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Lot 408: 1928 Sarolea 498cc Racing Motorcycle

Collectors' Motorcycles, Bonhams (16 October 2005)

Belgium’s premier marque, Sarolea was founded in 1850 when Joseph Sarolea set up a small workshop in Herstal for the manufacture of small arms (like BSA in Britain) but these were not sold under the ‘Sarolea’ name. In 1892 the firm diversified into making bicycles, which were marketed as ‘Royale Sarolea’. After Joseph Sarolea’s death his children carried on the family business and in 1895 hired Martin Fagard, who for the next 50 years would be the driving force behind the company. A small series of de Dion-Bouton powered tricycles was made around 1898 but these were not a big success. Then, around 1901, Sarolea built its first powered two-wheeler by attaching a 250cc single-cylinder engine to one of its bicycles.

Series production commenced soon after, following an order for 1,000 Sarolea engines from Britain, and the supply of proprietary engines, both singles and v-twins, would continue to be an important part of Sarolea’s business for many years. In 1902, Sarolea introduced its first production motorcycle, powered by a 381cc single-cylinder engine, and from then onwards the firm grew steadily, becoming one of Europe’s leading motorcycle manufacturers by the start of WWI, during which Saroleas were supplied to Allied forces.

In the early 1920s AJS had conclusively demonstrated the superiority of overhead valves, and in 1923 Sarolea followed suit, introducing the Model 23G, a sports roadster capable of 75mph. Saroleas of the 1920s and 1930s looked very British in appearance, and these stylish, well engineered machines helped established the marque’s reputation for excellence. With their advanced, overhead valve technology, Saroleas were natural candidates for competition use, being raced extensively by the works team and top privateers throughout Europe. The firm’s first major international successes came in 1923 when it won the prestigious Liége-Nice-Liége road race and the Belgian Grand Prix. The following year a production version of the works racer - the 23M - was used by Guido Premoli to win the gruelling Tour of Italy and many further successes would be gained at international level before the factory withdrew from racing at the end of 1926.

Campaigned in road races and grass-track events throughout the 1929-1932 seasons, the 500cc machine offered here is the 1929 Swedish TT winner ridden by Hugo Karlsson. Documentation, period race programmes and contemporary pictures of both the machine and Hugo Karlsson are available. Beautifully restored by Conny Gummesson in Löddeköpinge, Sweden, the machine has been used for one classic parade event only since completion and is presented in excellent condition. Hugo Karlsson’s original rider’s leathers (boots and trousers) are included in the sale.

Grand Prix-winning motorcycles are rare and GP winners from the vintage period rarer still, so this overhead-valve Sarolea represents a possibly once-in-a-generation opportunity to acquire such a machine, belonging to one of the foremost marques of Continental Europe.

Lot Details
Auction Collectors' Motorcycles
Bonhams, Classic & Motorcycle Mechanics Show, Stafford
Lot Number408
Outcome SOLD
Hammer Price£10000
Hammer Price (inc premium)£11500
Condition rating
Registration number
Chassis number
Engine number35463
Engine capacity (cc)
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors