If you owned a 1000 cc Vincent Black Shadow
in the Forties or early Fifties, you were
king on Brirain's unrestricted roads. The
only other vehicle likely to rival the Vincent's
shattering performance would be a very special
sports car. A 1948 Motor Cycling road test
reported a top speed of 122mph from the Black
Shadow and Vincent claimed a round 125mph
maximum. Either way, it was by far the world's
fastest standard motorcycleThe compact but
costly V-twin built by HRD-Vincent in Stevenage
was developed from the company's first post
war twin, the Series B Rapide.
The Series A models, including the original
1000cc Rapide twin, had been produced prior
to World War Two. The brains behind the twins
were factory boss Philip Vincent and brilliant
Australian engineer Phil Irving, both men
being keen motorcyclists.The Shadow engine's
increased output was mainly due to bigger
carburettors and a raised compression ratio,
although it could run on the low-octane fuel
of the time and retained the pleasant flexability
that Vincent twins were famous for.
The more powerful 1000cc unit is instantly
recongisable, as all its main castings are
coated in black enamel.Many of the Shadow's
cycle parts are shared with the Rapide, both
having Vincent's famous 'frameless chassis'.
The imposing engine and gearbox unit is part
of the structure, being hugh from a steel
box that also serves as the engine oil reservoir.
The front of the box carries the steering
head, while its rear end provides the upper
anchorage for the spring and damper units
controlling the patented cantilever rear suspension.
Front suspension is by a Brampton girder fork,
dropped in favour of Vincent's own Girdaulic
design when the Series C Shadow arrived in
1949.The Shadow's brakes were uprated to cope
with the extra velocity and are readily distinguished
from the Rapide's by the heat-dispersing fins
on the dual drums. Topping off the Black Shadow
is its magnificent five-inch 'dinner plate'
150mph speedometer, a feature exclusive to
the legendary Vincent twin.During 1949 Philip
Vincent visited America to promote his products.
Concerned that some people muddled the HRD
initials with Harley-Davidson, he changed
the tank insignia to simply read 'The Vincet'.