Vin­cent Se­ries B A white one

From Steve­nage to the States, to the Caribbean, and fi­nally to Mel­bourne. That’s the jour­ney un­der­taken by a Se­ries B Shadow that’s lucky to be alive.

Old Bike Australasia - - CONTENTS - Story Jim Scays­brook Pho­tos Ian Fal­loon.

Scoop­ing the award for Best Post War Mo­tor­cy­cle at the 2017 Mo­tor­clas­sica in Mel­bourne was just re­ward for an Her­culean ef­fort in sav­ing this Se­ries B Vin­cent Shadow from a hur­ri­cane-plagued de­struc­tion in the Vir­gin Is­lands in the Caribbean. Sav­ing any Vin­cent from obliv­ion is praise­wor­thy enough, but this one has a spe­cial prove­nance in that it is the only Se­ries B Shadow pro­duced with the en­gine in un­painted form. This ma­chine was or­dered from the Vin­cen­tHRD fac­tory in Steve­nage on 22nd Fe­bru­ary, 1949 and shipped to John Esler – the Vin­cent dealer in Grand Rapids, Michi­gan, USA. Elser was a suc­cess­ful side­car racer and also one of the USA’s top Tri­umph deal­ers for nearly five decades. Orig­i­nally, this mo­tor­cy­cle, en­gine num­ber F10AB/1B/1858, was or­dered as a Rapide, but dur­ing its build, the or­der was changed to Shadow spec­i­fi­ca­tions. This meant that the en­gine was com­pletely un­painted, the only one of the 76 Se­ries B Shad­ows to be pro­duced with­out a black-painted en­gine. Just who was the lucky re­cip­i­ent when the Shadow ar­rived in Grand Rapids is un­known, as is the mo­tor­cy­cle’s sub­se­quent use and own­er­ship over the next 25 years. How­ever by some quirk of fate, the Vin­cent had an­other sea voy­age, all the way to the Caribbean to the US Vir­gin Is­lands. With a to­tal area amongst the three is­lands that make up the group of just 346, it’s un­likely the Shadow ever got to stretch its legs, which is pos­si­bly why it was aban­doned by its owner. In 1974, Larry Cres­sell and his wife Dianne were liv­ing in the Vir­gin Is­lands, when Larry, a com­mit­ted mo­tor­cy­cle en­thu­si­ast, stum­bled upon a mo­tor­cy­cle chained to a palm tree. And not just any mo­tor­cy­cle, but the only Se­ries B Shadow with an un­painted en­gine!

Trag­i­cally, the en­gine had been par­tially dis­man­tled be­fore in­car­cer­a­tion, and with the heads re­moved the en­gine rapidly filled with wa­ter and be­gan a process of se­vere cor­ro­sion. For­tu­nately, Larry was able to re­lease the Shadow from its shack­les and trans­port it back to his home in Seat­tle Wash­ing­ton, where it joined a num­ber of other sta­ble­mates, in­clud­ing the last MSS Ve­lo­cette pro­duced by the fac­tory as well as a Thrux­ton, in his shed. But although this en­vi­ron­ment was some­what more be­nign than that en­dured by the Vin­cent in the pre­vi­ous quar­ter cen­tury, it was far from ideal, and the par­tially dis­man­tled ma­chine was a for­got­ten and barely recog­nis­able hulk when Larry passed away a few years back. Over a pe­riod of time, Larry’s widow agreed to sell some of the col­lec­tion to Jon Munn, owner of Clas­sic Style in Mel­bourne, but it was a slow process. Both the Ve­lo­cettes where shipped to Aus­tralia by Jon, but it took a fur­ther five years be­fore Dianne Cres­sell agreed to part with the Vin­cent. Jon Munn takes up the story, “I have a ship­ping base in Ven­tura, Cal­i­for­nia, so in Jan­uary 2017 I took a 2,500 mile round trip to Seat­tle to col­lect the Vin­cent. It was in an in­cred­i­bly sorry state. The tank had all but rusted away but the worst bit was the en­gine – it took 3 weeks just to get it apart and we had to push the lin­ers out of the bar­rels with the pis­tons still frozen in the bores be­cause no amount of soak­ing would free them up. We put in new big ends and crank pins, along with new lin­ers and pis­tons and new pressed in bear­ings in the con-rods. De­spite the or­deal, the gear­box in­ter­nals were im­mac­u­late as was the pri­mary drive. For some rea­son the rims had been changed to 19 inch front and 18 inch rear, but I had a good set of orig­i­nal rims (20 inch front and 19 inch rear) so the wheels were re­built with those. Neil Videan was a big help with other com­po­nents we needed – he has a huge stock of parts. From the time it ar­rived in Mel­bourne it

took five months to re­store – I had a dead­line in mind in or­der to show it at Mo­tor­clas­sica in Oc­to­ber. It was a gen­uine back-from-the dead case. “This bike had been fac­tory-fit­ted with the op­tional Light­ning tachome­ter which has yel­low dig­its, and both this and the speedo were re­built by Steven Lewis who is an RAF tech­ni­cian. For­tu­nately I have the orig­i­nal works or­der from the fac­tory dated Fe­bru­ary 22nd 1949, and every num­ber on the bike is ab­so­lutely spot on. I know the Se­ries C Shad­ows with the un­painted en­gines were known as White Shad­ows, but since this is a one-off Se­ries B, I have never re­ferred to it as White Shadow – I pre­fer to call this one just a Shadow. I would love to know what hap­pened in the pe­riod 1949 to 1974 but the en­quiries I have made have turned up noth­ing. There do not seem to be any sales or regis­tra­tion de­tails avail­able.” With much hard work and a con­sid­er­able fi­nan­cial in­vest­ment, the not-white Shadow was duly com­pleted (just) for Mo­tor­clas­sica 2017, where it rightly col­lected a ma­jor award in the In­ter­na­tional Con­cours D’El­e­gance. Es­pe­cially con­sid­er­ing the de­crepit state in which it was re­ceived and the time avail­able for the re­me­dial work, the restora­tion is noth­ing short of mirac­u­lous – an in­cred­i­ble jour­ney from the base of a palm tree in the Vir­gin Is­lands to the glam­our of the Royal Ex­hi­bi­tion Hall in Mel­bourne.

Front wheel was re­built with cor­rect 20 inch rim and tyre.

“There has never been an ounce of paint on this en­gine”.

BE­LOW Jon with his Mo­tor­clas­sica award.

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