I have wanted a Vincent for as long as I can remember. Somehow, somewhere, at sometime in my childhood the words "The World's Fastest Standard Motorcycle" got stuck in the two wheeled, stuff a motor in it and go, portion of my brain. I have ridden just about every kind of two wheeler you can imagine over the last twenty some odd years, (starting with the home made mini bike frame that I traded for at grade school and thought that my Father wouldn't notice I had stolen the lawn mower engine to make it go when I was seven) and still for some, nebulous non-explainable reason, I was in love with Vincents. No one can tell us why we fall in love, it is a universal truth that if you are, you just are. Rhyme nor reason does not enter into it.
Fast forward to ten years ago. There came a time when I toyed with the idea of buying a Vincent and fulfilling a dream. Now keep in mind that I had never physically seen a Vincent, (outside of a book) much less rode one, (except in my dreams). I picked up a Walnack's (or some such thing) on complete spur of the moment, and lo and beholdÖ a Vincent Black Shadow just happened to be for saleÖ for a mere $100,000.00.
I never did find out if the owner was just crazy, or if that particular Shadow had been owned by Steve McQueen, Rollie Free, Grace Kelly or all of the above. I saw the price- End of storyÖDream shattered. I bought an old (and more affordable) Harley Davidson the next day.
Again, fast forward to two years ago. My wife, (the most wonderful woman in the worldÖI'll get to that in a minute) and I were on our honeymoon in Ireland. We were in the village of Kenmare when we met a couple broken down on a 1928 Cotton. We rendered assistance and found that they were on an antique bike rally, with 150 other folks from around the world and invited us back to the hotel the rally was stopping at for the night. I was in Heaven. There were Nortons, BSAs, Ariels, Vellocettes, Triumphs, a Brough, and FOUR Vincents. I told my wife to distract the Vincent owners. I started looking for the shortest route out.
When we got back home, my wife decided that I would be insufferable until this childhood dream was resolved. She told me to go ahead and find a bike and thus began the search. After reading everything I could find, and contacting and talking to some of the big names in Vincent culture (people far smarter than I) I narrowed down the prospects to three bikes, the really nice 47 Rapide, the really, really nice 50 Rapide, or the exquisite 50 (titled as a 51) Black Shadow. I agonized over the decision. Finally, after several months of vacillating back and forth, my wife came to me and said "F*** it! It's only money, Get the Shadow! The rest is history.
My Shadow was built by Herb Harris of Austin, Texas and the late, great Dick Busby, and his partner Haig Altonian. I am fortunate to have been able to talk with and exchange stories with all of these men, and my life has been the better for it. The care and love that they put into the restoration of this bike is unparalleled and the photos just don't do it justice. It is as if this Shadow were put into a time capsule 50 years ago in Stevenage and was opened just last year, in my garage.
My deepest heartfelt thanks to these men for their hard work and dedication. This bike is truly a labor of love of the marque. The bike is dead bone stock, except for the 21" front wheel from a Black Lightning, the Ducati V2 clutch, the rear view mirror, and air filters.
It was featured in the September 1998 issue of Cycle World and then sold to Peter Egan, also a prince of a guy. If you are interested in reading more about it, pick up a copy of the magazine. It is well worth the read for any Vincent nut and Peter describes the bike far more eloquently than I.
I can say this about it, it is absolutely, unequivocally the most fun I have ever had on two wheels. If you have been tossing around an idea about doing something that seems crazy or nonsensical, DO IT!, TODAY Life is to short to put dreams off, and too damn long to be unhappy. Thanks to Denny Delzer (Egli Vincent) for his friendship, advice and for letting me ride my first Vinny (without question, the loudest, meanest one on the planet) in Sturgis last year, and to Tom Davenport for letting my ramblings (and photos of my beloved child) be posted on this site.