Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Vincent Black Lightning 1952

Max sent me this link yesterday – a Vincent cafe racer from the Cafe Racer Culture blog. It was spookily good timing as I've been thinking about Vincents a lot lately. I've not been sure how much to say here about our upcoming content for the first issue of Head Full of Snakes, but this one's been interesting and tricky and can, I think, be discussed here...

Paul Elliman made a proposal to me, when he heard that we might be doing a flexidisc. The idea was to record the sound of a Vincent Black Lightning 1952 running. Paul's idea came from the Richard Thompson song 'Vincent Black Lightning 1952'.

I liked the sound of this... a record of a bike running, maybe starting up, being ridden past etc. Sounds like my kinda record! So, we started looking for a Black Lightning from 1952.

Not so easy. Turns out there were only 32 made between 1949 and 1952. Stuart found a 1951 in Melbourne. But we are still looking for a 52 model. I was thinking it would be very unlikely for one of these to ever have made it to ol' NZ... but of course we have been a nation obsessed with motorcycles and speed for a long time now, and I found this:

Christchurch-based Russell Wright making a landspeed record on a Vincent Black Lightning in 1955. Interestingly enough for me too, he did this on the very road that me and my teenage buddies used to go out to and race our little Hondas on. Anyway there's no mention in this as to the year of the bike. I searched for more info on that, and got this:

If this guy's right, this is that bike. Well the engine at least? And he says it is a 52. I was trying to find out exactly where this was though when I came across this on the Jockey Journal blog...

"The star of the collection was the Burns & Wright Vincent Black Lightning that Russell Wright rode to a world land speed record in New Zealand in 1955 at 185.15mph. They then took the bike to Bonneville in 1956 and it was left pretty much untouched after it was pulled off the salt - it even still has the same tyres."

This is it (above). In a private collection somewhere... I guess in the United States? So is this it? Is the other one it? Are they one in the same? Did Wright have two Black Lightnings (unlikely)? There's also this on the Jockey Journal:

"He was over here a few years ago and was reunited with his bike.That is the Sterling Silver Trophy that NZ gave them for setting the record. They raced at the Salt Flats and then they were broke and sold the bike to the then US Distributor, Harry Bellville.The fairing was loaned out and lost."

So that's Russell Wright (above), reunited with his Black Lightning. I guess the next thing to do is try and find out where the private collection is? And maybe find out where Russell Wright is???

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