A remarkable ‘once in a generation’ collection of important pioneer and collector motorcycles, motor cars and related automobilia, built up over decades by an enthusiast collector couple, is to be offered at the Bonhams Grandes Marques à Paris Sale, in the French capital on 1 February 2023.
More than 50 early motorcycles and circa 20 motor vehicles to include early motor cars, commercial vehicles, tractors and some farm machinery from the late 19th and early 20th centuries, collected over four decades by the late German couple, Peter and Ulrike Bühner of Hagen, will be offered in Paris, with many of the lots appearing for the first time at auction.
The collection started in the 1980s with a 1950s Wanderer motorcycle, similar to one Peter had owned in the 1960s, and grew to encompass the finest machines of the Pioneer and Vintage eras, representing marques from BMW to Vincent. The €1.6 million Dr. Peter and Ulrike Bühner Collection of Important Pioneer and Collectors’ Motorcycles and Motor Cars is headlined by a Hildebrand und Wolfmüller, the world’s oldest serial production motorcycle.
1894 Hildebrand und Wolfmüller, estimate €110,000-170,000
1894 Hildebrand und Wolfmüller, estimate €110,000-170,000
A completely original example of a Hildebrand & Wolfmüller, the first powered two-wheeler to enter series production and the first such device to which the name ‘motorcycle’ (motorrad in German) was ever applied.
Powered by a water-cooled, four-stroke parallel twin engine displacing 1,488cc – until relatively recently the largest power unit ever fitted to a motorcycle – the motorcycle was capable of speeds approaching 30mph.
This is reputedly the earliest numbered example in existence.c.1924 BMW 493cc R32, estimate €90,000-120,000
Launched at the 1923 Paris Show, the R32 was the first motorcycle to be sold as a BMW, featuring a ‘flat twin’ layout for its 494cc engine which would be forever associated with the marque. Superbly finished and produced, the R32 was an immediate success, selling over 3,000 units over three years.
This R32, featuring its original supplier’s plate, offers an ideal opportunity for an enthusiast to celebrate the centenary of BMW Motorcycles in 2023.
c.1925 MARS ‘Weiße Mars estimate €90,000-110,000
Having begun motorcycle manufacturing in 1903, the German firm Mars built the futuristic ‘White Mars’ (Mars die Weisse) in 1921, designed by engineer Claus Franzenburg and fitted with a 986cc Maybach boxer twin in a box section pressed steel frame. A true work of art finished to a very high standard, the motorcycle was priced accordingly.
1898 Cudell De Dion Tricycle with ‘Lady’s Attachment’ Trailer, estimate €70,000-100,000
1898 Cudell De Dion Tricycle with ‘Lady’s Attachment’ Trailer, estimate €70,000- 100,000
One of the earliest forms of motor transport, the rare Veteran-era tricycle offered here was built by Cudell & Co Motorenfahrzeug-Fabrik of Aachen, Germany to a licensed De Dion Bouton design. Believed to be one of only seven in existence, the machine features a ‘ladies attachment’: a wicker trailer capable of accommodating a single passenger.
1912 FN Four, estimate €28,000-38,000
The World’s first production inline-4-cylinder motorcycle, produced by the Belgian arms turned motorcycle manufacturer, the FN Four had its public debut at the 1905 Paris Motorcycle Show at the Grand Palais and immediately enjoyed commercial success. The Four was also the world’s fastest production motorcycle in 1911/12, with a 40mph top speed.
c.1923 Nimbus 746cc Four ‘Stovepipe’, estimate €40,000-60,000
The result of diversification by the Danish vacuum cleaner manufacturer, Fisker & Nielsen, the Nimbus motorcycle first appeared in 1919. The advanced inline four-cylinder models used shaft final drive and pressed steel frames from the start of production. Early models featured a distinctive tubular spine frame that doubled as the fuel tank, soon gaining the nickname ‘stovepipe’.
c.1907 Zedel 200cc Single, estimate €10,000-15,000
Originally a Swiss company, Zürcher & Lüthi (Zédel, or ZL) built their first motorcycle engines in Switzerland, then complete single-cylinder and V-twin machines in Paris. This example was a favourite of Ulrike Buhner, who regularly rode it in the Pioneer Run, becoming known as ‘Ulrike Zedel.’
Ben Walker, Global Head of Bonhams Motorcycles, said: “This is one of the best collections of Pioneer and Vintage motorcycles – in terms of quality and quantity – to come onto the open market in recent years, offering machines that we haven’t seen in the marketplace for more than a decade. It’s an exciting, once in a generation opportunity for enthusiasts and collectors and we are expecting considerable worldwide interest.”
A selection of pioneer and collector motorcycles from the Peter and Ulrike Bühner Collection
Passion for the Pioneers
Peter’s initial passion was for motorcycles, but he came to share his wife’s love of Veteran cars, particularly rare or old machines, adding key examples to his collection, which also encompassed classic tractors.
So great was their passion for their Pioneer vehicles, that the collection outgrew their garages. As a result, they made use of their dining room, firstly housing motorcycles, then for a Morgan three-wheeler, with the family being relegated to their kitchen at mealtimes.
As their family said: “We three children were brought up with motorcycles taking centre stage in the dining room. After the collection started to grow, the dining table was dismantled.”
The ‘infernal noise’ of the Morgan starting up while being prepared for a rally, prompted Peter to convert their own and then a neighbouring haybarn, into a private motorcycle museum designed by Ulrike, where he spent most of his time when he retired.
In accordance with Peter’s philosophy, the machines were kept in running order, as original as possible and were used regularly for pioneer events. The pair participated several times on both The London to Brighton Veteran Car Run and the Pioneer Run for motorcycles, which was campaigned by Peter on his favourite machine, a Phänomen, whereas Ulrike’s preferred ride was her Zedel.
The family also took part in key German events, such as the famous ‘International Ibbenbürener Motorrad-Veteranen-Rallye’, one of the worldwide largest events for veteran motorcycles, and the Schnaufferl Rally for pre-1914 cars in Ibbenbüren.
Ben Walker added: “With Peter and Ulrike having both sadly passed away in the past couple of years, their children have kept selected vehicles for their own pleasure and enjoyment but look forward to seeing the balance of the collection going to likeminded enthusiasts and collectors.”
The collection will cross the block on the afternoon of Wednesday 1 February at the prestigious sale staged in the Grand Palais Ephémère, by the Eiffel Tower. All lots will be available to view throughout the day.
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