1949 VINCENT-HRD WHITE SHADOW PROJECT
Chosen by: Ben Walker
Sold at: The Spring Stafford Sale 2017 Sale price: £163,900
Ever since the Series A’s arrival in 1937, the Vincent V-twin has been synonymous with design innovation, engineering excellence and superlative high performance. From Rollie Free’s capture of the ‘world’s fastest production motorcycle’ record in 1948 on a tuned Series-b Black Shadow to the final fully-enclosed Black Knight and Black Prince, Philip Vincent’s emphasis on appearance and performance is legendary.
His machines bristled with innovative features, with adjustment of brake pedal, footrests, seat height and gearchange lever. The finish was to a high standard commensurate with the cost of the machine, virtually double that of its rivals.
The appeal of the Vincent, and the 120mph-plus Black Shadow in particular, lay in its ability to outperform just about every other vehicle on the road, and in the early post-war years it was unique. This was a time when the average family saloon was barely capable of reaching 70mph, and not until Jaguar’s XK120 was there a production sports car that could live with the thundering V-twins from Stevenage.
But not every Shadow-specification machine left the factory with the distinctive black-finished engine casings, those few that did not being known as ‘White Shadows’ and identified by a ‘1A’ engine number prefix. Only a relative handful of these White Shadows are known to exist today, a total of 16 being listed with the Vincent Owners Club.
Acquired by the then-current vendor in March 1973, the bike was mainly ridden by his father, a motorcycle enthusiast who had hitherto not experienced the joys of riding a Vincent. After he died in 1975, the Vincent was put into storage, where it remained until the Bonhams sale in April 2017. ‘Barn find’ Vincents of any kind seldom come to light and this White Shadow, one of the rarest of post-war Vincents, has to be one of the most desirable.
“At first, I thought this was ‘just’ a Black Shadow. But checking the history with the help of the owners club, I realised it was a much rarer White Shadow, made to look like a Black Shadow. Estimated at £50,000-60,000, it made much more, selling to a determined American Vincent collector.” Ben Walker
This White Shadow had been made to look like a less-rare Black Shadow, with a black-finished engine