Most vintage bike enthusiasts who’ve lived anywhere close to the center of the USA know the name Mike Harper. If you’re a Moto Guzzi aficionado, you’ve probably at least heard of Harper’s Moto Guzzi, and have more likely ordered parts from them at some time or another. After a storied career that stretches back to the 1960s, Mike’s turning the Guzzi parts business over to his son and retiring. He decided it was time to sell off his collection of nearly 350 motorcycles, innumerable frames, engines, parts and accessories, plus cars, trucks, even some oak parts cabinets from the original Indian factory. In what was billed as a “living estate sale,” motorcycle auction house J. Wood & Co. held a no-reserve auction last Friday, September 9th at Mike’s farmstead in Greewood, Missouri, just southeast of Kansas City.
Here in the Midwest, big sales like this are decidedly uncommon, so it was kind of a big deal for those us of nearby. For a fee, prospective customers could get in to inspect the auction items the day before the auction. I had long heard claims and rumors about what Mike had (I, myself, had sold a pickup-load of parts bikes and spares to his son about 20 years ago), so I was eager to eyeball his collection. I got there about 40 minutes before the 5PM closing time on Thursday and paid $10 to look around. It had rained heavily the night before, so the field was a muddy mess, but I was soon face-to-face with an amazing selection of rare models, many I’d never before laid eyes on in person. Mike was a dealer in obsolete parts, not a museum curator, so very few of the bikes were in top shape, but with this sort of selection that didn’t matter much.
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