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Misc: Everything Else Complete Restoration of a Black Shadow

Magnetoman

Well Known and Active Website User
VOC Member
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

Well Known and Active Website User
VOC Member
Be honest and ask yourself
Be honest with myself!? My, that's asking a lot.

We all have our own priorities or preferences.
Yes, that's exactly the point. Two years ago I rode a 90-year old motorcycle across the U.S. Motorcyclists are a small percentage of the overall population, and only a small percentage of them would have chosen to do that. I did it on a motorcycle for which not much technical information exists, that I had completely rebuilt myself down to the last fastener. Having Vintage Brake install new brake linings was the only thing I didn't do myself. Again, such a rebuild is something only a small number of motorcyclists would be interested in doing. This paragraph is just a long way of saying, my preferences aren't shared by very many motorcyclists.

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,
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
I take it that vibrac is the author of 'The Vincent Black Shadow' (Amberley, 2017), which I took the opportunity to re-read yesterday afternoon. Leaving aside the introductory material about the factory, and the final pages about successors, footnotes, etc. (and the 'Del-Autos' typo), fully 40% of the book is devoted to 'Modifications' and 'More Modifications'. Even without that "evidence," the author's personal preference for molested, as opposed to unmolested, Vincents comes through quite clearly at various places in the text. Which is fine, because preferences and priorities are individual choices.

In addition to the satisfaction of having completely rebuilt it myself, I wanted my Ariel to give me the experience of riding a 90-year old motorcycle across the country, not the experience of a motorcycle that had modern improvements applied to it. I want my Vincent to give me the experience of riding a 1950 Vincent, not one that has been modified with 12 V electrics, Mikuni carburetors, altered suspension, etc. Those are my preferences, although clearly they are not shared by everyone.

A worry I had before I started this thread, which only has been amplified by some of the posts, is that my attempt to describe restoring a Vincent to stock configuration easily could degenerate into regular posts every step of the way by people insisting on what I "should do," what they "would do" (i.e. to "improve" it from standard), etc. That would be no fun for anyone.
 

Roslyn

Well Known and Active Website User
VOC Member
Be honest with myself!? My, that's asking a lot.

Yes, that's exactly the point. Two years ago I rode a 90-year old motorcycle across the U.S. Motorcyclists are a small percentage of the overall population, and only a small percentage of them would have chosen to do that. I did it on a motorcycle for which not much technical information exists, that I had completely rebuilt myself down to the last fastener. Having Vintage Brake install new brake linings was the only thing I didn't do myself. Again, such a rebuild is something only a small number of motorcyclists would be interested in doing. This paragraph is just a long way of saying, my preferences aren't shared by very many motorcyclists.

I take it that vibrac is the author of 'The Vincent Black Shadow' (Amberley, 2017), which I took the opportunity to re-read yesterday afternoon. Leaving aside the introductory material about the factory, and the final pages about successors, footnotes, etc. (and the 'Del-Autos' typo), fully 40% of the book is devoted to 'Modifications' and 'More Modifications'. Even without that "evidence," the author's personal preference for molested, as opposed to unmolested, Vincents comes through quite clearly at various places in the text. Which is fine, because preferences and priorities are individual choices.

In addition to the satisfaction of having completely rebuilt it myself, I wanted my Ariel to give me the experience of riding a 90-year old motorcycle across the country, not the experience of a motorcycle that had modern improvements applied to it. I want my Vincent to give me the experience of riding a 1950 Vincent, not one that has been modified with 12 V electrics, Mikuni carburetors, altered suspension, etc. Those are my preferences, although clearly they are not shared by everyone.

A worry I had before I started this thread, which only has been amplified by some of the posts, is that my attempt to describe restoring a Vincent to stock configuration easily could degenerate into regular posts every step of the way by people insisting on what I "should do," what they "would do" (i.e. to "improve" it from standard), etc. That would be no fun for anyone.
It is getting harder now to find original parts to put the bike back to stock
 

Magnetoman

Well Known and Active Website User
VOC Member
In a post he later deleted, someone who shall remain nameless wrote:

"So there are plenty of those bikes to look at. And since they are all trying as hard as possible to be stock- after awhile if you've seen one you've seen them all."

That sentiment pretty much summarizes why, ironically, the Vincent forum may not be receptive to a thread on the restoration of a Vincent.
 

LoneStar

Well Known and Active Website User
VOC Member
In a post he later deleted, someone who shall remain nameless wrote:

"So there are plenty of those bikes to look at. And since they are all trying as hard as possible to be stock- after awhile if you've seen one you've seen them all."

That sentiment pretty much summarizes why, ironically, the Vincent forum may not be receptive to a thread on the restoration of a Vincent.

Many of us forum readers share your preference for an original bike. It's probably a minority position among active posters, though, partly because modifying bikes provides more material for ongoing discussion. There are always new products and technologies that can be applied to update the Vincent.

Still, there remains much to be learned about restoring to original. I for one would be grateful if you can share your experiences in a public forum.
 

Magnetoman

Well Known and Active Website User
VOC Member
Many of us forum readers share your preference for an original bike. It's probably a minority position among active posters, though, partly because modifying bikes provides more material for ongoing discussion.
To be clear, once I restart work on my Black Shadow my intention will be to restore it as close as possible to original 1950 condition, not to incorporate "reasonable modifications" that many readers of this site feel are important. I realize this decision isn't universally popular here. Despite that, if I do decide to create that thread and post it here, I hope everyone will respect that mine was an informed decision not made out of ignorance of the alternatives. By all means anyone who feels it is unreasonable not to make "reasonable modifications" should discuss their personal preferences, but I strongly hope it will be in threads other than the one I create so as not to detract from what I would like to accomplish.

This present thread has been very helpful, and I greatly appreciate everyone who has been taking the time to contribute to it.
 

Dave61

Well Known and Active Website User
VOC Member
To be clear, once I restart work on my Black Shadow my intention will be to restore it as close as possible to original 1950 condition, not to incorporate "reasonable modifications" that many readers of this site feel are important. I realize this decision isn't universally popular here. Despite that, if I do decide to create that thread and post it here, I hope everyone will respect that mine was an informed decision not made out of ignorance of the alternatives. By all means anyone who feels it is unreasonable not to make "reasonable modifications" should discuss their personal preferences, but I strongly hope it will be in threads other than the one I create so as not to detract from what I would like to accomplish.

This present thread has been very helpful, and I greatly appreciate everyone who has been taking the time to contribute to it.

All I can say is it`s your bike & your life, do it whatever way makes you happy.
I don`t think anyone on here is intentionally nasty, there can be very dry humour & there is a bias towards riding in the real world which explains the acceptance of modifications but at the end of the day we all like Vinnies & can appreciate someones efforts even if it wouldn`t necessarily be our cup of Tea.
We can all learn from each other so I`ll be watching with interest.
Cheers
Dave

PS. My Rapide probably has every modification you can do to one but I don`t expect everyone to be happy with it :)
 

timetraveller

Well Known and Active Website User
VOC Member
There will be no 'bloodbath' concerning the steering head originating with me. Despite the fact that this modification improves both comfort, handling and safety I have only sold about 200 of these. I assume that most of those who have bought them are riders rather than collectors and are suspicious that the appearance will be changed. In fact the appearance is hardly noticeable and I had looked at John Emmanuel's bike over several years before I noticed what he had done. What about internal mods. The rocker bushes were known to be a problem for years and one has a choice of boring the tunnels and using oversized bushes or using the mod which clamps the bush to the tunnel roof. How about the clutch. My mod of using a needle roller thrust race is inside and invisible but it will not give an original feel. How about the sealing to prevent oil leaking into the clutch. Early was bad, 'D' was better, my mod even better. Sealing the valve lifter boss at the rear of the timing cover. It can be modified internally to prevent leaks but will not leak like the original. It is MM's bike and he can restore it to whatever state he sees fit. That is nothing to do with the rest of us, but he will have a bike that is less usable than it could be.
 

Magnetoman

Well Known and Active Website User
VOC Member
he will have a bike that is less usable than it could be.
That depends entirely on a person's definition of 'usable', and yours is different than mine. As an example of an original 1950 Black Shadow, mine will be more usable than a modified machine. As a motorcycle to ride across the country, even an extensively "upgraded" Black Shadow would be less usable than a new BMW. Since my goal is to have mine exactly as usable as it would have been when it left the factory in 1950, all of the modifications you mentioned would make it less usable for that purpose.
 

Cyborg

Well Known and Active Website User
VOC Member
There will be no 'bloodbath' concerning the steering head originating with me. Despite the fact that this modification improves both comfort, handling and safety I have only sold about 200 of these. I assume that most of those who have bought them are riders rather than collectors and are suspicious that the appearance will be changed. In fact the appearance is hardly noticeable and I had looked at John Emmanuel's bike over several years before I noticed what he had done. What about internal mods. The rocker bushes were known to be a problem for years and one has a choice of boring the tunnels and using oversized bushes or using the mod which clamps the bush to the tunnel roof. How about the clutch. My mod of using a needle roller thrust race is inside and invisible but it will not give an original feel. How about the sealing to prevent oil leaking into the clutch. Early was bad, 'D' was better, my mod even better. Sealing the valve lifter boss at the rear of the timing cover. It can be modified internally to prevent leaks but will not leak like the original. It is MM's bike and he can restore it to whatever state he sees fit. That is nothing to do with the rest of us, but he will have a bike that is less usable than it could be.

Bloodbath... Perhaps a poor choice of words? In any event, it wasn’t directed at you. It was intended as an example of how strongly people might feel about some modifications. In a conversation with MM that took place elsewhere, I expressed my opinion on modifications. I believed it would be a good idea to include those discussions along with reviewing some of the Vincent’s weak points. I also believed that we could collectively express our opinions on what modifications are worthwhile, but in the end respect the fact that a restoration to “as original” has value and if that is the wish of the OP, then so be it. In that conversation I actually brought up the modified steering stem as a “good” example of something that “could” be incorporated into the restoration. I believe the mod is worthwhile and (albeit slowly) I’m making a similar version of that modified steering stem for my own use. Anyway, I’m no longer convinced discussions on modifications should be included.
 

Glenliman

Well Known and Active Website User
VOC Member
Many of us forum readers share your preference for an original bike. It's probably a minority position among active posters, though, partly because modifying bikes provides more material for ongoing discussion. There are always new products and technologies that can be applied to update the Vincent.

Still, there remains much to be learned about restoring to original. I for one would be grateful if you can share your experiences in a public forum.


I reread this thread and realized that my posts did not pass the sniff test, that is there was no useful information in them.

Hence the delete.
Carry on!

Glen
 

greg brillus

Well Known and Active Website User
VOC Member
The best advice i can give to anyone who wishes to restore one of these bikes is.......Get on with it........ If you think you are running out of time, then you probably are........in all the years I've been playing with old brit bikes there are few if in fact non that compare with a Vincent twin.......They are not the perfect bike, but compared to others.......well, lets just say on most all old bike rallies I've been on, even riding 2 up........you can generally leave the others in your wake. To restore and fully document the build might be a good idea, and of benefit to others........Just remember that you ultimately want to ride it and enjoy it.........So be careful that time does not cheat you of doing just that.
 

timetraveller

Well Known and Active Website User
VOC Member
I'm with Stu on this. Between 1947 and 1955 there were many changes and improvements but if MM chooses not to incorporate any of these and to restore his bike to exactly what is was like when it left the factory then that is his choice. It should be an interesting and instructive document when completed and is likely to be of interest to the collectors/investors as opposed to the riders. Each to his own.
 

TouringComet

Well Known and Active Website User
VOC Member
VOC Forum Administrator
VOC Forum Moderator
It annoys me when you see Vincent artwork, and the drawing/painting has a bike with non-standard bits. There are so few truly original examples left. I know of a handful. I had the privilege of riding a Vincent that was nearly 100% original across the US to the North American rallies in the 1980’s. It now has a BT-H ignition, and an Alton, just because it was easier. If I get the original mag and generator overhauled, I would not hesitate to ride across the US again. Avoiding mods does not mean you cannot use a Vincent for what it was designed to do. It is immensely satisfying to first of all, restore something as near as possible to how it came from the factory, but more importantly to me, then actually use it. The first one by itself has merit, but it is so much more with the second part.
 

Magnetoman

Well Known and Active Website User
VOC Member
Avoiding mods does not mean you cannot use a Vincent for what it was designed to do.
Someone reading a few of the responses in this thread easily might conclude otherwise. If 1950 Vincents had been as frail as might be inferred from some posts, it's a miracle they managed to stay in business until 1955.

Other than having modern tires, LED bulbs, and O-ring chains, in every other respect the 1928 Ariel I rode across the U.S. was in stock factory condition. The three days where I lost miles were entirely my fault (as Benjamin Franklin wrote, "For the want of a drop of Loctite, the kingdom was lost"), not because I had failed to make "sensible upgrades" and instead rebuilt it to original condition. The machine that covered those ~3000 miles was a lesser marque, of half the capacity, and made 22 years earlier than my Black Shadow.
 

Keith Martin

Website User
VOC Member
I have just started a restoration of a 50 Shadow also. I plan on making as original as possible. It came with tons of NOS parts and great amount of slightly used parts. I am saving The best stuff from the stash I just purchased for this bike.
I have an appointment with my cad plater next week to x ray some NOS hardware to measure the thickness of the plating on the original hardware so it can be duplicated on the bike. This includes spokes and nipples.
Trying to replicate the stove enamel is my real challenge. We only use paint on Vincents no powder coating but the paint leaves a little to be desired sometimes. Often a bit too shiny.
I enjoy working on bikes as much as riding them. I am lucky I get to both almost every day.
Please move forward with the Vincent so I can learn new things from you.
 

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