Getting it running after 25 years?


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Hi All, I recently took possession of my dads 1954 Black shadow. He purchased it new but it has not run in 25 years. the fuel was drained when it was stored and the bike is 100% stock. I am getting a battery and adding oil. I was wondering what if any special steps I should take before firing it up. On a side note I was a bike mechanic for 7 years before staring my own machine shop, so I have some mechanical knowledge. I guess what I am looking for is specific Vincent problems or things to look out for. Thanks. Warren


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G'day Warren,
You are probably going to get a dozen different opinions on this. I will look at it as if it was my bike and what I would do.
Take the petrol tank off and using some fresh fuel, slosh it around to wash out any stale residue. whilst doing this you can see if the fuel cap cork washer is sealing.
All the oil will have totally drained from the tank and from the engine's moving parts into the sump and chain case. Drain these along with the gearbox. Remove the oil filter and clean out the filter cavity. Replace with a new filter suitably soaked in oil. Undo the oil return from the underside of the oil tank and using an oil can, force oil back down the line. This will push oil down over the rockers. If you want to delve a little deeper, remove each valve spring cap and liberally souse the spring and upper guide area with afore mentioned oil can. Replace caps and return line. Remove the spark plugs and squirt a little oil about on top of the piston. Leave the plugs out for the time being. Remove the ATD cover at the front of the timing cover and fill the timing case and crankcase to the level of the opening. Replace the cover. Put the correct amount of oil in the chaincase and gearbox and a pint of oil in the tank. Now for some exercise. With the bike in gear, push it around the yard or up and down the street until oil appears at the return port of the oil tank filler. Do not start it!, there is way too much oil in the crankcase for that. This ensures that the bearings and timing gear are all soaked in oil. Drain the crankcase and chain case. Whilst they are draining you can sit back with a coffee or beer and admire your fine machine. Put another pint of oil in the oil tank. Being a 54 year I take it that it has coil ignition so now that you have the new battery and the plugs are out, check that you have spark at the plugs. The points in the distributor may need a light touch with a points file.
It may also pay to pull the wheels out and stuff some grease into the wheel bearings.
Replace the fuel tank and put a couple of gallons of fuel in and turn on the taps. At this point you will more that likely find that the taps leak and the carbys will have various leaks. These will have to be dismantled and attended to.
Now with the plugs back in its time for the start up. If your like most of us you will have to resort to the time honored method of utilising the kickstart. If your lucky you will have access to a set of rollers. After start up, immediately check that oil is flowing back to the tank. You may like to insert your finger over the return orifice to lightly restrict the return thereby forcing some extra oil down the rockers. Allow the engine to warm and then a short ride around the block will illustrate how the clutch action is and show up any other problems. If all is well, then a ride of ten or fifteen miles will warm everything nicely. Upon returning, immediately drain the oils whilst they are hot and allow to drain over night. Refill the next day with fresh oil and then out for some more miles. I would then replace the oils again after approximately 100 to 200 miles. Oil is cheap and by draining and replacing it, you are removing any contaminates. You don't have to use expensive oil for this process, supermarket stuff will do for these quick changes.
This start up process will not prevent any major mechanical calamities that were on the cards before the bike was layed up. Have you taken into account why the bike was layed up?, is it possible there were major problems back then?. If so then these should be dealt with first.


Les Thomson

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ogrilp400 you have a lot of time on your hands since the wife left,I hope that WC Machine appreciates your tips.


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I'd do it slightly differently.....

Hi Warren,

Here is what I would do:

1 - Reading
Get three publications and have a good, thorough read, two are available new or off ebay and the third is sold as reproductions or again, originals come off ebay occasionally.
1.1 Vincent Riders handbook (the original one supplied with the bike - I could let you have a poor photocopy by post if you let me have your details - send me a Private Message via the Forum with your private email details to sort that)

For instance did you know that there are 4 places to drain the engine oil from, not just one? Then one for the primary drive and another for the gearbox. Did you know that if you don't fully fill the oil filter chamber after filling the oil tank you could starve the engine of oil on initial start and cause quite a bit of expensive damage?

1.2 Know Thy Beast written by Eddie Stevens - a bible to most all Vincent Owners.
1.3 The Vincent by Paul Richardson - as above, a real bible on what to do, how to look after it etc etc

2 - Local Members
There is bound to be a local section near you, and/or other Vincent Owners around you - ask around, go to the local section and meet the guys, ask for advice both on what you are looking to do but more importantly perhaps the name of someone who is respected and knows what they are doing.

Do all that before you try to start it.

Then see if that person is willing to swing past your place and help you get your bike running.

There are many friendly and helpful people in the VOC who will help you - I have bumped into a fair few myself in the couple of years I have been in the club - don't be afraid to ask - there is a famous saying that if you ask 15 different Vincent Owners the same question about the bike you may get uyp to 15 differing opinions - at the end of the day you can then make your own mind up.

Oh - and keep posting on the Forum - if you search under my Forum name you'll see I have asked all sorts of basic (sometimes stupid) questions since I got my Rapide.

Have fun and enjoy it - great bike.

Regards and best of luck


G'day Warren,
You are probably going to get a dozen different opinions on this.
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New Bike

Be aware (not beware!!) of Coventry Spares in Middleboro, MA, an advertiser on this site.
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I would closely inspect the petcocks.The corks have probably dried up.
Coventry has new corks.New gas does not like them (or vice versa).I've heard that if you soak them in Olive Oil,they might hold.I'm experimenting with this now.
Be sure to send in your eng./frame numbers and mating numbers to the club.

Graham Smith

I've heard that if you soak them in Olive Oil,they might hold.

Someone told me you could just soak them in 'any old engine oil' and it would revive them, although I'm sure the finest extra virgin olive oil would work as well! :)


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I've been wondering if the new synthetic corks they are using for wine might work well for the petcocks.

In the past, I made my own corks. I would buy any available corks from the grocery or hardware store, cut it to length, drill a small hole in the center, then mount the cork in a Dremel. I would turn the cork against sandpaper, and while keeping the cork mounted in the Dremel, I would try the cork in the petcock. I would turn the cork down just until it would go into the petcock with a slight bit of force. Works extremely well.

I tried olive oil once on an old cork, didn't help any.
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