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World’s Oldest Motorcycle Sold

Bonhams has just sold what is claimed to be the oldest motorcycle in the world, a Hildebrand & Wolfmuller which first saw the light of day in 1894. Part of an impressive collection owned by the late Peter and Ulrike Buhner from Germany, it sold for Euro 195,500 euros including buyer’s premium (about £175,000).

The Hildebrand was the first motorcycle to enter series production, a 1488cc parallel-twin which could hit speeds approaching 30mph. It also features a bicycle-style step-through frame, ‘spoon’ type brakes (with metal pads acting directly on the wheel) and a rear mudguard which doubles as water tank. Rubber straps fitted either side of the bike were used to return the engine to TDC, ready for starting. This particular example of an H&W is reputed to be the oldest one in existence.

As for the price, it did better than expected – Bonhams forecast the final bid at 110,000-170,000 euros – but perhaps the real surprise, given its historic significance, was that the world’s oldest motorcycle wasn’t worth more. In 2020 Bonhams sold a Brough Superior SS100 (admitted quicker and better braked than the Hildebrand) for £276,000.



For Jim Freeman, Chair of the BMF, it made an interesting point about the relative value of machines from different eras. “Certainly does, but I suspect its mostly about the associations. The Hildebrand & Wolfmuller’s fascinating. The Brough has that performance aspect, but more than that its got all those other things going on, like TE Lawrence, Brooklands and so on. At the end of the day, there’s no real logic to collectible value. It’s like the art market. ”

Written by Peter Henshaw

All images courtesy of Bonhams