Led Zeppelin chopper sold at auction

Led Zeppelin
Led Zeppelin
Bonham’s chopper

Bikes ridden by Led Zeppelin drummer the late John Bonham, Evel Knievel and The Fonz in Happy Days have starred at an auction of Hollywood memorabilia.

Bonham’s custom Triumph “Sunset Tripper” chopper ridden in the epic documentary film The Song Remains the Same, has been sold for $US40,000 in the Profiles In History auction.

The Fonzie and Evel bikes have been passed in and it is believed negotiations are ongoing.

Bonham’s Burbank Customs 1972 “Sunset Tripper” chopper was inspired by the legendary “Captain America” chopper from Easy Rider, but with a Union Jack on the tank rather than the Stars and Stripes.

The Triumph 650cc two-cylinder engine is from a 1970 T120 Triumph Bonneville

It was one of four Triumphs the members of Led Zeppelin commissioned from California-based Burbank Customs.

Bonham’s chopper remained with the family since his untimely death in 1980 until 1988 when Jason Bonham sold it to the present owner. Since 1988, it has been displayed in a pizza parlor in Denmark until December 2014 when it was shipped to the US.

Meanwhile, Evel Knievel’s Stratocycle from his 1977 feature film “Viva Knievel” was passed in at auction where it was expected to fetch up to $300,000. It cost the film’s producers just $500.Evel Knievel's Stratocycle led zeppelin

The 1976 Harley-Davidson XLCH 1000 Sportster Eagle “Stratocycle” features a fibreglass fairing with integral wings, custom exhaust ports, and a red, white and blue eagle-motif paint scheme.

It is ridden in the film by Knievel when he rescues his mechanic friend, played by Gene Kelly, from a mental hospital.

Ideal Toy Company made a toy version of the Stratocycle which became the most valuable and collectable of all Evel Knievel toys.

Evel Knievel Stratocycle in a scene form the movie led zeppelin
Evel Knievel’s Stratocycle in a scene form the movie

The Fonzie bike is a Triumph Trophy TR5 motorcycle ridden by Henry Winkler who played Arthur ‘The Fonz’ Fonzarelli in the TV show, Happy Days from 1974-84.

Fonzie's Triumph Trophy TR5 motorcycle - Evel Knievel - led zeppelin
Fonzie’s Triumph Trophy TR5 motorcycle

The early Fonzie bikes were actually Harleys. There was a Knucklehead, Panhead and possibly a Sportster. However, Winkler could not ride and found the Harleys too heavy to handle. He blamed his inability to co-ordinate clutch, brake and throttle on his dyslexia.

He admitted that he was frequently pushed on the bike by stage-hands.

So they switched to the much lighter 1949 Triumph Trophy 500 Custom (frame number TC11198T), one of three Triumph motorcycles “The Fonz” used during the show’s 10-year run.

According to Bud Ekins, who did the famous Great Escape jump, all three Triumphs were 500cc Trophy models of various years – two of which went missing or were stolen, or raced to the ground and sold for parts.

Henry Winkler on the Triumph - Evel Knievel
Henry Winkler on the Triumph

Eventually, when the show ended, Ekins sold the third and only remaining “Fonzie” Triumph to friend and motorcycle collector Mean Marshall Ehlers where it resided since 1990.

Ekins supplied the beat-up Scrambler, removed the front fender, bolted on a set of buckhorn handle bars and spray painted the fuel tank silver.

Fonzie’s silver Triumph became a pop culture icon, appearing on countless lunch boxes, posters, t-shirts, model kits and magazines. It was expected to fetch up to $150,000, but has been passed in.

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