“The most ex­cit­ing bikes I’ve ever rid­den are Vin­cents.... Maybe it’s the his­tory—the in­tan­gi­ble aura—but these bikes in­spire like no other.”

Robb Report (USA) - - Article Of Taste - —ROBERT ROSS, ROBB RE­PORT AU­TO­MO­TIVE CON­SUL­TANT —Sheila Gib­son Stoodley

There’s no ar­gu­ing

with the power of the black-and-white image—a man clad in swim trunks and sneak­ers ly­ing flat across a speed­ing mo­tor­cy­cle, his head down and his feet dan­gling far past the back wheel.

The man was Rol­lie Free, and the

1948 pic­ture shows him set­ting the Amer­i­can mo­tor­cy­cle land-speed record of 150 mph (it has since been bro­ken many times, in­clud­ing by Free him­self two years later). There is ar­gu­ing about the bike, how­ever. Some say it’s a Vin­cent Black Shadow; oth­ers claim it’s a Vin­cent Black Light­ning.

While the Vin­cent Black Light­ning shares its lin­eage with the Shadow, which Hunter S. Thomp­son im­mor­tal­ized in his 1971 novel Fear and Loathing in Las Ve­gas, it’s a leg­end in its own right. Built be­tween 1948 and 1952, the Light­ning was the racing ver­sion of the Shadow, and it was the fastest pro­duc­tion mo­tor­cy­cle of its era. Vin­cent built fewer than three dozen Light­nings, and of those, 19 match­ing-numbers ex­am­ples sur­vive.

The price of a new Vin­cent Black Light­ning ex­ceeded £500, a sum that could ap­proach pur­chas­ing a nice house in the mid-20th cen­tury. To­day, vin­tage Vin­cent Black Light­nings still sell for sums that could pur­chase a nice house. In Jan­uary 2018, Bon­hams sold a 1951 Vin­cent Black Light­ning for $929,000 and set a new world record for any mo­tor­cy­cle at auc­tion.

Own­ers of Holy Grail ob­jects don’t give them up eas­ily, if ever, but a fresh world auc­tion record can change minds. Less than a year af­ter its tri­umphant Las Ve­gas auc­tion, Bon­hams will of­fer an­other match­ing-numbers Vin­cent Black Light­ing on Oc­to­ber 6, 2018, in a sale at the Bar­ber Vin­tage Fes­ti­val in Birm­ing­ham, Ala. The Jan­uary auc­tion record con­vinced the owner of this 1949 mo­tor­cy­cle to con­sign.

Es­ti­mated at $400,000 to $500,000, the bike Bon­hams will sell in Oc­to­ber is not the first Vin­cent Black Light­ning, but it is the ear­li­est ex­am­ple with match­ing numbers. Like the one of­fered in Jan­uary, it’s had five own­ers to­tal. Bid­ders who sit out this op­por­tu­nity might be look­ing at an un­know­ably long wait. The last Vin­cent Black Light­ning to ap­pear at auc­tion be­fore 2018 came up a decade ago, also at Bon­hams.

Will it beat the record? It’s im­pos­si­ble to say. This much is clear, though: The Vin­cent Black Light­ning still cap­ti­vates the imag­i­na­tion, and its leg­end is for­ever en­meshed with that grip­ping photo of Free rock­et­ing into his­tory.

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