The Vincent Black Shadow was a hand-built motorcycle produced by Vincent from 1948. The series "C" which was introduced in the early 1950s had a 998 cc (60.9 cu in) 50 degree OHV V-twin engine running a 7.3:1 compression ratio.
The first model from Vincent was the Rapide. However due to demand for a more "Sports oriented model", the Black Shadow was introduced. The Black Shadow traced its roots to an early-model Rapide that had been specially tuned by factory tester and racer George Brown, his brother Cliff and legendary Vincent designer Phil Irving. The model became so popular that the production of the Black Shadow exceeded the production numbers of the Rapide. 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 (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.
The reason for its name "Black" Shadow was that the entire bike (including the engine) was coloured black including baked enamel on crank-case and covers. The reason for the black on the crankcases is still disputed to this day. Some claim that the black colour 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. There were a small number (about 16) of White Shadows, machines made to Shadow specification but with the plain aluminium finish of the Rapide.
Fewer than 1,700 Vincent Black Shadows were made, all hand-assembled It is now highly prized by classic motorcycle collectors from around the world, and is valued at about US$100,000 in today's market. In the 1960s Vincents were being sold for $200 to $900 ($1350 to $6000, adjusted for inflation to 2009).
In 2007, The Vincent H.R.D. Owners Club commissioned the VOC Spares Company Limited to build a replica Black Shadow from new parts. Amongst other things, the project was to prove that all the parts were in stock and available from the VOC Spares Company Limited. Having received many glowing reports from the motorcycle press in the UK, the machine was eventually auctioned by Bonhams and now resides with a Member of the Vincent H.R.D. Owners Club in New Zealand.