The auction world is a finicky beast, with a wide swath of factors all contributing to the final sale—or no sale—price of a vehicle at auction. Connection to a celebrity can skyrocket a vehicle’s value, and in this case, a Harley-Davidson with ties to The Wild One brought big bucks, but was still a drop from its last sale.
The motorcycle here is a 1970 Harley-Davidson FLH Electra-Glide, and the documentation that accompanies the bike ties its ownership to Marlon Brando. Brando’s acting career found him as lead in numerous films, and he was nominated eight times for an Academy Award for best actor (which he won twice), which certainly helped cement a reputation as one of the greatest movie actors of all time.
Before his time on stage and screen, though, Brando was known to ride motorcycles around New York City. Even after gaining notoriety and fame he continued to ride, shifting from the city to wandering the deserts of the West Coast.
This 1970 FLH Electra-Glide was purchased by Brando on April 8th, 1970, according to the ownership transfer documents included with the sale. His actual length of ownership is unknown, but the shovelhead-powered bike has covered just 13,859 miles from new. Interestingly, the last sale of the bike was back in 2015 and the odometer showed the same reading.
The sale price back in 2015 was $256,000, making it not surprising that the owner appears to have chosen not to ride the bike. It sold again last week and the price tells me that maybe they should have taken it for a ride or two, if just to enjoy the thrum of the V-twin engine, as the final price was $179,200. This sale price almost triples the low estimate made by Julien’s Auctions.
“Against the $60k low estimate, $179,200 looks like a big win. Against the previous sale of $256k with an estimate of $200k-$400k, it looks like a big loss,” said analyst James Hewitt. “Either way, this is a big price for a bike without strong movie appearance connections nor is it a very collectible bike. One of McQueen's Huskies from On Any Sunday, one of the most iconic bikes ridden by one of the most iconic actors in the most iconic motorcycle film, sold for $230,500 and his 1938 Triumph Speed Twin, a very desirable bike, sold for $175,500.”
Not everything is an investment, but considering current valuation trends show a #1-condition FLH Electra-Glide topping out at $15,000, at least the last two buyers seem to think there is something extra special about this particular bike. There’s nothing wrong with that, but let’s hope they bid with their heart and not an investor’s mind.