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Vincent HRD

British Iron
In about 1972, I saw a photo of a Vincent V-twin Black Shadow in a motorcycle magazine; the machine just seemed "right" and fit the image of the perfect motorcycle in my mind.  The problem was availability; there weren't very many built.  Total production of the Vincent HRD company was about 11,000 machines between 1928 and 1955; of these, only about 1800 were Black Shadows.

Looking for leads, I called every motorcycle shop that would listen, but nothing panned out.  

Fast forward to the late '70's.  A fellow construction worker mentioned a man named Dan who had a Vincent and that he worked at a local car dealership in Sacramento, California.  Dan was a member of the Vincent HRD Owners Club and was very helpful in my quest.  He made a photocopy of the Chicago VOC Section newsletter containing ads of bikes for sale.  I called a gentleman in the upper midwest and struck a deal.  A deposit was sent, and four months later, my new wife and I took a road trip to New Hampshire to spend the holidays with her parents (and picking up a 1953 Vincent Black Shadow motorcycle on the way)!  

Left Photo:  The bike shortly after coming home to California.
Right Photo:  2018 during latest rebuild.  It was completed in 2019.
An interesting bit of trivia:  The carbs for the Black Shadow model were cast in brass.  The the carburetor manufacturer "Amal" did not make a suitable carb for the rear cylinder, so they produced a special batch just for the Black Shadow.  The front carb was dull-chrome plated, but for whatever reason, Amal decided to merely paint the limited-production rear carb insted of plating.  For this last restoration, I followed suit and painted the carb with metallic aluminum paint.  The first time the carb drooled gasoline, the paint started coming off, so I decided to electroplate it myself.  

Improvised plating tank using a nickel acetate solution and sacrifical nickel strips.  The power supply used then was a laptop computer brick.  I now have a 15 amp Variac, so if I do any more plating, I will use it along with a low voltage transformer and a few diodes for the supply.
The newly electroplated carb.  After prepping, the plating process took about 20 minutes to complete.  I used this tank to plate several other parts as well.  

Down the road, I realized the drooling Amal carbs were a fire hazard, so they came off and 32mm Mikuni VM's went on.  They look a little out of place on the Vincent motor, but they are great carburetors.
Here is a photo from the year 2000.  It was painted Sunset Red over a gold metallic base.
Another view from 2000.  The Black Shadow was guaranteed to do 125 MPH off the showroom floor.  That 5" diameter Smiths 150 MPH speedometer is a chronometric clock that was a stock Black Shadow fitting.  Legend has it that Philip Vincent wanted riders to be "damned sure" of how fast they were going!
It is certainly a knobby-looking engine from this angle!

The post war Vincent twins were ahead of their time.  While the other British Motorcycle manufacturers used separate engines and transmissions in a so called "pre-unit" configuration, Vincent was a pioneer of "unit construction" where the engine crankcase also served as the transmission case.  While Phil Irving and Phil Vincent were working out a frame for this new engine, Phil Vincent realized the engine itself was stronger than any tubular frame they could design, so they used the engine as a stressed frame member.  The oil tank was built as an upper frame member (UFM), and the front steering yoke is incorporated into this UFM; the triangulated rear frame connects to the rear of the engine while the rear springs and monoshock from the top of the rear frame connect to the rear of the UFM.   In practice, it is very strong.  

Both bikes in 2021.  This photo was taken during the Caldor Fire which was actively burning about 15 miles away at the time; it burned about 220,000 acres of forest land. The smoke-filtered sunlight is responsible for the yellow cast of the photo.  

Shown here, the Norton still has the stock Lockheed front disc brake.  It was soon fitted with an aftermarket disc brake which was a great improvement.  
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