Vincent Black Shadow
October 14, 2007 9:00 PM
Young British flyboy Howard Raymond Davies spent his time in a German prison camp dreaming of building the perfect motorcycle. Less than ten years later, he started building the HRD, setting the gold standard for motorcycles throughout the decade of the 1930s.
Phillip Vincent, a recent Cambridge graduate with the same dream of building the perfect motorcycle, acquired Davies’ trademark, good will and a few remaining parts for £500 in 1928. The company’s name was changed to Vincent HRD Co., Ltd until 1949, when the HRD was dropped to prevent any confusion with Harley-Davidson when Vincent jumped the pond to bring the Vincent to America.
The famous Black Shadow was first hand built in 1948. Inspired by Royal Air Force pilots flying over the factory, this motorcycle was designed to be operated and maintained by men injured in combat. The feather light clutch, which Jay marvels is a work of genius, could be operated with a finger, and its tires can be changed without tools. It’s nearly indestructible V-twin 998 cc engine was cradled in a set of frame rails, and suspended from above - Vincent’s “Stressed Frame” design. You can see through this engine, and it’s real easy to adjust, using the tool kit hidden under the seat.
Other motorcycles of the time were typically polished and chromed, so the all black Vincent with its distinctively huge 150 mph Smith speedometer really stood out from the pack. It could cruise at 100mph, topping out at 125. Fewer than 1,800 Black Shadows were made. With the largest single-brand collectors club in the world, it’s now regarded as one of the most collectible motorcycles of all time.