Paragon of Performance

Vincents are rare enough. Pukka racing Vincents are more rare. This one may be unique

WORDS BY ALAN CATHCART PHOTOS BY KEL EDGE

TO BE INVITED to ride a historic and unrestored 66-year-old motorcycle, that’s almost certainly the last 100% original example of the most desirable series production model ever made, by any manufacturer, is an act of generosity as well as implied trust on the part of its owner Nicolas Dourassoff.

Riding the replica. Sir Alan gets all the tough jobs…

It was important to repay such generosity by bringing it back in one piece. For the ex-Jack Ehret 1951 Vincent Black Lightning is living history on two wheels, with just 8682 kilometres from new on its 300kph Smiths clock, almost every one of them in anger.

These kilos now include my two dozen laps at the Carole race circuit on the outskirts of Paris, to which Nicolas brought the battle-scarred warrior. It had been recommissioned for use by Patrick Godet for me to ride on a regular sunny afternoon track day.

However, so that I could properly sample how a Black Lightning should perform without paying due deference to the bike’s age, Godet also brought along a recently built 100% authentic Black Lightning Replica which he’d created for another of his customers, Englishman Peter Fox. Peter had already covered 1200 street miles on it, pronouncing it “huge fun, and incredibly impressive once you get it revving, when it feels like you’re being pulled along by a huge bungee cord!”

Thanks, Peter – I couldn’t put it better myself. That is indeed the impression you get on the Ehret Vincent once you see its Smiths Chronometric rev-counter’s needle track its way with traditionally jerkiness to the 3800rpm mark, whereupon the bungee cord releases and you’re swept to what must have been unthought-of speed by mid-20th century standards. Nothing much happens below those revs, though, so you have to coax the engine into meaningful action with a dab on the Ferodo clutch’s light-action lever. But from that access point to its inbuilt poke onwards, the paragon of performance – that all the Black Lightning’s records and race victories proclaim it to be – makes itself apparent.

Read more in the March issue of CBG – out now!