Vincent Motorcycles

Today in Motorcycle History

Vincent Black Lightning

H&H Classic Auctions writes:

"Developed from the Rapide and Black Shadow, the Black Lightning was conceived as a racing variant of the illustrious Stevenage vee twins and for many represents the pinnacle of the lines development. The new model differed from the Black Shadow in a number of areas, Amal TT carburettors were fitted and straight through exhaust pipes graced the machine. Attention was focused on reducing the overall weight of the model with aluminium wheel rims replacing the standard steel items, alloy brake plates, dural footrest supports and mudguards being employed. The first example of the Black Lightning, bearing engine number F10AB/1C/1320, was tested on the 10th January 1949 before being despatched to Cimic in Buenos Aires, Argentina on the 17th January 1949. The build record card indicates that it was originally scheduled to be built as a Series C Rapide, the order subsequently changing to a Black Shadow and finally to the original Black Lightning, a name that conjured up the ultimate speed machine."

That the first Black Lightning went to such an apparently remote location as Argentina is actually unsurprising, as Phil Vincent lived there with his family before attending boarding school in England.

In 1949 a Manchester dealer, Reg Dearden, supercharged a Black Lightning and converted it into a record machine in response to a competition announced by The Motor Cycle which bore a £500 prize for the first successfull all-British World Speed Record attempt.

The modifications, which included frame modifications and numerous performance enhancements, were carried out at the Stevenage works and were supervised by Phil Vincent.

Held by BMW since 1937, the World Speed Record was 173.54 mph. The Black Lightning took it to 180.29 mph.

In 1953 Jack Ehret of Australia rode a Black Lightning to a record speed. That machine was recently bought by an Australian collector for over a million dollars ($US929,000 + fees).

The machine was bought new in 1951 for £500. Jack was making £7.00 per week at his job in Garden Island naval base in Sydney Harbour, but he earned a good deal more than that racing speedway at Sydney Showground on Saturday nights and road racing on Sunday.

Sources:, H&H Classic Auctions, Bonhams.

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