for 32 hp. The previous rear suspension was ditched in favor of more conventional remote reservoir shocks in the rear, and KYB forks boasted 9 inches of travel up front. A lightweight aluminum fuel tank was held on with a leather strap, and the chassis was reinforced throughout.

The all-new Harley-Davidson MX250 was good, but unfortunately not all that good. Your 32 hp allegedly came on like a lightswitch between 7,000 and 9,000 rpm, making it a bit unwieldy, and it was heavier and more expensive than Japan’s competitive 250s. Even with a team of factory-sponsored pros on board, the MX250 failed to perform, and Harley abandoned its motocross dreams (and Aermacchi all together) after 1978. Just 900 MX250s were built for the ’78 model year, and rumor is that many went unsold.

While it wasn’t a win on paper (or on the podium), the MX250 is cool in my book for what it could have been, and its flashy ’70s MX looks. Mecum’s Lot W264 is said to be a ground-up restored example using NOS parts, and is probably one of the nicest out there. Barring any unforeseen issues, this one’s probably worth north of $7,000 today.
1948 Indian Chief
1948 Indian Chief An early Indian Chief is one of those bikes that totally defies brand loyalties. Stunning art deco influence shines through in its flowing bodywork and enveloping fenders, and chrome features abound. But as much as the 1948 Chief exudes American excess, the marque and model were in decline.

Despite numerous attempts at military contracts, Indian emerged from World War II with comparatively little to show for its efforts. Changes in leadership followed, and the Chief was the company’s only offering for a couple years. The Chief was dropped from Indian’s lineup for 1949 in favor of smaller, more affordable offerings, before making a brief comeback from 1950 to 1953.
1948 Indian Chief
Examining a late ’40 Indian Chief from tip to tail, it’s difficult to fathom the company’s financial struggles. Enveloping finders and bodywork outclassed its competition, along with all the chromework, lighting and road-going features you could ask for. Throw a leg over the Chief, and you were met with a large sprung saddle, graceful right-hand tank shift, full floorboards and a girder front end. And until Harley-Davidson unveiled the Panhead in 1948, the Chief’s 74 ci twin was good for the same 40 hp as the Knucklehead, and the Chief boasted a sprung plunger rear end over the HD’s rigid.

Maybe the Chief wasn’t prepared for things to come, as Harley’s ’48 Panhead would adopt telescoping front forks and another 10 hp. But these days the Indian Chief is as cool as it gets, and an instant “in” anywhere. A crown jewel fit for any collection, Mecum’s Lot T12 is a beautifully restored example with a numbers-matching engine and stunning two-tone paintwork.
Skoal Bandit Suzuki GSX-R 1100
1986 Suzuki GSX-R 1100 Skoal Bandit There’s a grin-inducing effect that happens when you apply liquor and tobacco sponsorships to a ’80s speed machine — and that’s no Skoal reference. This 1986 GSX-R 1100 pays tribute to one of the most iconic Suzuki Grand Prix liveries of the era — the Skoal Bandit.

When it comes to two wheels, the Skoal livery is most often associated with the Heron Suzuki team in 1985 and 1986. And while the team didn’t triumph over the other manufacturers in championship standings, the Skoal bandit was worth celebrating, and a limited number of Suzukis left showroom floors graced by the Bandit’s signature green and white. These bikes are very sought after today, commanding prices north of $50,000 in some instances.

The appearance of this 1986 Suzuki GSX-R 1100 was transformed over a two year period into a faithful Bandit tribute you see today, along with tasteful performance mods from Yoshimura, Öhlins and Tokico. Most notable is the livery, hand-painted by Scott Johnson in Skoal team style. This GSX-R 1100 is offered by Mecum as Lot T16, if you can swallow the off-highway use title. [Photos Courtesy of Mecum Auctions, Inc.]
Skoal Bandit Suzuki GSX-R 1100

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