The ex-Jeff Decker
1952 Vincent Rapide Series C "Black Lightning" Special
Frame no. R2807
Engine no. F10AB/1/7648
Jeff Decker is rightly famous for his truly magnificent sculpture, "the motorcycle equivalent of Frederick Remington", on display outside the Harley-Davidson Museum in Milwaukee. As a collector of rare motorcycles, motorcycle memorabilia, motoring artwork, and '1%er club cutoffs', the sleeveless vests emblazoned with motorcycle club logos, these obsessions with, and outspoken opinions on, the art and culture around motorcycling have made him a legend in his lifetime.
Jeff Decker is equally outspoken regarding his ultra-famous customized motorcycle, a 1952 Vincent Rapide which he calls 'The Black Lightning.' Decker uses the term 'Lightning' to emphasize his machine's full-race specification, and to puncture any inflated notions that the infamous Vincent Black Lightning of which only 31 were built was the greatest motorcycle ever. In truth, the men who made Vincent famous by setting numerous speed records and winning 'drag races' all across the Southwest - Marty Dickerson and Rollie Free used race-tuned Rapide and Black Shadow models.
The fact that the most famous Vincents are not actual 'Black Lightnings' is critical to understanding Jeff Decker's motorcycle: the parts used in its creation are mostly ex-Marty Dickerson, as used in his Bonneville Salt Flat record attempts and drag-racing career. They were gathered from arch Vincent collector and recognized authority Herb Harris, who supplied the ex-Dickerson crankcases, two front cylinder heads, and genuine Black Lightning wheel hubs. Most parts used are genuine Vincent, and the engine is tuned to Black Lightning specification, with MkIII racing cams. As the important parts of his machine were actually used in competition, Jeff Decker says "my bike's got more racing history than most of the Lightnings out there."
After collecting the necessary basics, Decker set about narrowing the fuel tank by 4.5" and lowering that tank as much as possible onto the engine to emphasize the brutal beauty of the Vincent V-twin engine. The tiny 'banana' seat is cantilevered from the rear engine mount, and makes the saddle height nearly 8" lower than stock. He fabricated a custom exhaust system with terminates in a 'waffle box' silencer underneath the engine. The handlebars are straight, with Decker's own custom-fabricated controls. The headlamp is a tiny unit tucked well into the girder forks, which use a custom hydraulic shock absorber. The alloy wheel rim flanges are 'Deckerated' with aesthetic drilling, along with the brake cooling ribs, and an original Black Shadow speedometer crowns the front girder fork. The complete machine is amazingly compact and light, weighs significantly less than a standard Vincent, and looks lean and tough.
Jeff Decker's "Black Lightning" is a rare thing; a custom motorcycle built by an actual artist, with his hands and by his own design, as an homage to the machines which passed into legend through their racing and record-breaking success. It is especially rare being a 'sculpture' by a famous artist which can actually be ridden down the road, and ridden hard.
- Please note that the title for this motorcycle is in transit.