Sunday, December 8, 2019

Australia - Vincents in Australia

A man who can have this on his kitchen bench must be happily single... :-)
Vincent motorcycles, made in Stevenage England, was the brain child of Englishman Philip Vincent and Australian designer and development engineer Philip Irving. It's one of motorcycling's most iconic brands which has captured many in admiration, and rightly so. Not only is it even today a work of art to look at, it was at the time the fastest road going production motorcycle and well ahead of its time. So far ahead that when 99% of motorcycles didn't have any form of rear suspension yet, and well before the mono shock had even been invented, Phil Vincent designed the cantilever rear suspension and put it on his motorcycles as far back as in 1928!… It has been on Vincents ever since.  I've always had a soft spot for V-twins and they don't come much better than this!

This is the first thing you'll see when you enter the house... 47 Vincents!
So you thought monoshock suspension was new...  think again as
Vincents have
 had cantilever rear suspension since 1928!
Technically speaking it used two shocks side by side but still the
same system. How easy is it to remove a wheel on this bike!
Names like the Vincent Black Shadow, the Rapide and Black Lightning to name but a few, ring a bell with most motorcyclists (if not then you'll need to seriously brush up on your motorcycle knowledge…) Although Vincent production has never reached high volume levels, no doubt partly because of its price, it was both well designed and made. There are quite a few Vincents who have recorded several hundred thousand kilometres without mayor problems. Stuart Jenkinson no doubt tops them all with a staggering 1.1 million fully documented kilometres on the same Vincent Black Prince he bought new in 1955. In one of the several interviews he gave he summed up its use nicely: "We didn't have a car, so it was used for shopping, holidays and going to work each day." Stuart rode the same Vincent for 56 years, ran a successful tour company with it and only sold it because at 83 years of age he simply couldn't ride it anymore as he wanted to. He didn't spare the horses either, frequently running at 100 mph on the German Autobahn and using just regular car engine oil to keep it lubricated. Stuart isn't the only high mileage Vincent either, there is at least one more with over half a million kilometres on it and several that I know of who've 'been around the clock' several times. Amazing bikes.

So when we heard of a Vincent collection in Western Australia, I was keen as mustard to go and have a look, although I always have a bit of a mixed feeling about motorcycle collectors. On the one hand they put in a lot of effort to restore them, or have them restored, to their former glory and no doubt a lot of them would have disappeared on the scrapheap had they not showed an interest. But at the same time they also keep a lot of them off the road and are part of the reason why prices of classic motorcycles have sky rocketed. In the seventies you could have bought a Vincent for a fiver, now they go for US$100,000 or more… The rising prices of classic motorcycles in general means a lot of them have become unavailable to us mere mortals, but at the same time also ensured there is an industry which makes parts for them so we can keep the ones we can afford on the road. It is a tricky one. Anyway we were off to see a collection of no less than 47 Vincents! 

He likes Jaguar E-Types too, and that's a Hesketh Vampire just in front of it
I was given this, printed on canvas, by the owner! It now decorates

my workshop as a reminder of both our visit and the geniuses 
Phil Vincent and Phil Irving
I won't give the address here for obvious reasons. We were lucky enough that we met someone who knew someone, who knew someone else who knew where they were. An appointment was made and we rode to what seemed like a regular house. Nice house too but nothing could have prepared us for what we found inside… From the hallway we looked down into what can only be described as a motorcycle museum. A Vincent motorcycle museum. Actually not 'just' motorcycles but also an aircraft engine, racing cars and period memorabilia.

PS. If you love Vincents then have a look at what's made in Australia today at