Tagged: 1952

Ahead of Its Time: 1952 Vincent Black Shadow Series C for Sale

1952 Vincent Black Shadow R Side

One of the most iconic sportbikes of all time, the Vincent Black Shadow is blessed with a name that evokes powerful imagery, even if you’ve never actually seen one. I just sounds sinister, dangerous, and exotic and in the flesh, the bike is every bit what you’d expect. It’s hard to understand just how exotic and sophisticated Vincent motorcycles were at the time. The only bike in recent memory to combine so many advanced features into a single machine was probably John Britten’s V1000.

1952 Vincent Black Shadow Dash

The Black Shadow was basically frameless, with the steering head bolted directly to the front cylinder and the rear suspension working off the four-speed gearbox, which was operated by an adjustable foot-pedal in an era when tank-shifters were still the norm. Just the fact that it had a rear suspension was pretty unusual when the Series C Black Shadow was introduced in 1949…

At the front, the bike used a girder fork, as Phil Vincent disliked the flexible front forks available at the time. His “Girdraulic” [didn’t the Brits love their portmanteaus] should have worked fine in theory, but limited dampers of the time led to stories of dangerous handling that only fueled the legend.

1952 Vincent Black Shadow R Engine

The original 47.5° v-twin was a “plumber’s nightmare” of external oil lines, but the later 50° engine is one of the most beautiful motorcycle motivators of all time: the black-enameled engine cases that gave the Black Shadow its name are set off by contrasting bare-metal pushrod tubes. It’s compact and powerful, with 55hp and stump-pulling torque and unit construction that was yet another relatively exotic feature for the time.

1952 Vincent Black Shadow R Side Front

From the original eBay listing: 1952 Vincent Black Shadow Series C for Sale

This is a stunning machine that is currently registered and ridden.  We have been contracted by the owner to sell this bike from his private collection, and I have personally ridden this motorcycle and can vouch for it being a well maintained and spirited runner.  This bike has a clear Wyoming title and is being sold through our shop and we are a licensed and bonded Wyoming state motor vehicle dealer established in 1996.  This beauty comes with the original V.O.C. dating certificate and Vincent HRD works order form, engine check sheet, cycle check sheet, road test report, dispatch check sheet and completion note stating it was sold to the Indian Sales Corporation (Vincent’s licensed USA distributor) in June, 1952.  This has the original Smith’s MPH speedometer with 3,204 miles indicated.  The neck numbers and right/left case numbers are matched (exactly 1900 places off).  We have not been able to find the rear frame number stamp, and there is a small postage stamp sized area that we have removed the paint from on the lower left axle stay forging.

1952 Vincent Black Shadow L Engine

Considering the bike weighs in at 458lbs, it’s almost like we’re looking at the spec sheet for a modern motorcycle: the construction and performance are basically identical to almost any bike from the late sixties or early seventies, so you’re looking at a machine that was at least twenty years ahead of its time… This example is apparently well-used, a big bonus since barn-finds will require big money and a full-restoration to put right. Aside from the primitive brakes, these are bikes that can comfortably keep up with modern traffic, an impressive feat for a bike with roots in the 1930s.

-tad

1952 Vincent Black Shadow L Side

Sophisticated Vintage Brit: 1952 Ariel Square Four for Sale

1952 Ariel Square Four R Front

The motorcycling industry prior to the 1960’s was centered on single and twin-cylinder machines, and, at a time when simplicity equaled reliability, Edward Turner’s compact four-cylinder design would have seemed extremely exotic. Prior to the Lancia Aurelia’s introduction in 1950, car and motorcycle engines used “inline” formats almost exclusively, and although inline fours work fine in automotive applications, they can cause packaging, as well as cooling, problems in motorcycles.

Originally rejected by BSA, the unusual square-four design found a home with Ariel and featured a pair of parallel twin blocks siamesed with their transversely-mounted cranks geared together and sharing a common head with overhead cams. This compact design allowed a four-cylinder powerplant to be fitted in to frames that were normally home to engines with one or two cylinders.

1952 Ariel Square Four L Rear

The original 500cc engine was eventually enlarged to 601cc’s to increase torque for riders who wanted to fit a sidecar to their machines, but the OHC design had a propensity for overheating the rear pair of cylinders, as cooling airflow was blocked by the front pair.

1952 Ariel Square Four R Front Engine

The engine was completely redesigned in 1937 with pushrod-operated overhead valves and a big displacement increase to 997cc’s. Aluminum replaced iron in the head and cylinders in 1949 for a significant savings in weight, and the final iteration of the engine introduced in 1953 was distinguished by four separate exhaust pipes exiting the head, although this example is the earlier, two-pipe version.

1952 Ariel Square Four Dash

From the original eBay listing: 1952 Ariel Square Four for Sale

An English country cruiser capable of 100mph….

Gaining popularity as “the poor man’s Vincent”, the Square 4 is steadily increasing in value.

The current owner is the fifth (first not named David) in a line that traces this 52 Ariel Square 4 Mk I’s origin to New Jersey; where it was purchased new in 1952.

The most recent previous owner bought the bike while on a trip in N.Y. State in 1996. After the purchase he had a full restoration performed prior to displaying in his collection.

Upon receiving the machine, the current owner kicked it over twice and it started right up and ran nicely. He rode it around his neighborhood for an hour, and then carefully decommissioned the Ariel for display in his collection.

The odometer shows 56,818 km or 35,305 miles.  The current owner has done a fair bit of detail work on the machine since acquiring it – much polishing, inspecting, cleaning and servicing inside external cases etc. He removed and cleaned the oil tank & lines and installed a rebuilt exchange oil pump from Dragonfly.

The frame is refinished but not powder coated and makes it look very authentic. The tins are all superb in that they are original but refinished beautifully and correctly. Chrome is all perfect.

All of the wiring was redone correctly and everything works. Even the tiny light in the speedo and the brake light. (all the lights work in other words)  The bike includes the original ignition key and the (optional?) jiffy side stand.

The owner is in possession of a dating certificate with an extract from the Ariel Works Ltd. despatch record books confirming that all of the major components on the machine are original. With the exception of perhaps the rims, tires, spokes and buddy pad this bike has all of its original pieces, nicely and carefully restored.

Also included in the sale are the original owner’s manual signed by the first two owners and a copy of the 1970 NY State vehicle registration bearing the name and signature of the second owner who purchased the bike from his friend and original owner in 1957.

1952 Ariel Square Four R Rear2

Weight was relatively low for such a complex machine and the bike could top 90mph, no small feat in 1950, although maximum performance wasn’t really the point, since lighter, simpler singles like the BSA Gold Star could match those numbers. It was the square four’s smoothness and sophistication no twin or single could possibly match that was the source of the bike’s lasting appeal, with production lasting from 1931 until 1959.

1952 Ariel Square Four L Tank

This example is in excellent condition and appears to be well-documented. Bidding is north of $22,000 with plenty of time left on the auction. The popularity of some bikes will naturally rise and fall with prevailing trends, but Square Fours have been steadily appreciating in value for some time now, and looking at this bike, it’s easy to see why.

-tad

1952 Ariel Square Four L Side

1952 Vincent Rapide For Sale

1952 Vincent Rapide R Side

Thanks to reader Jess for pointing this one out. In the minds of motorcyclists of a certain age, no motorcycle can really match the aura and mystique of a v-twin Vincent. Expensive, powerful, dripping with exotic technology, and produced only in muted colors that were either serious or sinister, depending on whether or not you’d had one try to kill you or not…

1952 Vincent Rapide L Front

Hunter S Thompson referred to the Vincent Black Shadow in his writing, using the iconic name as shorthand for everything mysterious and dangerous about motorcycles: “It is like riding a Vincent Black Shadow, which would outrun an F-86 jet fighter on the take-off runway, but at the end, the F-86 would go airborne and the Vincent would not, and there was no point in trying to turn it…”

Even if you’ve never seen a Vincent, the picture in your head is probably pretty close after reading that.

1952 Vincent Rapide Dash

Phil C Vincent began making motorcycles during the 1920’s by slotting other manufacturer’s engines and transmissions into frames he designed. His enterprise met with some success, and this allowed the burgeoning company to design its own powerplant. The 500cc single formed the basis of the v-twin that Vincent’s Rapide was literally built around: while the original 1936 “Series A” used a traditional frame, the later “Series B” model was almost completely frameless, with the steering head bolted directly to the front cylinder and the rear suspension to the gearbox.

Which sounds an awful lot like a Ducati Panigale, except that the Ducati uses a less advanced style of front suspension…Unhappy with the flexing that plagues telescopic forks to this day, Vincent used a variation of the girder front end. This girder front end was advanced in theory, although limited damping of the era did lead to notoriously unforgiving handling.

1952 Vincent Rapide Controls

Quite literally, there was nothing on the road like it at the time, and you could argue that there hasn’t been anything like it since.

The v-twin came in two performance flavors. The bike being offered is the lower-spec Rapide, not the evocatively-named Black Shadow, although many of these have been improved to the point where performance differences are irrelevant. In this case, it looks like it’s been cosmetically updated to match the sinister black of the Shadow as well…

From the original eBay listing: 1952 Vincent Rapide for Sale

Up for grabs…Here’s a very nice 1952 Vincent Rapide 1000.  Has been given a light custom treatment with many smart and usable upgrades.  Has black engine with two front cylinder heads (a la Lightning).  Fitted with Lightning front brakes and center pull brake cables; acentuated with extended cam arms in the front.  Extended intake manifolds with Amal Concentric carburetors.  Magneto has been replaced with points and coil, generator replaced with Alton alternator.  All 12V electrics.  Rare 5″ 150 mph Smiths chronometric speedometer.  Numbers on frame headstock are “RC/1/5878”.  Numbers on rear frame section are “RC 8835C”.  Engine case halves match (both stamped “XX 59”), engine number is “F10 AB/1/8128”.  Altogether, an excellent road going package.  Feel free to call or email with any questions.  Good luck!

1952 Vincent Rapide Carb

I’m a big fan of “artistic” photography, although I’d prefer clean, unretouched shots when you’re using those pictures to sell a $50,000 motorcycle. We’re just north of that now, with active bidding and the reserve not yet met. It’s not a real Black Shadow, but it’s pretty clear this is a gorgeous bike, one of the most desirable and collectable and technically interesting machines ever built.

-tad

1952 Vincent Rapide R Front