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Machine 1955 Vincent 998cc Black Shadow Series D

Graham Smith

Well Known and Active Website User
VOC Member
VOC Forum Administrator
VOC Forum Moderator
Auction House
Collectors' Motorcycles at the Barber Motorsports Museum, Birmingham, Alabama, USA
Date of Auction
5 October 2019
Lot Number
Sold for US$ 46,000 (£ 37,598) inc. premium
Frame no. RD12803/B, Rear frame no. RD12803/B Engine no. F10AB/2B/10903.

955 Vincent 998cc Black Shadow Series D

Frame no. RD12803/B, Rear frame no. RD12803/B
Engine no. F10AB/2B/10903
• Matching numbers
• Excellent candidate for restoration

When it comes to Vincents, 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...easy 150mph 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 at the time, 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 55 horsepower 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. Twin ribbed brake drums were fitted to cope with the increased performance, while in a marketing masterstroke Vincent specified a 5in.-diameter 150mph speedometer and black-finished engine cases for his new baby – the 125mph Black Shadow.
Some 144 Series Ds were made just as the Stevenage works was shutting down bike production for good. First and rarest of the three Shadow series was the Series B with less than 80 built. The largest number of Shadows was the Series C with 1,500-odd coming off the production line.
This Series D Shadow has matching upper and rear frame, plus engine, numbers as reported by the seller who in turn consulted the VOC for confirmation. This project bike was formerly the daily rider of the instigator of the Chicagoland collection (where found after 30 years of dry storage.) It carries no guarantee as to its completeness, originality and condition. Any potential buyer must satisfy themselves as to the status of this lot. The motor will, the seller warns, require a complete rebuild.

  • 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.

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