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 stress on appearance and performance is legendary. His machines bristled with innovative features, offering adjustment of brake pedal, footrests, seat height and gear-change lever. The finish was to a very high standard commensurate with the cost of the machine, which was virtually double that of any of its contemporaries.
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 there was nothing to compare with it. This was a time when the average family saloon was barely capable of reaching 70mph, and not until the advent of Jaguar’s XK120 was there a production sports car that could live with the thundering v-twins from Stevenage.
As Vincent enthusiasts will know, 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 (Rapides are ‘1’, Black Shadows are ‘1B’). Only a relative handful of these White Shadows is known to exist today, a total of 16 being listed with the Vincent Owners Club.
Acquired by the current vendor in March 1973, this ‘KOD 476’ comes with an old-style continuation logbook recording one previous owner, who had registered the machine in May 1957; details of any prior owners are not known. The vendor was about to get married back in ’73, so the Shadow was mostly ridden by his father, a lifelong motorcycle enthusiast who had hitherto not experienced the joys of riding a Vincent. Sadly, his father died in 1975, and shortly thereafter the Vincent was put into storage where it has remained ever since. It was last ridden in 1976. ‘Barn find’ Vincents of any kind seldom come to light and when they do are highly sought after, and this White Shadow – one of the rarest of post-war Vincents – has to be one of the most desirable.
Report by Bonhams