Smokey Shadow


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Non-VOC Member
I looked at what was meant to be a 1953 Black Shadow yesterday, it had a premium price on it, which I was quite prepared to pay. However I was concerned about a few issues.
First of all the rear cylinder was leaking small amounts of oil from the exhaust pipe fastening finned flange nut, it was blowing smoke when first started, which the owner put down to oil in the crankcase from sitting for about 3 months without being started. He allowed it to warm up for about 10 minutes, but when I followed him on a ride it was still puffing a fair amount of blue smoke on gear changes and particularly when backed off, we rode for about 30 kilometres and it was still blowing the same amount of smoke.
My limited mechanical knowledge would suggest worn rings and / or valve guide seals. Can anyone please tell me if I am over concerned or if this is common and nothing to worry about, as I did not want to buy the bike and then find I had to spend further money soon after to remedy the issues.

He had owned the bike for over 30 years and was confident all the numbers matched.
Whiilst maintaining the owners wish not to reveal too much about the bike so that he is not innundated with calls or offers (it has been listed with the VOC) as it is not really on the market, and I was only given an opportunity to buy it as he is a friend of a friend.
The engine number is in the 5800 to 5900 range, which would seem to suggest 1951 rather than 1953 and the 2 frame numbers seemed to be the same (it was very hard to read them) in the RC7700 to RC7800 range, and I have no idea what year they should represent.
Any constructive comments would be greatly accepted.
Regards Damian.

Peter Holmes

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VOC Member
Buy it

If the price is OK buy it, the issues with oil seem relatively minor, i am sure there are loads of guys in OZ that could fix the top end,oil seepage past the pump into the sump is not unusual. Who knows what will eventually happen to your investment in the passage of time and once all us old guys have relinquished ownership, my son (32yoa) refers to my Vincents as Juncents!
It is very difficult to be sure exactly what you are getting re: mechanical condition, my twin for all the world was running ok, a bit rattlely as usual, only to find on inspection that one of the main bearings had walked itself out of its housing, not all the way, it can' t the crankpin nut stops it, Get it, after all they are not making them any more, are they?
I would check out with the Club the authenticity of the Shadow as I believe there was a thriving business a few years back putting a B in the engine number to make a quick buck.
Good luck and enjoy, just be prepared to spend a few bob after the purchase. Regards Peter Holmes

Ken Tidswell

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VOC Member

Oil running out of the exhaust port is a sign of worn/loose gudes.My guess is is need new guides and the cylinder barrells will be loose at this age. How bad is your desire for a Shadow ? Get the engine number /mating nos and UFM/RFM checked by the Club registrar , then disinvest your money. as the case may be. It will still be worth the same even after the work which may need to be done is done. Ken


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As for the vintage, the Shadow my father bought new is engine number 9865, and it was built in Nov of 1952, although it did not ship from the factory until Sep 1953, and was purchased new in the fall of 1954. So, is it a '52, a '53, or a '54? I think the answer is simply 'Yes'.
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Tom Gaynor

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VOC Member
Mine is in the 6000 to 7000 range, left the factory early 1951. It did not however have to go round the world, just 350 miles north.
I have lived with worn guides for 8000 miles (43000 to 51000......). No big thing, it would go on to one pot (the rear) at about 150 miles. Fit another NGK B6 and it was good for another 150. That's about the right time interval a tea habit anyway. (Never buy coffee in Britain, never buy tea anywhere else.)
At leisure (over tea...) I could chip half a pound of burnt oil off the old plug, and stick it back in the tool tray.
Jiggle wires in the inlets extended the pre-stop mileage to 250, changing to an NGK B5 in the front (still B6 in the rear) extended the interval to more than 400. Or whatever, it didn't cut out again. Oil consumption throughout was about 250 miles per pint, which I think is about what they consumed when new.
I've just had new guides with seals fitted, line reamed, (new) valves lapped. Took a week, didn't cost much. Haven't ridden it yet, it's 7 deg C today, near tropical in NE Scotland but still a bit cold for me.
Warning: don't be tempted to lean out the offending pot to lighten the colour of an oily plug. You'll hole a piston first. The penny dropped before I did.
I'm an adept at advising (other) people how to spend their money, so here goes: buy it, ride it, and gradually sort things out as you discover what is needed. Even a tired Vincent is still one hell of a motorcycle.