When it comes to two-wheeled objects of lore, you can't do much better than a Vincent Black Shadow. Here's a mighty 1000cc twin that fable has it came into being when two tracings of designer Phil Irving's 500cc single just happened to overlap each other on the drafting table to form a Vee. Then there's American speed merchant Rollie Free, who in 1948 at risk of major epidermal trauma stepped into his Speedos (and not much else) at the Bonneville Salt Flats for a record run on his tuned Black Shadow. With the famous photo as proof, there's Free laid our prone behind the handlebars, going 150.313mph in his beach togs! "The World's Fastest Standard Motorcycle," blared the magazine ads, "This is a Fact not a Slogan."
Chroniclers of the sport also did their part to burnish the Vincent legend, including the erudite British columnist L.J.K. Setright, who wrote, "Well into the 1960s – and even today when it is wrapped in a mystique carefully cultivated by thousands of fanatically enthusiastic owners – the big Vincent retained that commanding air about it when you met one on the road, and many a rider of avowedly supersporting machinery would be humiliated by having some much older Black Shadow come past at the canter..."
Celebrity ownership doesn't hurt, either. TV funnyman Jay Leno owns several Vincents and says, "There's a wonderful 'mechanical-ness' to them; they are such quality machines. When you check the oil in a Vincent primary case, there's a beautiful aluminum knurled knob on the dipstick. It's overdesigned, way better than it needs to be. The general public ignored this kind of detailing because they could buy something cheaper. But today, the Vincent is considered a piece of art to be revered."
Any Series C Black Shadow is a rare and desirable beast, as only 1507 were produced by the Stevenage factory in 1949-52. Rarer still are the 'White Shadow' variants, identical except these eschewed the usual black stove-enameled crankcases and were sold with polished bare metal cases instead. Records show that just 15 White Shadows were made. This particular example takes that rarity even further, as it left the assembly line with its gas tank, fork tubes, fender braces, brake backing plates and sundry other parts painted in the factory's Chinese Red, a special-order shade usually reserved for Rapide touring models. Reportedly no other Shadow was so-equipped, as verified in several Vincent histories and in correspondence from the Vincent Owner's Club, making this 'Red' White Shadow a true one-of-one.
Now with its third owner the matching-numbers bike has always lived in the Pacific Northwest, though by the late 1980s it was overdue for restoration, the engine tired and the tinware sprayed an unattractive green hue. In researching the machine prior to the rebuild, the new owner unearthed its White heritage, and traces of paint left in crevices of the polished Girdraulic fork led to the Red discovery. While the chassis was being restored to its as-shipped red livery (exception being the alloy fork, which was left polished), the engine was farmed out to Vincent guru and AMA Hall of Famer Mike Parti for a complete overhaul, including the addition of Carrillo connecting rods. Built to ride, it is also equipped with more modern Amal Mk.II carbs, electronic ignition and a two-step, high-volume oil pump. Factory records indicate that steel touring fenders were fitted originally to the bike, but it now wears more sporting stainless-steel blades, as most Shadows did. Reproductions of the touring fenders are included in a spare parts kit that also contains the original carburetors and magneto, as well as the as-found green aftermarket fenders. Some 200 pages of restoration receipts are also included in the sale.