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Misc: Everything Else Complete Restoration of a Black Shadow

Magnetoman

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I have a question for which there is an obvious answer that many people might give, but for which I hope at least a few people spend some time considering it.

Background: I have a matching numbers 1950 Black Shadow that will require me to do a complete restoration down to the last fastener. Although I've done some amount of work on it since buying the bike a few years ago (29 years ago, to be precise), optimistically, I'll finish two other projects and be ready to start on the Black Shadow before the end of the year.

Although Graham has done a fantastic job with the web site, its search engine hasn't enabled me to find if someone previously has posted such a complete restoration thread here. There are 3.4k posts in the post-War Tech. Advice category, and various search terms haven't narrowed that number enough for me to find such a thread, if it does exist. Does such a thread exist (here, or anywhere else), and can someone point me to it? But, that's not my real question.

Assuming such a thread does not exist (i.e. a total restoration, not just of individual components[*]), and assuming I spend the time necessary to thoroughly document my restoration in readable form, on what web site should I post it? The obvious answer is "here," but is that actually the best choice?

[*] Two examples of the level of detail I would go into are at:


As alluded to above, a good reason posting it here might not be a good choice is that soon after it is finished it will be buried by later technical posts and the site's search engine won't necessarily find it. If I spend the effort required to write such an extensive thread, I'd like it to be easily found in the future by as many people as possible for whom the information would be useful, not for each post to be read and then forgotten by people who already own Vincents and who are unlikely to actually make use of the information in it.

My three choices seem to be:

1) post it here (but, why here?)
2) post it on another site (but, what site, and why there?)
3) make notes only in enough detail for myself and don't take the time to write, edit and post it on the web.

Opinions, please.
 

Magnetoman

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VOC Member
You should not discount the MPH route ... quality is the watchword not quantity My book the Vincent Black Shadow was far longer before I had to pull it back to the publishers size requirement and is I think the better for it
Mark Twain famously wrote "I apologize for such a long letter - I didn't have time to write a short one." A major difference between a restoration thread and a book is the former is composed and posted in pieces, typically describing the work that was completed that same day, while a book benefits from having had months for many revisions before the manuscript is ready for someone else to even look at, let alone ready to publish.

My Ariel restoration thread is 109,794 words long, which 2-3x longer than your book. But, as you and Mark Twain would understand, it would take a long time to convert that quantity of words into the smaller number of quality ones needed for a book. Anyway, I'll be writing a restoration thread in real time as I work on the bike, not a book, so each post won't be of the quality of a similar-length excerpt from a book. Neither will it have the quality of something I might write for MPH, since in that case I would have an entire month to write and edit each piece before submitting it.

So, if a restoration thread won't have the quality of a book, or even of a monthly MPH article, what good is it? I'm glad you asked. Bill Hoddinott's interview of Graham Smith in the September MPH is one of the longer articles in that issue, consisting of ~3000 words and three small photographs. Although the photos are in color, B&W seems to be the norm for MPH. Anyway, at that rate it would take three years to print the words in my Ariel thread, and at least a few more to print the images in relatively small size, whereas they are large, in much greater quantity, and in color, on the web. Also, MPH is monthly so it lacks the immediacy of content available on-line. I might submit an article in which I wrote that I was about to do something a certain way, a month later it would appear in MPH, a month after that someone could explain in a letter to MPH why I should do it differently, and a month after that I would explain what I had already done four months earlier. In contrast, feedback on the web can come in a few hours, if not a few minutes.

More than once in my other restoration threads I've been uncertain which of several possible solutions I should attempt, so I've stopped for the day and posted my progress. The typical result of this is at least a few people post their ideas on how I should proceed. Even if I ended up not taking any of their suggestions, almost always the input was invaluable in helping me frame my thinking. As I said, this has happened more than once. And, it's very much like the responses to this thread, which are helping frame my thinking on how to proceed once I finish my current projects and (re)start my Black Shadow restoration .
 

vibrac

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VOC Member
I would agree in the immediacy being important I would also point you at what I believe is an excellent book Roy bacon's triumph restoration tome eminently readable and usefull. Which also raises another point. You are not dealing with a fresh off the modern production line identical product there are 70 years of embedded variables. parts.mods.bodges and user and original changes in every bike a good proportion of BS are not true BS anymore if they ever were. At every turn you will be faced with variations on your bike and readers with the same on theirs A gargantuan task indeed.i do wish you luck.
 

greg brillus

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VOC Member
Well with the parts availability now for these bikes and indeed many other vehicles the process has never been better.......With the exception of many products that are no longer available........But many are just as good these days. There are some things about restoring these bikes that are impossible to replicate to factory spec, an example is the paint.......this is something you just have to live with........The completeness of the bike is very important.......the finer details like the correct handlebar levers and the original hardware make all the difference........Simply replacing everything in stainless is easy to do.......but something I avoid where possible. As pretty as stainless is.......Personally I hate the stuff.
 

Magnetoman

Well Known and Active Website User
VOC Member
the finer details like the correct handlebar levers and the original hardware make all the difference
You are not dealing with a fresh off the modern production line identical product there are 70 years of embedded variables. parts.mods.bodges and user and original changes in every bike
As it turns out, due to an unfortunate incident in 1960 that kept the original owner from using or modifying it for the next 30 years, and me buying it then and not modifying it for the subsequent 29, it was frozen in time just ten years after it was made. Because of this, I don't anticipate that I will come across too many non-factory alterations as I dig into the machine.

As pretty as stainless is.......Personally I hate the stuff.
I remember an architect's directive " you can use cheap cad plated bolts on the interior beams but we want hot dipped galvanized on all exterior laminations"
Depending on what those laminations were made of, the architect might have been right. But, if they were made of steel, he was wrong. Cd isn't a cheaper alternative to Zn, but rather has properties that make it superior to Zn in quite a few, but not all, applications. Aircraft manufacturers certainly were aware of Zn plating, but until environmental issues became paramount the fasteners were Cd plated. In recent years a hybrid Zn-Ni plating process was developed for aircraft that is claimed to give equivalent (but not better) protection than the toxic Cd.

Aluminum, cadmium, zinc, stainless steel, and polished steel all are "silver," but each has its own distinctive hue. Personally, I love the look of Cd against polished bronze. Anyway, the look and function of stainless is excellent in a kitchen, but whenever I see stainless on a "restored" bike (as opposed to a daily rider) I wonder what other cheap and easy shortcuts the builder took. [*]

[*]Not that stainless all by itself is cheap, but in addition to disruption of the flow of a build, factoring in the cost of labor to remove a part, pack and ship it, have it plated, spend time remembering where that part goes on the bike when it eventually returns from the plater, and re-installing it, a stainless aftermarket part almost always is the cheap and easy alternative.
 

vin998

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VOC Member
VOC Forum Moderator
Anyway, the look and function of stainless is excellent in a kitchen, but whenever I see stainless on a "restored" bike (as opposed to a daily rider) I wonder what other cheap and easy shortcuts the builder took. [*]

In the UK & Europe Cadnium plating is banned for anything other than aviation or military use and the only way is to find somebody who can get it done via the back door. Even for those applications most parts have gone over to an alternative so basically cadnium is not an option.
Over here in UK the cheap alternative is mild steel plated with zinc which doesn't last as long. Stainless parts are definately more expensive than zinc plated parts.

Sorry for distracting from the title of the thread. This is a classic case though of showing just one single item mentioned can distract any restoration thread and so a certain amount of control will be needed to keep the discussions on track otherwise it will just go on and on. As an example the discussion about the modified steering head stem to alter the operation of the Girdraulics went on for 61 pages and that was just one topic.

Simon
 

Magnetoman

Well Known and Active Website User
VOC Member
This is a classic case though of showing just one single item mentioned can distract any restoration thread and so a certain amount of control will be needed to keep the discussions on track otherwise it will just go on and on.
There's another thread running right now where the owner is having difficulty starting his Comet. Very quickly it generated 61 replies, with people divided into at least four major camps with their advice:

-- It's the magneto, buy a new one
-- It's the magneto, get your present one repaired
-- It's the carburetor, buy a new one
-- It's the carburetor, adjust your present one

With that many opinions on how to deal with just one minor issue ("minor" in the global sense, certainly not minor to the bike's owner), only a very foolish man would post a thread on rebuilding an entire Vincent...

Indeed, control is essential. But, as I wrote yesterday, "Given the considerable effort creating such a restoration thread represents, part of the implicit (or explicit) "contract" with wherever I post it is that my judgment of what constitutes reasonable content has to prevail." In a real sense some of that control would be exercised by what posts I chose to respond to, but other control could be me writing, say, "enough about cadmium" if people would respect that. What I wouldn't want is for someone else to impose their judgement that there had been "enough about cadmium" when I didn't think there had been.

Maybe what I have in mind is impossible on this forum.

p.s. I've slowly been drafting the background and description of work I've done to date on the Vincent, prior to re-starting the restoration. That draft is ~3600 words right now, which isn't that much longer than would fit in an issue of MPH. However, there are 28 large, color photographs. The number of photographs alone, um, "illustrate" why MPH isn't an appropriate place for what I have in mind.
 
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Marcus Bowden

Well Known and Active Website User
VOC Member
Greg my handsome, Did you know S/S smells! The whole of my apprenticeship I spent a lot of time looking for s/s for making nuts, bolts, spring boxes, tool tray & lots of other things for my Vincent, as liv ing on the clifftops of the SW coast of cornwall and the salty sea air continuously around us s/s is the only thing I entertain on my bike. The gent in the main factory of HMD Devonport working on the universal milling machine next to the scrap bin where I use to pick out pieces of scrap and he would put it to his nose to smell then say if it was or wasn't stainless. Didn't know about it being antimagnetic then (well not all) then later on I would take my threaded thimbles and he would put hexagons on them and for a packet of fags a week would do a lot for me. My son has also learnt how to smell stainless!
My main ambition back then was to have more S/S on my bike than Eddy (stainless) Stevens.
Personally I love the stuff so long as one has the gear to machine it.
bananaman
 

Vincent Brake

Well Known and Active Website User
VOC Member
Dear mr Magnetoman.
I think its time to start getting away from whatefer screen.
And get it on the road.

Have to say though you are good at writing, very nice readable.

So i would type instead of video.
Than i am not you.
 

Magnetoman

Well Known and Active Website User
VOC Member
I think its time to start getting away from whatefer screen.And get it on the road.
You should do less riding and post more pictures and information about your work!
Writing a book


and work on the upcoming Brisbane exhibition


has kept me out of the garage and off the road way more than I would have liked for the better part of a year. Any mechanical work I've managed to get done has been as a result of playing hooky from what I "should" have been doing.

We're now up against deadlines to make two short and two one-hour videos to go with the exhibition, and at the same time Phaidon Press is organizing activities for us to publicize the book, further chaining me to the computer screen. When I wrote earlier that it (optimistically) wouldn't be until December before I would finish current projects and re-start the Vincent restoration, I wasn't just referring to work on risible BSAs.
 

Comet Rider

Well Known and Active Website User
VOC Member
In the UK & Europe Cadnium plating is banned for anything other than aviation or military use and the only way is to find somebody who can get it done via the back door. Even for those applications most parts have gone over to an alternative so basically cadnium is not an option.
Over here in UK the cheap alternative is mild steel plated with zinc which doesn't last as long. Stainless parts are definately more expensive than zinc plated parts.

Sorry for distracting from the title of the thread. This is a classic case though of showing just one single item mentioned can distract any restoration thread and so a certain amount of control will be needed to keep the discussions on track otherwise it will just go on and on. As an example the discussion about the modified steering head stem to alter the operation of the Girdraulics went on for 61 pages and that was just one topic.

Simon

Simon,
You are slightly out.
The Military and Aviation industry use "Passivated" Cadmium plating which is totally different to the old style cadmium plating. These are totally different processes. The only downside with the original process was that the chemicals used where highly carcinogenic. If you want the newer passivated cad plating go to Greenpar in Bishops Stortford and no problem

Neil
 

greg brillus

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VOC Member
I can see the desire to use stainless.......Its a one step process to make it, so that wins over having to make the item then get it plated........ However, after spending 10 years in aviation and having to spend much time removing seized solid hardware securing small fairing covers and engine cowls, and countless restorations of cars, bikes, aircraft, and so on........I just don't like the stuff. It may not make a better bike, but if i was judging a bike contest.......original is always going to win over something shiny........As far as the finish lasting, well a new bike will deteriorate pretty quickly if you don't look after it. A major factor in restoration is being able to find out what the factory actually did, not what someones opinion is........that is why the earlier bikes are harder to restore, as most folk who actually knew the answers are no longer with us.
 

Magnetoman

Well Known and Active Website User
VOC Member
If you don't have it already buy Jacqueline Bickerstaffs book Original Vincent.
I'm fairly well set for Vincent books. I have 25 in my 'general' list and 22 in 'manuals'.

As an aside, ~25-years ago Jaqueline rode a BSA Gold Star -- again, that horrible marque whose name shouldn't be mentioned... -- from Texas to a conference in California, and spent one night in my town. I took her to my lab and that evening my wife and I took her to dinner at an Italian restaurant that is still one of our favorites. Although we haven't been to it, or any other restaurant, since early March. Sigh...
 
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BigEd

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VOC Member
VOC Forum Moderator
Prioritise.
From your posts I infer that you are a busy man with lots of interests and projects.
Unfortunately, assuming that you, like many readers here, are towards the wrong end of our hoped-for lifespan and what time we have left reduces every day.
You have developed or restored bikes to what I believe is a high standard so you already know how long these things can take.
Be honest and ask yourself is your priority to actually ride this Vincent, restore it or use it to provide information to people who will be doing a similar exercise in the future? (The latter is a commendable philanthropic exercise but time-consuming if done to the high standard that I think you would produce.)

We all have our own priorities or preferences. Mine is to ride my Rapide while I am still able. Last week on a fine Thursday my wife and I had a wonderful day out with my brother and his wife. We rode 180 miles taking in interesting roads and wonderful scenery in the Derbyshire Peak District. Priceless.
When I can no longer do that kind of ride (not in the near future I hope ) maybe I'll pass my time by removing modifications I've done and restore my Rapide to original or a good standard. That is not my priority at present, yours and other peoples priorities may be different but we all have a choice.
 

vibrac

Well Known and Active Website User
VOC Member
Some time ago I was peripheral to a bike that had been sent to a shop from vendors with the instruction "just get this bike running" It was a norvin that had not been touched since 1960 huge GP carbs sticking out the side clipons racing seat, capricious five gallon tank alloy rims and amazingly no checker tape . A cafe racer straight from the Busy Bee it was returned to the vendor in a running state (it just needed ignition carbs and fuel )
Now that bike in my opinion should have stayed in that mode it was worth preserving it wasn't a factory clone, following a pattern whos minuti are lost in the midst of time but it was a real sample of life back then. Yes after all those years it wanted a engine rebuild and parts checked but I happen to know that it went back to the vendors was sold on jazzed up into a modern rendition of a norvin and I expect went wrong.
These old Vincents have been around over a mans lifetime some iterations are worth preserving (the fast lady Glitter guts.Vinny long legs Et al), It makes me sad to think they will all be boiled back to standard to look like that collection in the shed at Stevenage in 1950 odd, waiting for the Receiver to suggest the price is dropped so someone will buy them.
 

Cyborg

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VOC Member
vibrac, I can’t imagine there are very many folks that would disagree with you about the Norvin. I would love to have something like that (hopefully well done) from back in the day. No question it was worth preserving.
While a fairly large number of owners are getting bikes restored to what they and the judges believe is original, I think there will be a reasonable number of bikes remaining that were assembled with sensible modifications that were intended to be ridden. Who knows what’s coming down the pipe and how it will play out as far as Vincents are concerned. I think having a comprehensive and detailed thread about the restoration of a Black Shadow (to original) is of great value for future riders (assuming there are any). MM’s Shadow sounds like it a wonderful unmolested candidate and it would be hard to find a better one if part of the goal is to record how they came from the factory. If the project goes ahead on some sort of forum, I can’t see him escaping without all sorts of sidebar discussions about what sort of “reasonable “ modifications should be considered. The steering stem discussion might even turn into a bloodbath. Whether or not he succumbs to the pressure doesn’t really matter. I’m assuming, based on MM’s previous threads that most if not all modifications will be debated to some degree and future restorers, or riders can decide which path they want to follow.

Preserve or not? Sometimes that’s an interesting question. How about this abomination? It’s so bizarre that in a warped way it calls out to be preserved. On the flip side, there is the ocular trauma caused by just looking at it....
and...just think what could be done with that engine. As for riding it, I can’t decide which is more dangerous.... the front end, or the rear chain.

8AFEC370-893B-4035-8751-2441F4F26286.jpeg
 

Roslyn

Well Known and Active Website User
VOC Member
vibrac, I can’t imagine there are very many folks that would disagree with you about the Norvin. I would love to have something like that (hopefully well done) from back in the day. No question it was worth preserving.
While a fairly large number of owners are getting bikes restored to what they and the judges believe is original, I think there will be a reasonable number of bikes remaining that were assembled with sensible modifications that were intended to be ridden. Who knows what’s coming down the pipe and how it will play out as far as Vincents are concerned. I think having a comprehensive and detailed thread about the restoration of a Black Shadow (to original) is of great value for future riders (assuming there are any). MM’s Shadow sounds like it a wonderful unmolested candidate and it would be hard to find a better one if part of the goal is to record how they came from the factory. If the project goes ahead on some sort of forum, I can’t see him escaping without all sorts of sidebar discussions about what sort of “reasonable “ modifications should be considered. The steering stem discussion might even turn into a bloodbath. Whether or not he succumbs to the pressure doesn’t really matter. I’m assuming, based on MM’s previous threads that most if not all modifications will be debated to some degree and future restorers, or riders can decide which path they want to follow.

Preserve or not? Sometimes that’s an interesting question. How about this abomination? It’s so bizarre that in a warped way it calls out to be preserved. On the flip side, there is the ocular trauma caused by just looking at it....
and...just think what could be done with that engine. As for riding it, I can’t decide which is more dangerous.... the front end, or the rear chain.

View attachment 37368
I like it think it should be painted a nice day glow yellow
 

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