1950 Vincent Black Shadow
Year of manufacture1950
Engine numberF10/AB/1B4788 (see text)
1950 Vincent 998cc Black Shadow Series-C
Registration no. LXA 537
Frame no. RC6688B
Engine no. F10/AB/1B4788 (see text)
Rear frame no. RC6688B
The ultimate 1950s superbike
Four private owners from new
'Well into the 1960s and even today, when it is wrapped in a mystique carefully cultivated by thousands of fanatically enthusiastic owners, the big Vincent retained that commanding air about it when you met one on the road, and many a rider of avowedly super-sporting machinery would be humiliated by having some much older Black Shadow come past at the canter...' - L J K Setright.
Arguably Britain's foremost motoring journalist of his generation, the late Leonard Setright, himself a keen motorcyclist, was writing in the 1970s but what he said about the Vincent v-twin, and the Black Shadow in particular, remains every bit as true today.
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. With a top speed approaching 120mph, and bettering it in the Black Shadow's case, the Vincent v-twin was quite simply the fastest road vehicle of its day.
The Black Shadow was indeed a legend in its own lifetime, and in the 60 years 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. This Series-C 'Shadow comes with its original old-style buff logbook showing that it was first registered to Conway Motors of Shepherds Bush, West London. 'LXA 537' also comes with a continuation logbook and an old-style V5, from which it may be deduced that it has had only four private owners from new, all resident within 12 miles of Conway Motors. The current vendor acquired the Shadow in March 1983.
The frame and engine numbers match, though it should be noted that the crankcase mating number - 'TT16' - is that of a Rapide engine; expert opinion is that the engine was repaired in period using Rapide 'cases, perhaps by a specialist such as Conway Motors or Furness & Searle, and then re-stamped with the correct number. What is known, as evidenced by bills on file, is that the engine was rebuilt by marque specialists Maughan & Sons in 1977 while the Vincent was in the immediately preceding owner's possession; however, there is no mention of crankcases being replaced at that time. The machine also comes with an original Rider's Handbook and a copy of 'Vincent' by Paul Richardson. Re-commissioning is advised before returning it to the road.