1950 Vincent Black Shadow
Year of manufacture1950
1950 Vincent 998cc Black Shadow Series C
Registration no. JYG 227
Frame no. RC6723B
Engine no. F10AB/1B/4823
Ever since the Series A's arrival in 1937, the Vincent v-twin has been synonymous with design innovation, engineering excellence and superlative high performance. From Rollie Free's capture of the 'world's fastest production motorcycle' record in 1948 on a tuned Series-B Black Shadow to the final, fully enclosed Black Knight and Black Prince, Philip Vincent's stress on appearance and performance is legendary. His machines bristled with innovative features, offering adjustment of brake pedal, footrests, seat height and gear-change lever. The finish was to a very high standard commensurate with the cost of the machine, which was virtually double that of any of its contemporaries.
But above all else it was the v-twin's stupendous performance that captivated motorcyclists, whether they could afford one or not. The appeal of the Vincent, and the Black Shadow in particular, lay in its ability to out-perform just about every other vehicle on the road, and in the early post-war years there was nothing to compare with it. This was a time when the average family sedan was barely capable of reaching 70mph, and not until the advent of Jaguar's XK120 was there a production sports car that could live with the thundering v-twins from Stevenage.
Indeed, when it was introduced in 1946, the Vincent-HRD Series-B Rapide was immediately the fastest production motorcycle on sale anywhere, with a top speed of 110mph. The basic design clearly had even greater potential though, as was demonstrated by the tuned Rapide known as 'Gunga Din', ridden by factory tester George Brown, that proved unbeatable in UK motorcycle racing in the late 1940s. Private owners too had expressed an interest in extracting more performance from their machines, all of which convinced Philip Vincent that a market existed for a sports version. Despite opposition from within the company's higher management, Vincent pressed ahead with his plans and together with Chief Engineer Phil Irving, clandestinely assembled a brace of tuned Rapides. The prototypes incorporated gas-flowed cylinder heads, Comet cams, polished con-rods and larger carburettors, these changes being good for a maximum output of 55bhp despite a compression ratio limited to only 7.3:1 by the 72-octane petrol that was the best available in the UK at the time. Ribbed brake drums were fitted to cope with the increased performance, while in a marketing masterstroke Vincent specified a 5"-diameter '150mph' speedometer and black-finished engine cases for his new baby the Black Shadow. With a claimed top speed of 125mph, soon born out by road tests, the Vincent Black Shadow was quite simply the fastest road vehicle of its day. Deliveries commenced in the spring of 1948 and only around 70-or-so Series-B Black Shadows had been made before the Series-C's introduction at that year's Earl's Court Motorcycle Show.
The Black Shadow was indeed a legend in its own lifetime, and in the half-century since production ceased the esteem in which this iconic motorcycle is held has only increased, fuelling the demand among discerning collectors for fine examples of the marque, such as that offered here, which retains matching registration, frame and engine numbers. 'JYG 227' also comes with its original old-style logbook, which shows that the Vincent was retailed via Midgley Bros of Keighley, West Yorkshire and first owned by (Dr) Thomas Burton of Ripon. Licensing is recorded up to 1962. In March 1988 Dr Burton sold the Shadow to a Mr John Cockle, recording on the sales receipt (on file) that it had covered only 8,990 miles from new by that time. The next owner, Mr David Smith of Stowey, Bristol, confirms that fact in a letter on file (dated November 1999) and further states that the Vincent had covered only 80 miles while in his ownership, the speedometer having been replaced during renovation. The latter had been carried out in 1988 by Bristol Classic Bikes, whose three-page invoice detailing this complete refurbishment is on file together with a letter of confirmation dated 1999.
The current vendor purchased the Black Shadow in October 2010 from Mr Gordon Burge of Saltford, Bristol, its owner since October 1999, who had purchased it from Mr Smith. According to the sales receipt on file, Mr Burge had covered only 1,547 miles on the machine. The current odometer reading is 10,813 miles, representing the distance travelled since restoration. Assuming that the second owner, Mr Cockle, did not use the machine before selling it on, which seems quite likely, 'JYG 227' has covered only 19,803 miles from new. Offered from the vendor's private collection, the Vincent also comes with a V5C registration document and an MoT certificate (expired June 2012) and should require only minimal re-commissioning before returning to the road.