Friday, November 23, 2007

The Vincent and The Vincent in culture.

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: A Savage Journey to the Heart of the American Dream (1970)

"Well," he said, "as your attorney I advise you to buy a motorcycle. How else can you cover a thing like this righteously?"
"No way," I said. "Where can we get hold of a Vincent Black Shadow?" "Whats that?" "A fantastic bike," I said. "The new model is something like two thousand cubic inches, developing two hundred brake-horsepower at four thousand revolutions per minute on a magnesium frame with two styrofoam seats and a total curb weight of exactly two hundred pounds." "That sounds about right for this gig," he said. "It is," I assured him. "The fucker's not much for turning, but it's pure hell on the straightaway. It'll outrun the F-111 until takeoff." "Takeoff?" he said. "Can we handle that much torque?" "Absolutely," I said. "I'll call New York for some cash."

From Wikipedia:
"The Black Shadow was a "Stressed Frame" design. The engine, instead of being cradled in a set of frame rails, was suspended from above becoming an integral part of the structure. The Black Shadow as well as the other post Second World War Vincents featured several new technological innovations such as a unique and original alternative to the primitive telescopic front forks of the day, a sprung rear sub-frame, the extensive use of aluminium alloy and a unit construction stressed engine. It weighed in at a relatively light 458 lb[1] (207 kg) which was about the weight of a pre-war 500 cc bike.
The inspiration for the Black Shadow was Royal Air Force pilots flying over the factory, and soldiers serving in the war. The designers created a motorcycle that could be operated and maintained by men who had been injured in combat. The clutch could be operated with just two fingers, and maintenance was made far easier than anything previously available.[citation needed]
The reason for its name "Black" Shadow was due to the entire bike (including the engine) being coated with black paint. The reason for the black paint on the cylinder block is still disputed to this day. Some claim that the black paint was for looks, others claim that it had something to do with heat transfer and dissipation. Whatever the original reason behind the painting of the engine, it was very different from anything else at a time when everything was polished and chromed."
The bathing suit picture:

"The famous picture of a man stretched out in only a bathing suit on a Vincent is not in fact a Black Shadow but a Black Lightning.

The Black Lightning was a custom order from the factory and was some 100 pounds lighter and 25 hp more powerful than the stock Black Shadow. In one of his books, Phil Irving (one of the designers) said that there were only about 16 of the model produced. The Black Lightning is the fastest Vincent ever produced.
As for the famous "bathing suit bike" picture, it is of Rollie Free, an American, riding on the Bonneville Salt Flats on 13 September 1948. Free was determined to break the land speed record in the "Flying Mile." His first pass hit 148 mph (238 km/h), which broke the record, but Free was determined to break 150. Noticing that his riding leathers had started to come apart at the seams from the force of the wind, Free borrowed a bathing suit, cap, and a pair of tennis shoes and laid down on the bike. With the decreased drag, Free broke 150 mph, topping out at 150.313 mph (241.905 km/h), shattering his record of only a few moments before. That bike, also known as the "John Edgar Lightning" after its sponsor, is currently in the private collection of Herb Harris of Austin, Texas."
From Hunter S Thompson again:
There is a fundamental difference, however, between the old Vincents and the new breed of superbikes. If you rode the Black Shadow at top speed for any length of time, you would almost certainly die. That is why there are not many life members of the Vincent Black Shadow Society. The Vincent was like a bullet that went straight; the Ducati is like the magic bullet that went sideways and hit JFK and the Governor of Texas at the same time.''

Another Thompson-this time singer/songwriter Richard Thompson Wrote probally the definitve Cafe Racer song: 52 Vintcent Black Lightning:

"Said Red Molly to James, that's a fine motorbike
A girl could feel special on any such like
Said James to Red Molly,
Well my hat's off to you
It's a Vincent Black Lightning 1952
And I've seen you at the corners and cafes, it seems
Red hair and black leather
My favourite colour scheme
And he pulled her on behind
And down to Boxhill they did ride
Said James to Red Molly, here's a ring for your right hand
But I'll tell you in earnest,
I'm a dangerous man
I've fought with the law since I was seventeen
I robbed many a man to get my Vincent machine
Now I'm 21 years, I might make 22
And I don't mind dying, but for the love of you
and if fate should break my stride
I'll give you my Vincent to ride
Come down, come down, Red Molly
Called Seargeant McRae
For they've taken young James Adie for armed robbery
Shotgun blast hit his chest
Left nothing inside
coome down, Red Molly to his dying bedside
When she came to the hospital
There wasn't much left
He was running out of road
He was running out of breath
But he smiled to see her cry
Said I'll give you my Vincent to ride
Said young James, in my opinion,
There's nothing in this world
Beats a '52 Vincent and a red-headed girl
Now Nortons and Indians and Greeves won't do
They don't have a soul like a Vincent '52
He reached for her hand and he gave her the keys
He said I don't have any further use for these
I see angels on ariels in leather and chrome
Swooping down from heaven to carry me home
He gave her one last kiss and died
And he gave her his Vincent to ride.

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