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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Clymer 1952 Vincent Black Lightning Motorcycle

Vincent Owners Club

Information about the Vincent Black Lightning on

The Vincent Black Lightning was a British motorcycle designed and built in September 1948 at the Vincent works in Great North Road, Stevenage, Hertfordshire UK between 1948 and 1952. At the time the Black Lightning was the fastest production motorcycle in the world.

Vincent Motorcycles began motorcycle production in 1928 and were well established after World War II when they launched the 1000 cc Black Lightning. This was a production version of the Black Lightning which held the world land speed record, with a similar engine specification.

Available to order, a 'standard' Black Lightning was supplied in racing trim with magnesium alloy components, special racing tires on alloy rims, 'rear-set' foot controls, a solo seat and aluminum fenders. This reduced the Lightning's weight to 380 lb (170 kg). The 998 cc twin cylinder, OHV, air cooled, pushrod V-twin engine specifications were always based on standard parts but upgraded with higher performance racing equipment. The Black Lightning had racing, higher strength connecting rods, larger inlet ports, polished rocker gear, steel idler gears, racing carburettors, a manual-advance magneto and was available with compression ratios between 6.8:1 and 12.5:1. This resulted in 70 bhp (52 kW) and a top speed of 150 mph (240 km/h). Only 31 Black Lightnings were ever built before production ended due to Vincent's financial problems in 1952.

World Record
On 13 September 1948, Rollie Free achieved the US national motorcycle speed record at Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah riding the first Vincent Black Lightning. During test runs Free reached average speeds of 148.6 mph (239.1 km/h). To reduce drag, Free stripped to his swimming shorts for the final run, which he made lying flat with his legs stretched out and his head low, guiding the Vincent by following a black stripe painted on the salt bed. The stunt worked as Free covered the mile in 23.9 seconds, passing the 150 mph (240 km/h) barrier and on the return run he reached a record average speed of 150.313 mph (241.905 km/h). This led to one of the famous photographs in motorcycle history, known as the "bathing suit bike". The AMA certified Free's record. Innovative features of the bike included the first-ever Vincent rear shock absorber, the first Mk II racing cams and horizontally mounted racing carburettors. In 1950, Rollie Free returned to the Bonneville Salt Flats and broke his own record, averaging speeds of 156.58 mph (251.99 km/h) on the Vincent despite a high-speed crash during those speed trials.

In the book (and film) "Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas" by Hunter S. Thompson, Hunter expresses his fondness for the 1952 Vincent Black Lightning as the finest motorcycle ever built.
1932 250 cc Bantam trike delivery van
1934 500 cc Meteor
1934 500 cc Comet
1934 500 cc Comet Special (TT replica)
1936 1000 cc Series-A Rapide
1946 1000 cc Series-B Rapide
1948 500 cc Series-C Meteor
1948 500 cc Series-C Comet
1948 500 cc Series-C Grey Flash
1948 1000 cc Series-C Rapide
1948 1000 cc Series-C Black Shadow
1948 1000 cc Series-C Black Lightning
1949 1000 cc Series-C White Shadow
1950 500 cc Series-C Red Comet
1953 45 cc Firefly (or Power Cycle)
1954 1000 cc "Series-D" Black Knight (Faired Rapide)
1954 1000 cc "Series-D" Black Prince (Faired Shadow)
1954 50 cc NSU Quickly
1955 1000 cc Three Wheeler
1955 123 cc NSU Fox
Also mentioned in the interview were record holders Russel Wright and Robert "Bob" Burns.

Russell Wright set a 1954 New Zealand speed record of 140 mph (230 km/h) on a Black Lightning at the Tram Road Speed Trials.

Bob Burns was known for building a streamliner body for a sidecar bike in an attempt to make a world record speed run.

The two formed a partnership. Bob Burns would built the stream liner bodies for Wright's motorcycle and Burns could used the Vincent Black Lightning with a sidecar to set the speed record.

December 1954 Bob Burns went first and set a sidecar record of 157 mph 253 km/h. July 1955, Russell Wright set a world speed record of 185 mph 298 km/h on the Tram Road near Christchurch. Bob Burns upped his sidecar record to 163.06 mph.

The Heart Of America Motorcycle Enthusiasts Vintage Classic Antique Motorcycle Show was held at the Kansas City Airline History Museum at the Kansas City Downtown Airport. Inside the huge hangar were two classic vintage antique passenger airplanes planes: a Douglas DC-3 and a Martin 404. Right outside the hangar was a 1958 Super Constellation, or Super Connie.
Hopefully Gene will stop in KC and we can put this super nice ride On the Lift.

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