Maggie the Abandoned Beasty: A 1949 Vincent Black Shadow

A dream comes true when Glenn Bewley finds a 1949 Vincent Black Shadow in the barn.

| November/December 2015

The mythical Vincent in the barn. It’s the holy grail of vintage motorcycles, the find every vintage motorcycle junkie dreams about. And sometimes, the dream comes true.

This all started one night with a phone call from an old friend. He’d been contacted by a man in Philadelphia whose company had purchased a home at a tax foreclosure sale. A cleanup crew had gone to empty the house, and cleaning the garage out the crew came upon an older, unfamiliar motorcycle. They sought the advice of my friend, who runs a vintage motorcycle website. I specialize in Vincent restoration, so he pointed them my way.

The people on the Philadelphia end really knew nothing of motorcycles. They sent some photographs showing a Vincent, and I spent several hours over several nights talking to the owners about what they had found. Initially, I thought it was just a beater Black Shadow with some nice parts. They said they appreciated my help and that they would have to figure out what they were going to do with the bike, and would get back to me. Things went quiet.

Months later, I called the Philadelphia people and asked if the Vincent had been sold: It had not — they had moved it to a garage and basically forgotten about it. My call reminded them they needed to sell it, so they asked me for a figure I would be willing to pay. They pulled me up a bit, and a deal was set.

First blush

The bike was a 1949 “transition” Series C Black Shadow, but wearing the upper frame member (the upper frame member, or UFM, is the steering head and oil tank of the Vincent) from a Series B Black Shadow, along with Brampton forks, which would have been correct for a Series B machine. I happened to know of a Series B Black Shadow that was not numbers-matching. It belonged to a dear friend we had lost several years ago, and the bike had been inherited by his son. I called the son and asked him for the numbers from his bike, and I was stunned to discover that not only was the UFM on the bike I was buying the match to his bike, the one on his bike matched the machine that was soon to be mine!

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