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Uncle Johnnie’s Vincent Shadow

Cars and motorcycles are machines, collections of metal, leather and plastic components. have no soul, and so they are not things.

Cars and motorcycles, those largely built by begin life as the vision of one or men and thus are born with a and given life by those manufacture and assemble them. are built to serve a simple to transport their passengers one place to another. Whether the that connect those two are as mundane as a morning commute, or as as from green flag to the reason they are built, the we part with hard cash to acquire them, is because we want to go on a ride.

mass manufacturing processes that uniformity, consistency and be the prime objective. Accessories and options aside you’re to find any individual differences one blue with beige 2012 Audi A5 and another. The mark,” once a sign of a constructed component or machine is from the modern automobile, and if would surely constitute a

It may be said then, that machines are “not quite yet,” and that they become alive, and gain once they become of their new owner’s own life. And so the minivan which transports to and from Little League, on vacations, to elementary, high and then graduation become symbols, marking time of a journey from childhood to and all the points in between. Hand on glass, spilled ice cream on mud and dirt on seats, the burnished of a million cycles of start, stop, repeat.

It was not always this of course. Fifty or years ago, before numerically controlled mills and and robotic welding and painting, and aligned body panels, and motorcycles were built by They were built one by in small batches, and compared to metrics their manufacturing were inefficient. The contrast a “new old” example and a modern” version is one of a million differences.

Bolts and nuts lack made by the wrench or socket turned them. Interiors and compartments are devoid of fasteners at and the actual engine itself is invisible under that big cover. It will take for these machines to gain and for their lives will become rich with the that time and mileage can

The beauty of old vehicles is that are at once simpler and yet more than today’s versions. certainly mechanically simpler, and with basic mechanical can see how they work. “Oh yeah, the lever is connected to this with pulls on this on the hub, and that operates the cam opens the brake shoes…” more complex though, they were obviously by the hands of men and women, whereas there is the illusion that are in fact one large piece of and plastic, the nuts and bolts as if forged into being by large press, never by human hands.

A few years vintage car and motorcycle enthusiasts to put into practice an idea had been around for a long Why not leave that 1967 unrestored? After all, much more interesting the way it is than if it were restored. returning an old car or motorcycle to its original is a noble endeavor, restored of old machinery are common.

Sometimes leaving them as is not an option, as they may be mechanically or too worn to be of any use, and a vehicle cannot even move its own power is no longer a vehicle. lucky enough to find an old or motorcycle like the one we’re to discuss, in original, unrestored, and mechanically sound condition is lucky indeed, especially if the in question is a special and rare

This is the story of a machine had an old soul even when it was and it’s a story not only of the life, but of the man who was its custodian for almost 60 This is the story of Uncle 1955 Vincent Black . The best part is that the big once advertised as “the fastest standard motorcycle,” is original, intact, and unrestored.

We an email the other day from a who found our website while vintage motorcycles. She told us her family was auctioning off “an item” belonged to her uncle. She thought we and our readers might be interested in the

 The “item” turned out to be a Vincent Black Shadow D, and the story is a great one.

is email that we received Johnnie’s nephew David and his of his uncle, and the Vincent.

“Thanks for interest in the Black Shadow. My Johnnie was an interesting character. He aged 82, having never his whole life.

As a working-class living in Hackney, North all his family lived in the same in 19th Century row houses demolished in a redevelopment program). brother-in-law, having been from the British army at the end of purchased an AJS motorcycle with his 50 de-mob money. He and Johnnie on this bike together, and Johnnie learned all about mechanics.

As soon as he was able (aged he purchased the Vincent Black Series D on the ‘HP’, meaning Purchase’, the old way of describing a timed purchase agreement. The mystery is: at a of  English motorcycle history so many great marques being built: AJS, Norton, Triumph, BSA etc, why did he go for the most expensive “Rolls of motorcycles….the fastest and most motorcycle on Earth; a motorcycle cost as much as a house in days. (£500).

Johnnie owned a car, nor did he ever to drive one. His bike was his all around London. He worked at jobs including handyman, and odds and ends on a stall at the open-air market,  but his passions were fishing, his and, later in life,

When he passed away year, the surviving family were amazed to find treasures in his possession, including a Century set of solid gold he found whilst metal-detecting. His included very desirable bamboo fly-fishing rods and sets of Roman coins and a of other collectibles.”

Uncle was the sweetest man, and at various all his young nieces and nephews myself), got to ride on the Vincent. The was a defining part of Johnnie’s and now, looking into his through the bike, I wish I had him better.”


In its day the legendary Vincent Black was the world’s fastest production Considered the first “superbike,” it was of 125 mph. Pam Doyle, from remembers SXW 606 as her childhood transport of when her Uncle, John Sawyer, took her out riding for spins around the Kent

Mr Sawyer died last aged 82 and now the family has decided to the motorcycle, built in 1955, one of the from the Stevenage factory. It be offered at The Canterbury Auction on September 5 when considerable is expected from Vincent worldwide.

Production of Vincent’s D range began in 1955, the year that the factory Only 144 Series D motorcycles made in 1955 and matching show SXW 606 was one of the final 38.

The machine was new by Uncle Johnnie, then 27, from Conway Motors in Bush, London, who registered it for him in 1956. He paid around – the price of a house at the time.

then it has covered 54,129 and among a raft of documents and to be sold with it are MoT certificates certficates of road-worthiness) from to 1989, the last one showing a of 53,968.

Said the auctioneer’s Dave Parker: “Finding an Black Shadow is a remarkable that is sure to excite of the Vincent marque around the The bike is in extremely good, and original condition, the only being the later polished cases.”

Vincent Black Shadow

“Photographs show the was supplied with black and we do not know when the owner had exchanged. It was a common thing to do the black finish became but it is not a major procedure to have the finish restored.”

“The was stored by the original owner in due to his increasing age. We were in by the family to sell it and minor work was carried out by Kent Motorcycles. This consisted of a refurbished clutch, new battery, the Amal carburettor slides replaced and the machine was checked thoroughly. It is now in excellent full order and ready to be MoT’d.”

“Uncle Johnnie’s motorbike is a piece of history. The engine note the hairs stand up on the back of neck and it’s running as as it did in 1955. It remains one mean

Here are a few comments from other niece, Sharon:

“My recollection is going for a ride the block sitting on the petrol so that I didn’t fall The bike was always parked his house in the road, he was so proud of bike he was always cleaning it. My dad him how to ride it and everything about the from A-Z I think my dad was very in him getting a bike as he already had one of his

Johnnie was never interested in and never even learnt to one. When I was a kid, I to say to him “Oh Johnnie take us for a ride” and he always said “no” but I would sit on the back and we would go to the shop to get his bait for fishing. He took me very far, but he went fast and it used to my tummy go over, like on a rollercoaster, he loved speed, I was scared I was going to fall off but I held tightly round his no crash helmets in those

It’s not something I thought really, we lived in the same and it was just part of my life. was always there and so was his bike.”

As far as we’re concerned there is no that this Vincent is a thing, with a whole lot of evoking not only the memories and of post WWII England, but of the man who it, and his dedication to preserving this machine. While Vincents always been desirable, was a point in time when would have been as anachronistic.

Before the cult of began to take life, they came to represent one of the desirable vintage motorcycles in the they were just expensive to maintain, and hard to parts for. Anyone who has owned and maintained a vehicle for knows how easy it is to let it languish. and cars don’t like to sit for without being used, harder on them than the of daily service.

That Johnnie took the time, and to the effort to preserve his Black speaks to the kind of man he was. ends up buying this will have not only a example of one of motorcycling’s finest fastest) machines, but a piece of and a testament to one man’s love of his

Stay on the throttle!


For further please contact Dave or Tony Pratt at: 

The Auction Galleries on

Vincent Black Shadow


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