HOW IT ALL BEGAN
For as long as I can remember, I have been a gear-head. As the legend has it, my first word uttered as a baby was “Volkswagen”. Whether it be a car, motorcycle or airplane, if it had an engine and it moved, I loved it.
From a young age, I could identify ever year, make and model of car that drove by. I had always dreamed of owning a classic car (or perhaps a fleet). As dreams sometime go, life and responsibility got in the way and the idea of getting a big toy was put on the back burner.
One day around 1994 my wife and I were invited over to an open house hosted by a couple that belonged to her church. We were given a tour of the house by our hosts and being an accomplished wood worker and handyman, he was eager to show me his shop.
There was an impressive selection of wood working thingies but being wood challenged as I am they really didn’t grab my interest. It was then that I saw under his work bench a drab olive green motorcycle gas tank with gold pin stripes.
“What is that?” I asked. “It’s a 1957 Triumph TRW ex-Canadian Army bike. Bought it back in the early ’70’s at an auction. The rest of it is over here”. My interest went from level 1 (church open house with woodworking tools) to level 10 (British motorcycle in the basement).
It was then that I realized many motorcycles would fit in the same space as one large classic car. I needed to buy this motorcycle somehow. Many offers were made but he was not interested in selling it. It’s probably still in the same spot in the basement, disassembled and neglected.
Fast-forward a few months. While chatting about the TRW to a business associate who was into motorcycles, he mentioned his brother had a 1973 Triumph Daytona for sale. I did a little research on the model and decided it was interesting. I talked my wife into the purchase stating that it was just a bunch of parts and would give me something to tinker with in the basement. I bought the bike for $400 and put it in the basement. I spent the next year restoring the bike back to original. This was my first “real” motorcycle.
￼A Boyhood Dream Comes True…
THE STORY OF MY VINCENT BLACK SHADOW F10AB/1B
Since that first little Daytona, many motorcycles have passed through my hands, Triumph, Norton, Honda Z50 minibikes, Laverda, Ducati and Harley-Davidson. My “tinkering” had turned into a passionate love for restoring and collecting vintage motorcycles, British and Italian bikes in particular. There had always been one though…the Holy Grail of Motorcycles…that I desired since I was a young boy. The Vincent Black Shadow.
From my activities restoring vintage motorcycles and my membership in the Canadian Vintage Motorcycle Group, I made many friends and contacts in the hobby. One of those friends was Dan Stone, who was a well-known bike collector from Port Perry. At one of our club functions, I mentioned to Dan that my dream bike was the Black Shadow. Dan smiled at me and said “Oh, I have one of those….. and a red one too. Drop by and have a look sometime.”
I had never seen a real Vincent. My Vincent lust had developed from hearing the stories and seeing them in books and magazines. Here was my opportunity to see a real Black Shadow up close and also “a red one” whatever that was. I took him up on his offer and I fell in love with the Shadow the moment I set eyes on it.
The “red one” was a nice Chinese Red Rapide in standard trim. Dan had told me it was very rare and there were only a handful ever made in that colour. More on that topic later.
I would buy several motorcycles from Dan over the next few years ranging from a 1965 Honda Cub to a 1972 Laverda 750SF, but it was always the Shadow that I gravitated to whenever I visited. “I will buy that from you one day, Dan. One day.”
In 2004, I found myself recently divorced and living on my own. I had started a new relationship and things were looking up. She was very supportive of my hobby and knew about my dream of owning a Black Shadow. “So why don’t you just buy it then?” she said to me one evening while we sat at a local Tim Hortons. I thought about it and it became clear that my dream was actually within reach. My ex-wife had recently bought me out of my portion of the house and I had some money put away. I called Dan the next day and he named his price. It was more than what I had anticipated but still a fair market value. The deal was done.
In November 2004 just short of my 40th birthday, I became the owner of a 1951 Vincent Series C Black Shadow.
THE VINCENT BLACK SHADOW AS ART
While displaying my Shadow at the 2007 Motorcycle SuperShow, I was approached by artist William Fisk about a project he was working on. He was starting on a series of larger than life oil on canvas classic motorcycle paintings and was looking for select bikes for reference.
For these paintings, he required high quality head on, side, top and 3/4 reference photos. For the use of my bike, I would get a portrait quality print of my choice plus hi res digital images of the others. The paintings themselves are of such high quality they could be mistaken for photographs. The first completed painting is six feet high and sold for around $60,000.
PROFESSIONAL PHOTO SHOOT
The Best Laid Plans of Mice & Men…
When I purchased the bike it was a beautiful cosmetic restoration. The problem as I discovered, was that the engine had been rebuilt in 1990 and never started. It had sat until I purchased it in 2004. It would require a lot of sorting out to get it road worthy.
Over the next 5 years, I sorted out the machine gradually. I rode the bike as often as I could and took it to every CVMG event possible. I remember being followed home one day by a pizza delivery man. He had never seen a “real live Vincent” on the road before and talked my ear off for about a half an hour while his pizza’s got cold.
The biggest issues I continued to face were oil leakage and a big knock coming from the front cylinder. It was at this point I sought out an “expert” to help me resolve these nagging issues. The name that kept coming up was Phil Mahood.
Phil has been at the forefront of the Vincent hobby since his teens and can tell you the part number of every piece on a Vincent. With his help and guidance, the engine was torn down, leaks sealed and the source of the knock discovered…a partially seized piston. The bike was transformed into a solid reliable machine and it remains that way to this day. Since that time, Phil has become one of my closest friends and a true mentor in every respect.
As life sometimes goes, personal situations change unexpectedly. I found myself on my own again in August of 2009. My life had been turned completely upside down. Although I didn’t need to financially, it just made sense to me to sell the Shadow at the time. Within a few days, I had arranged to sell the bike to Motorcycle SuperShow producer Bar Hodgson for a fair price. Bar was hosting his “Vincent’s Behind Bar’s” event at his place in early September of 2009 and I rode out with Phil. I had a bite to eat and then went to the bank with Bar. Cheque in hand, I called a cab, grabbed my riding gear and heading home for what seemed like the longest taxi ride of my life. I was devastated and everyone who was at that event could see it in my face.
A dream came true and then it was gone…….
Words By: Ron Stupart
Images Provided By: Ron Stupart
Professional Images By: Todd McLellan
Motorcycle Art Paintings By: William Fisk
Editors Comment:I was very pleased when Ron agreed to submit his story about owning and restoring Vincent motorcycles. Ron represents everything that The Biker’s Garage is all about, a guy out in the garage, working on his own bike. I have known Ron for a while now, and I admire his passion for the Vincent marque, and his skill as a restorer. I am truly honored that Ron has allowed us to tell his story. Parts of his story are very familiar to me. When Ron talks about seeing that first antique Triumph in the basement, I knew exactly what he was talking about. Back in the early Seventies a local surplus yard was selling that very same make of Triumph in the crate for $400 USD. I saw my first one in a local garage when I was Sixteen. The interesting part is all of those surplus Triumphs would run briefly, then seize. It turns out, the preservatives used in the engines would cause the oil passages to clog, starving the main bearings of oil. They would burn up, then seize, and there were no spares available for repairs. Most of these military Triumphs ended up rusting away in a corner when their owners left them for dead. Most likely, this was the case with the one Ron encountered all those years ago. Make sure you subscribe so you don’t miss the second part of Ron’s story, the full restoration of a very rare Chinese Red Vincent Rapide. My sincerest thanks to Todd McLellan for allowing The Biker’s Garage use of his motorcycle art images. Todd has others on his web site, and they are stunning, make sure you visit and see for yourself. Also of interest, the motorcycle art paintings of William Fisk, they are amazingly detailed, a must see. Terry Cavender, Editor