Vincent Black Shadow

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Vincent Black Shadow
Vincent Series C Black Shadow 1950.jpg
Manufacturer Vincent HRD
Engine 998 cc (60.9 cu in) 50 degree OHV V-twin
Compression ratio 7.3:1
Power 55 bhp (41 kW) @ 5,500 rpm

The Vincent Black Shadow was a hand-built motorcycle produced by Vincent HRD from 1948. The series "C", which was introduced in 1949, had a 998 cc (60.9 cu in) 50 degree OHV V-twin engine running a 7.3:1 compression ratio.

Model history[edit]

Series C Black Shadow
Closeup of Series C engine

The first model from Vincent was the Rapide, followed by the Black Shadow in response to a demand for a more "sports oriented model". The Black Shadow was developed from an early-model Rapide that had been specially tuned by factory tester and racer George Brown, his brother Cliff and designer Phil Irving.[1] With relatively minor modifications, such as enlarged ports, bigger carburettors and increased compression, the test model, known as "Gunga Din",[citation needed] gave 55 bhp (41 kW), creating the basis for the Black Shadow.[2] The Black Shadow proved very popular and its production overtook the Rapide. The Black Shadow's engine, instead of being cradled in a set of frame rails, was suspended from above, becoming a stressed member, or integral part, of the structure.

The Black Shadow featured several new technological innovations, such as: an original alternative to the primitive telescopic front forks of the day, a sprung rear sub-frame, extensive use of aluminium alloy, and a unit construction stressed engine. Overall weight was a relatively light 458 lb (208 kg).[3] While other contemporary motorcycles tended to be polished and chromed, the "Black Shadow" was unusual in being predominantly black. The black enamel crankcase was effective both for marketing and heat dissipation. Some 16 "White Shadows" were built, made to Shadow specification but with the Rapide's plain aluminium finish. Fewer than 1,700 Vincent Black Shadows were made.[4] Vincents continued their pre-WWII labour-intensive hand-fitting of bearings and major engine parts, at a time when other British brands were slowly moving toward relatively modern mass production methods, and when aluminum was in short supply.[5][6]

In 2007, the Vincent H.R.D. Owners Club commissioned the VOC Spares Company Limited to build a replica Black Shadow from new parts.[citation needed] Among other things, the project was to prove that all the parts were in stock and available from the VOC Spares Company Limited. Having received many glowing reports from the motorcycle press in the UK, the machine was eventually auctioned by Bonhams and now resides with a member of the Vincent H.R.D. Owners Club in New Zealand.

Journalist Hunter S. Thompson wrote that "If you rode the Black Shadow at top speed (125 mph) for any length of time, you would almost certainly die."[7] and mentioned the model several times in his 1971 novel, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Phillip Tooth (July–August 2009). "Prototype 1948 Vincent Series B Black Shadow". Motorcycle Classics. Retrieved 4 August 2009. 
  2. ^ Smith, Robert (May–June 2010). "Historic Vincent: Gunga Din". Motorcycle Classics. Retrieved 27 October 2010. 
  3. ^ Duke, Kevin (1 April 2003). "Vincent Genealogy". Motorcycle USA. Retrieved 27 August 2008. 
  4. ^ Harris Vincent Gallery at the Wayback Machine (archive index)
  5. ^ Furlong, Chip (March 1990). Big Sid's Passion. Cycle World. p.58
  6. ^ Brown, Roland (2002), Ultimate History of Fast Bikes. p. 61-62. 2002.
  7. ^ Thompson, Hunter S. (March 1995), "Song of the Sausage Creature", Cycle World, ISSN 0011-4286 
  8. ^ "Manufacturer's Web Site". Retrieved 24 November 2013. 

External links[edit]

Preceded by
SS100 Pendine
Fastest production motorcycle
Succeeded by
Kawasaki Z1