1955 Vincent 998cc Black Shadow
Registration no. TAL 53
Frame no. RD 12826B
Engine no. F10AB/2B/10926
Since the Series A's arrival in 1937, the Vincent v-twin had been synonymous with design innovation, engineering excellence, and superlative high performance. So in September 1955 when it was revealed that production of the Stevenage-built machines would cease, the news stunned the motorcycling world. It had been decided that the firm's future lay in more profitable lines of manufacture, and just 100 more of the fabulous v-twins would be completed. By the time its demise was announced, Vincent's final twin - the Series D - had been in production for just six months.
It had been Philip Vincent's belief that provision of ample weather protection combined with enclosure of engine and gearbox, would make the Vincent Series D the ultimate 'gentleman's motorcycle' and to reflect this change of emphasis the enclosed Rapide and Black Shadow were known as Black Knight and Black Prince respectively. In actuality, delayed delivery of the glassfibre panels - plus continuing demand for traditionally styled models - resulted in over half the production leaving the Stevenage factory in un-enclosed form.
Other Series-D innovations included a new frame and rear suspension - a steel tube replaced the original fabricated upper member/oil tank while the paired spring boxes gave way to a single hydraulic coil-spring/damper unit offering a generous seven inches of suspension travel. In place of the integral oil reservoir there was a separate tank beneath the seat. The user-friendly hand-operated centre stand was a welcome addition, and there were many improvements to the peerless v-twin engine including coil ignition for easier starting and Amal Monobloc carburettors. Sadly though, the Shadow's magnificent 5"-diameter Smiths speedometer had been replaced by a standard 3" unit.
Notwithstanding the fact that, as far as Philip Vincent was concerned, the Series D was his finest design, the motorcycle-buying public greeted the innovatory new models with suspicion, as is so often the case. 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 saloon was barely capable of reaching 70mph, and not until the advent of Jaguar's XK120 was there a production sportscar that could live with the thundering v-twins from Stevenage. Its creator's vision of the Series D as a two-wheeled Grand Routier just did not conform to the public's perception of the Vincent as the ultimate sports-bike. The firm lost money on every machine made, and when production ceased in December 1955 just 460 Series D v-twins had been built.
This Series-D Black Shadow was ordered from Henstocks and delivered on 26th June 1955 fitted with wheel tommy-bars and rear chain adjusters at extra cost. Registered 'TAL 53', the Vincent remained with its original owner until April 2006 when it was purchased by the current (second) owner at Bonhams' Stafford Sale (Lot 557). Well maintained and carefully ridden, the machine covered only 1,000-or-so miles annually in the original owner's hands and by July 2002 had a total of 50,002 on the odometer. At this time the decision was taken to have the Vincent reconditioned, the job being entrusted to marque specialist Tony Maughan. Subsequently, as the accompanying MoTs confirm, 'TAL 53' was kept in semi-retirement, though always on the road and maintained in gleaming condition by Maughan's.
Because of the original owner's advancing years, in 2006 the decision was made to sell. Since its acquisition by the current vendor the Vincent has been kept in air-conditioned accommodation and has not been used. The odometer total of 70 miles is believed to be the distance travelled since restoration. The machine comes with its original toolkit (minus one spanner), ignition key, Henstocks' invoice (for £354), instruction manual, old-style buff logbook, original owner photographs (dated June 1955), Swansea V5 document and 12 expired MoTs dating back to the 1970s (most recent expired 2005).