1955 Vincent D Series Black Shadow
Frame no. RD12750B
Engine no. F10AB/2B/10850
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 only 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 Sadly though, the Shadow's magnificent 5"-diameter Smiths speedometer had been replaced by a standard 3" unit.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 innovative 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 sports car 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 a mere 460 Series D twins had been built.
This Series-D Black Shadow was exported from Michigan, USA to the UK in 2006 and restored between 2010 and 2011 by Woodford Motorcycles of London. Purchased by the vendor in 2011, the motorcycle has been in static display since, and is offered with a California Certificate of Title, VOC Certificate of Authenticity, and a quantity of restoration invoices.