Record price expected for 117-year-old steam motorcycle

James Raia

A historic 1894 Roper Steam Motorcycle is expected to establish a new world record for a motorcycle sold at auction when more than 400 motorcycles are offered Jan. 12-14 at Auctions America in RM’s debut at the Rio All-Suite Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas.

The second of only two steam-powered motorcycles built by Sylvester Roper of Roxbury, Massachusetts, arguably one of America’s first auto manufacturers, the 117-year-old motorcycle is regarded as one of the world’s oldest, predating early examples produced by Orient, Indian and Harley-Davidson.

The current world record for a motorcycle sold at auction is held by a 1915 Cyclone Board Track Racer OHC, which sold for $520,000 USD in 2008.

Based on the frame of a Columbia bicycle, its revolutionary design features a compact rectangular boiler, burner and grate, and a small steam engine on the right side. A water tank was located directly over the boiler, from which a smoke vent exited at a rakish angle. All controls were located on the handlebars. In keeping with the true definition of a motorcycle, the Roper was completed without pedals.
In addition to its pioneering design, the Roper Steam Motorcycle boasts a remarkable provenance from 1894, including a known, unbroken history from new. Regularly used by Roper, it averaged a record speed of 40 miles per hour on the Dorchester Road in Boston for a measured mile in May 1896.
For full event details on Auctions America by RM’s Las Vegas Premier Motorcycle Auction, or to view a frequently updated list of entries, please visit:
Photo by Paul Eddy/courtesy Auctions America by RM.

Article Last Updated: October 28, 2011.

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