1951 Vincent 998cc Black Shadow Series-C Frame no. RC10114B Engine no. F10AB/1B/8214

This lot has been removed from the website, please contact customer services for more information

Lot 145
1951 Vincent 998cc Black Shadow Series-C
Frame no. RC10114B Engine no. F10AB/1B/8214

US$ 70,000 - 100,000
£ 51,000 - 73,000
1951 Vincent 998cc Black Shadow Series-C
Frame no. RC10114B
Engine no. F10AB/1B/8214
• Remarkable patina from decades-long storage
• As featured in Tom Cotter's book "50 Shades of Rust"
• Matching numbers example

Everybody loves a good "barn-find" story. The best of the tales read like a juicy detective novel. There's rumor and intrigue, hidden clues, false hope, shadowy characters, high-stakes negotiations, sometimes even a little danger. But work through the plot twists, stay on the hunt, mix with a little good luck and sometimes persistence is paid off.

The motorcycle on offer here is just such a case, entombed in the dank basement of a house in greater Philadelphia, owned by a recluse who neither wanted to sell, not really wanted to be found. Rumors of the Vincent's existence wafted through the city's classic-bike community for decades, and the suggestion that it might be a genuine Black Shadow only added to its allure.

When it comes to Black Shadows it's easy to get lost in the considerable lore swirling around the bikes – excruciatingly hand-built...engine cases cast from melted-down Spitfires...fastest motorcycle in the world straight off the showroom floor...too much machine for most mortal men. Trust Cycle World's sage Technical Editor Kevin Cameron to put things into perspective: "When I first learned about Vincents, it was their performance that had my attention. A few years passed and they assumed mainly antiquarian status," he wrote. "In time, though, I realized that the postwar Vincent twins illustrate a process of arriving at simplicity, partly by coercion and partly by design. Either way, 'frameless' construction pioneered by Vincent has now become a normal way to build motorcycles. Historically aware engineers like the late John Britten have given credit where credit is due. Functional simplicity is the best reason to remember and respect the Vincent name."

But it should not be forgotten that performance was the main driver behind the Black Shadow. The company's touring Rapide was already one of the fastest things on postwar roads, but Phil Vincent wanted more. Despite opposition from management, Vincent pressed ahead with his plans and together with Chief Engineer Phil Irving, clandestinely assembled a brace of tuned Rapides. The prototypes incorporated flowed cylinder heads, Comet cams, polished con-rods and larger carburetors, these changes being good for a maximum output of 55bhp despite a compression ratio limited to 7.3:1 by the 72-octane petrol that was the best available in the UK at the time. Ribbed brake drums were fitted to cope with the increased performance, while in a marketing masterstroke Vincent specified a huge 5in.-diameter 150mph speedometer and black-finished engine cases for his new baby – the 125mph Black Shadow.

This Black Shadow's vendor, owner of several Vincents over the years, first became aware of the "Basement Bike" in the late 1970s. Like others before him, he hoped to track down the wayward machine but years, then a decade, went by with only a few tantalizing hints. Someone had knowledge that the engine was seized, the reason the bike was taken off the road in the first place. Another person could describe the house but had long since forgotten the address. More time passes without any further clues until a chance encounter with a Vincent aficionado who had actually made contact with the Shadow's secretive owner years beforehand. He revealed a street name, though no house number. A hastily organized reconnaissance mission at last locates the house in question but it shows little signs of life and no one answers repeated knocks at the door.

A trip to the Country Clerk's office uncovers a deed to the house and the owner's name. What follows is a series of notes left in the mailbox inquiring about the Vincent and leaving contact information. All go unanswered. More years pass and then on the umpteenth visit to the house, the owner answers the door! Yes, he still has the Black Shadow, no, he doesn't want to sell – his plan is to fix the engine and get the bike running once more. In subsequent visits and chats, the Vincent is never actually seen, the owner making excuses that the bike is all but buried in the basement, surrounded by crates and boxes and such. And then, yet a few more years on, comes the phone call. It's the owner; his Vincent is finally for sale.
As promised, the basement is a mess. Only a portion of the Vincent's front wheel and Girdraulic fork is visible amongst the clutter. Fifteen minutes of digging reveal the Black Shadow's signature painted cases; more importantly the engine number and upper frame number are the requisite 1900 digits apart – the Basement Bike has matching numbers. A deal is quickly done but an easy exit via the basement's rear doors is impossible, that pathway blocked with a hoarder's delight of debris. The only way out was via a rickety wooden staircase that groaned under the weight of one man, let alone the 450 pounds of a 1951 Black Shadow. Here, the Vincent's modular construction comes to the rescue as the bike is quickly broken down to its three major component groups. Front end/upper frame, then rear frame member and finally the engine all make it up the stairs and out into daylight without incident. For the first time in decades the Black Shadow is no longer a basement dweller.

Today, as it goes to auction, the Vincent remains in as-found condition, which means the engine issues will need to be addressed before the bike can be ridden. But the "Vincent in the Basement" is amazing complete and, of course, original – a unique Black Shadow with a very good story to tell.

Footnotes

  • As with all Lots in the Sale, this Lot is sold 'as is/where is' and Bidders must satisfy themselves as to the provenance, condition, age, completeness and originality prior to bidding.
Contacts
1951 Vincent 998cc Black Shadow Series-C Frame no. RC10114B Engine no. F10AB/1B/8214
1951 Vincent 998cc Black Shadow Series-C Frame no. RC10114B Engine no. F10AB/1B/8214
1951 Vincent 998cc Black Shadow Series-C Frame no. RC10114B Engine no. F10AB/1B/8214
1951 Vincent 998cc Black Shadow Series-C Frame no. RC10114B Engine no. F10AB/1B/8214
1951 Vincent 998cc Black Shadow Series-C Frame no. RC10114B Engine no. F10AB/1B/8214
1951 Vincent 998cc Black Shadow Series-C Frame no. RC10114B Engine no. F10AB/1B/8214
1951 Vincent 998cc Black Shadow Series-C Frame no. RC10114B Engine no. F10AB/1B/8214
1951 Vincent 998cc Black Shadow Series-C Frame no. RC10114B Engine no. F10AB/1B/8214
1951 Vincent 998cc Black Shadow Series-C Frame no. RC10114B Engine no. F10AB/1B/8214
1951 Vincent 998cc Black Shadow Series-C Frame no. RC10114B Engine no. F10AB/1B/8214
1951 Vincent 998cc Black Shadow Series-C Frame no. RC10114B Engine no. F10AB/1B/8214
1951 Vincent 998cc Black Shadow Series-C Frame no. RC10114B Engine no. F10AB/1B/8214
1951 Vincent 998cc Black Shadow Series-C Frame no. RC10114B Engine no. F10AB/1B/8214
1951 Vincent 998cc Black Shadow Series-C Frame no. RC10114B Engine no. F10AB/1B/8214
1951 Vincent 998cc Black Shadow Series-C Frame no. RC10114B Engine no. F10AB/1B/8214
1951 Vincent 998cc Black Shadow Series-C Frame no. RC10114B Engine no. F10AB/1B/8214
1951 Vincent 998cc Black Shadow Series-C Frame no. RC10114B Engine no. F10AB/1B/8214
1951 Vincent 998cc Black Shadow Series-C Frame no. RC10114B Engine no. F10AB/1B/8214
Auction information

This auction is now finished. If you are interested in consigning in future auctions, please contact the specialist department. If you have queries about lots purchased in this auction, please contact customer services.

Buyers' Obligations

ALL BIDDERS MUST AGREE THAT THEY HAVE READ AND UNDERSTOOD BONHAMS' CONDITIONS OF SALE AND AGREE TO BE BOUND BY THEM, AND AGREE TO PAY THE BUYER'S PREMIUM AND ANY OTHER CHARGES MENTIONED IN THE NOTICE TO BIDDERS. THIS AFFECTS THE BIDDERS LEGAL RIGHTS.

If you have any complaints or questions about the Conditions of Sale, please contact your nearest customer services team.

Buyers' Premium and Charges

PLEASE NOTE: THE BUYER'S PREMIUM FOR THIS AUCTION IS AS FOLLOWS:

For MOTOR VEHICLE property the premium is 15% on the first $100,000 of the bid price and 10% on any amount of the hammer price exceeding $100,000. Buyers are required to pay any applicable import duty, sales or use tax, as the case may be.
For MEMORABILIA property the premium is 25% on the first $250,000 of the hammer price, 20% from $250,001-$4,000,000 then 12.5% on the excess over $4,000,001 of the Hammer Price.

Payment Notices

Payment for purchases may be made in or by (a) cash, (b) cashier's check or money order, or (c) personal check with approved credit drawn on a U.S. bank.

Shipping Notices

For information and estimates on domestic and international shipping as well as export licenses please contact: [email protected].

Special Car Dealer Notices

Dealers license, number 01-02393-18

App