As a motorcycle enthusiast, I have always admired the works of Kenneth Howard, aka, Von Dutch. He was one of the most celebrated American mechanics, pinstriper, and metal fabricator of his time. He customized dozens of bikes and his work has only become more rare and popular after his demise. His bikes are now collectibles that enthusiasts can only hope to acquire during the rare auctions.
Having collaborated with Steve McQueen in some restoration and customization projects, you can only imagine the value of these vintage bikes. Let’s get to my top five favorites.
1959 Von Dutch Triumph
This 650 cc T120R Bonneville was sold at an auction in Bonhams on November 10, 2007, for $28K. Working in the motorcycle imports industry, I’ll tell you not many bikes come at that price tag. This gem was featured in the 1958 Earls Court Show. More than 60 years ago, the bike was a favorite for young riders. Von Dutch gave the bike a tangerine and pearl gray finish making it one of the sharpest bikes from 1959. It’s a steal!
1929 Super Squirrel
This is another Von Dutch iconic creation. The icing on the cake is that it belonged to Steve McQueen making it a highly-priced vintage collectible. It was restored and customized as a favor to his friend. It’s funny how he got the year of manufacture wrong when customizing the bike and wrote 1926 instead. The collectible has had quite a number of owners and just before his demise, McQueen bought it back for Von Dutch. It was sold in the 2007 auction to Tony Sorenson.
1970 Kawasaki Centurian
This is another Steve McQueen treasure customized by Von Dutch. It even has an inscription reading “Done up for Steve McQueen by Von Dutch.” It’s the famous Ringadingdoo! You see the writing on the fuel tank. This is a 100 cc dirtbike whose value could have easily been $500. However, the auction at Petersen Museum in LA had it sold at $55K. Impressive, right?
1954 BMW R51/3
This 500 cc bike has a rich customization history. He first customized it in 1966 when he gifted it two gas tanks. He left one Hoske unsigned and signed the other a Ducati. Some of the bike pieces are chromed to make it aesthetically appealing and the front fender has been customized with a non-stock version. The bike was also sold in the 2007 auction for $32760.