When you visit the National Motorcycle Museum, you’ll get to view over 400 motorcycles. But there’s a special exhibit area for the finest high performance British machines, the Vincents and Broughs, about a dozen in total.

A 1952 Vincent Black Shadow is among these bikes. It’s a Series C Black Shadow, most would agree about the most developed of regular production Vincent motorcycles. At around 55 horsepower, these bikes ruled the roads, and sometimes race tracks and, along with Broughs, were certainly the most prestigious of motorcycles in their time, highly desired yet today.

Studying the chassis and engine closely is, frankly, a feast for the eyes. Note the black enameled engine cases with polished alloy accents, the “high cam” arrangement which kept pushrods short and light,  dual carburetors and stylish swept back siamesed exhaust. The girder style fork is somewhat complicated, but in the end a mechanical masterpiece wrought in aluminum and steel. Though certainly not the first to think of a “mono-shock” style rear suspension, the Vincent’s is a clean design. The Vincent was equipped throughout with unique, features such as the reversible rear wheel, sprocket each side, to offer quick-change final-drive ratios should the owner wish to attach a sidecar, or do some drag racing. Located under the seat, full tool kits were supplied, but axles were equipped with tommy bars for convenience.

But where is the frame on this motorcycle? In reality, there is no conventional frame; the oil tank, which resides under the fuel tank, and the engine provide attachment points for the fork assembly and the rear suspension allowing the beautiful engine to stand proud with little to block the view. Unique to the Black Shadow is the upward tilt of the speedometer, much larger than the chronometrics found on most British motorcycles of the time. Topped off with black enamel on most components, polished alloy fenders, just the right amount of chrome plating, a tasteful gold leaf stripe on the tank, low bars, rearset controls and a long comfortable seat, it doesn’t get much better.


  • 998 cc, 50-degree OHV V-twin
  • Carburetion: Two 1 1/8″ Type 29 Amals
  • 84 mm bore x 90 mm stroke
  • 55-horsepower at 5,200 rpm
  • 4-speed gearbox, foot shift
  • Lucas magneto ignition, Miller dynamo
  • Girdraulics front fork, hydraulic twin-spring rear suspension
  • Dry weight 455 lb
2 replies
  1. Jim Todd
    Jim Todd says:

    I’m going to a Richard Thompson concert tonight. On of his most notable songs is “1952 Vincent Black Lightning. It’s the quintessential song about a reckless young man, a beautiful woman, and, of course, an iconic motorcycle. Listen to it on U tube.


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