The Vincent Black Shadow Engine of Saigon
(Page 4 of 6)
Richardson notes that French pit workers told the team to use a brush to lube the chain rather than just pouring oil on it, and urged them to use “some oversize flamethrower of French manufacture” rather than stock HRD lighting.
He also discussed the intensity required of the crew in order to keep a motorcycle running for nearly 12 hours. He noted that the support staff , riders, and crew worked tirelessly. He was also pleased to find that the trackside facilities allowed one to relieve oneself and “keep on enjoying the crispness of the Shadow’s exhaust note, lap by lap, even in splendid isolation!”
Despite the fact that the team broke the engine’s crank, they set a number of records that clearly meant a lot to Richardson.
“The falling of the first record was a great moment. . . . I had a lump in my throat—tried to congratulate some people—watched the bike on the banking in the brilliant sunshine, sound as a bell.”
He went on to describe how the record attempt left him so spent that he and a “Company Director” fell asleep while attending a strip show at a Paris theater the last night of their trip. He added that some fast talking was required after “short riotous celebrating” took place at the “Horse White” hotel.
“A concerted vocal effort convinced Madame the Proprietress and the one and only Head-Waiter that [we] were jolly good fellows,” Richardson wrote, “and I don’t think we broke anything of value.”
Vincent advertised the bike that set the records as a stock Black Shadow. The poorly kept truth was the bike was modified nearly to the Lightning’s high-performance specifications and even had hand-fabricated short aluminum manifolds that looked like those used on a Lightning.
“They were selling the project as a standard Black Shadow,” Harris said. “It was anything but. . . . It was a racing engine.”
So Herb knew he had purchased a piece of lost history. When he and his guys took the Vietnam Shadow’s engine apart, they found very little wear and tear.
“I don’t think the engine ran at Montlhéry,” Harris said. “I think it’s all that’s left of the works record-setting effort.”
One of the other race engines that ran at Montlhéry survived, for a while, but the owner unwittingly stuffed it into a Norton Featherbed frame and eventually parted it out.
Inside the Vietnam Shadow engine’s cases, Harris discovered evidence of the water damage that Nygrin described. The flywheel and cases bore watermarks, which Harris and company faithfully left intact. They also found an abundance of unusual marks on the internals of the Vincent Black Shadow engine, which they believe were made by the factory in order to indicate it was a very special engine.
“We started seeing these crazy stamps,” Harris said. “This bike has the only specially numbered set of cranks I have seen.”
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