The Last Vincent Black Lightning?

Mystery bike surfaces in New Mexico

| September/October 2009

Vincent Black Lightning
Years produced:
Claimed power: 70hp @ 5,700rpm
Top speed: 150mph
Engine: 998 OHV air-cooled 50 degree V-twin
Fuel capacity: 3.4gal (15.25ltr)
Price then/now: $1,800 / $150,000

Hollywood would love this story. Two guys bolt a strong box into the floor of a van and fill it with $150,000 in cash. They leave Florida and head west — way west. The pair enters a small, dusty New Mexico adobe home where they lay eyes on their prize; the pieces of a very unique Vincent motorcycle just inside the doorway. But this isn’t Hollywood; it’s reality.

New Hampshire Vincent enthusiast David Dunfey says he’s unearthed the last Vincent Black Lightning motorcycle ever made. And to make the story even more interesting, there is evidence that legendary builder and race tuner Jimmy Hill of Indian motorcycle fame assembled the Black Lightning — on American soil at the old Indian factory in Springfield, Mass. Here’s how the story goes.

Tracking down the last Vincent Black Lightning
David is a well-known Vincent Grey Flash enthusiast. The Grey Flash is a very rare motorcycle (it’s estimated only 31 were built), and to help him keep track of it and other obscure Vincent machines David sat down with the entire library of MPH magazines, the newsletter of the Vincent H.R.D. Owners Club. As he read articles, he made notes on various bikes.

From one article David learned about a man in Boston, Mass., who, years ago, had his Vincent Comet in his storefront window. The Comet lured Frank Russo, a local truck dealer, into the shop. Frank told the Comet owner about a Vincent Black Lightning he once owned. There ensued some debate about whether it was actually a Black Lightning, so to prove he wasn’t telling a tall tale, Frank produced the Certificate of Origin of his Vincent Black Lightning, which showed the machine had been assembled at the Indian factory. Also noted in the MPH article was the bike’s serial number, which, to Vincent aficionados, was an “odd” number. David made a note of this number.

“The reason it was odd was because it was just the upper frame member number,” David says. “There was no engine number on this bike.” Vincents were marked from the factory with three identification numbers; one on the upper frame member, one on the rear frame member and a third on the engine. But this Black Lightning wasn’t from the U.K. Vincent factory; it was from the Indian factory, which assigned its single frame number. This starts to make sense when you learn that Indian, starting in 1948, was a distributor of numerous British brands, including A.J.S., Matchless, Norton, Royal Enfield and, of course, Vincent.

7/13/2011 4:50:51 AM

The Vincent you have is a beautiful bike, but after looking at, it isn't a Black Lightning. It's a Vincent Black Shadow which was produce at or around the same time of the Lightning, both bike are very similar but one on the big differences is the seat. The Lightning's seat is a streight seat, were the Shadow's is more contoured to the riders butt.

Hank Blackstock
1/7/2010 9:19:37 AM

Here is a story about my cousin's Black Lightning purchased new in 1955, which I believe is the last Black Lightning.

Ride 'Em, Don't Hide 'Em Getaway

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