Thursday, September 10, 2015

Vincent Black Shadow added to World on Wheels

In the closing years of the 1960s, I rode a motorcycle, Wisconsin weather permitting. In my circle of associates from the neighborhood and at McDonalds, where I worked throughout high school, it was the preferred mode of transportation.

I rode a Yamaha 250. John Kurzynski had a Honda 160, Davey Kuhn had a Bugatti, Sputzie Steinke had a Suzuki 250. Crazy Roger had a Triumph. There wasn't a Harley to be seen among us for several more years.

In fact, it wasn't the Harley that was our dream bike of choice; we all aspired to a Vincent Black Shadow. We only knew of that English classic by reputation, none of us had ever seen one on the streets of Fond du Lac, Wis. I don't believe I've ever seen one on the ground, even now.

Technologically advanced, hand-assembled, expensive and with fewer than 1,700 bikes produced between 1948-53, the Vincent Black Shadow was everything a bad-ass motorcycle should be. The bike got its name from its striking appearance; everything that wasn't chrome was painted in stove-enamel black. Its reputation came from it status as the fastest production motorcycle of its day . . . and for years beyond.

The Black Shadow had a 55 hp, 998 cc V-twin engine and a 4-speed transmission. It sported an oversize speedometer that registered to 150 mph. It could make a pretty good run at pinning that needle, but actually topped out at about 125 mph.

With a sticker price of about $1,700 (in Great Britain), the Vincent Black Shadow was about 25% more expensive than an Indian or Harley Davidson. I could no more afford a Black Shadow today (even if I could still ride a motorcycle) than I could in 1969. In England, a nice original Vincent sells for around $25,000, while a restored bike can bring $50,000 or more. That's Jay Leno territory.

My latest World on Wheels custom card pays tribute to the legendary Vincent Black Shadow and the dreams of a Wisconsin kid 45 years ago.

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