The most beautiful engine of all – Vincent motorcycles

Vincent motorcycles closed the doors of their factory in 1955 after only 27 years of production. It was a devastating end to the manufacturer that in 1948 had laid claim to producing the world’s fastest production bike, the Vincent Black Shadow.


Vincent motorcycles began using their own engines in 1936 after being disappointed by the single cylinder JAP engines at the Isle of Man TT. The 998 cc 47.5 degree V twin four stroke produced around 45bhp and was capable of 110mph. The engine was used in the Vincent Series ‘A’ Rapide which also used Vincents own ‘cantilever’ rear suspension set up.

In 1948 Vincent produced the “Black Shadow” and the “Black Lightning”. The  “Black Shadow” recognisable by its Black engine was capable of 125mph (201km) and produced 54bhp. The Vincent “Black Lightning” was a much lighter race version which used aluminium components and the removal of any non-essential items. There were only a few more models to come out of the Vincent factory after these two bikes but they never gained the same attention and soon after the company ceased production of their motorcycles. Luckily Vincent’s untimely closure did not mark the end of their popularity. An immaculate example of a Black Shadow can fetch over $100,000.


A Vincent engine in a featherbed Norton frame was by far the most desirable of all Cafe Racer formulas and was named a Norvin. Who could deny that a motorcycle built purely for high-speed street racing and featuring the engine from a motorcycle that once held the title of “worlds fastest production motorcycle” was nothing but Cafe Racer perfection.

One of the most famous photographs featuring a Vincent motorcycle: Rollie Free on a Vincent Black shadow recording a top speed of 150.313mph wearing only a pair of swimming shorts and laying out flat to reduce wind resistance.
An Australian salute to Vincent motorcycles.