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.
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.
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.
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.
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.