Jack Ehret 1951 Vincent Black Lightning smashes world record

The British-made, Australian speed record-setting 1951 Vincent Black Lightening motorcycle has sold for $929,000 – the most valuable motorcycle ever sold at auction

Jack Ehret 1951 Vincent Black Lightning smashes world record

To the sound of riotous applause in the packed ballroom at the Rio Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Bonhams – led by auctioneer Malcolm Barber – now holds the record for both most valuable car and most valuable motorcycle ever to be sold at auction.

Finishing under the hammer for a record-breaking $929,000, the original and seriously rare 1951 Vincent Black Lightning motorcycle was employed by Jack Ehret in 1953, setting a land speed record of 141.5mph.

The new price record, surpassing the $825,500 paid for the ex-Steve McQueen 1915 Cyclone board track racer in March 2015, sits alongside the world record sum of $38.1 million – paid for a Ferrari 250 GTO in August, 2014.

Built by special order and imported new into Australia by Tony McAlpine, the Vincent Black Lightning – number 7305 – remains one of only 30 (although this number is estimated) Black Lightning models ever crafted together by the UK factory in Stevenage.

At the time of its construction, a fellow well-known Vincent nicknamed ‘Gunga Din’ was undergoing surgery in the Hertfordshire factory and upon completion of both, the two bikes were contested on an airfield. It was here that witnesses and engineers described how McAlpine’s motorcycle finished a clear 30 yards ahead, leaving Gunga Din to claim second place. Factory records indicated speeds in excess of 130mph in third gear. For its time, this was blisteringly quick.

However, most important was that the McAlpine-ordered Black Lightning cracked an average speed of 141.5mph under the control of Jack Ehret, smashing the existing Australian speed record. Under the ownership of Ehret, this Vincent also clinched racing victories throughout Australia; fast becoming the pin-up motorbike for speed enthusiasts and mechanics worldwide.

‘Rollie Free and Marty Dickerson, both legends in the Vincent universe, knew of this motorcycle and Ehret’s acclaim,’ says Ben Walker, Bonhams head of motorcycling.

‘After the ‘Bathing Suit Bike’ ridden by Free, the Ehret bike is likely the most important Black Lightning in existence and is one of the world’s most desirable machines.'

Unrestored and in original, running condition, recommissioned by none other than Vincent master Patrick Godet, this hugely important and iconic rare Black Lightning was in Ehret's ownership for nearly 50 years.

Yet, fear not – with such historical prowess and going for such a sum, the motorcycle's well-being and future are safely secured.

More on bikes: is now the time for classic bike collecting?