Barn-find mania is showing no signs of slowing, and to reconfirm it applies as equally to two-wheeled machines as it does four-wheeled machines, Bonhams saw a rare 1949 Vincent-HRD 998cc White Shadow Series-C motorcycle triple its low estimate at the Spring Stafford Sale days ago.
Large and pricey motorcycles for their day, Philip Vincent's machines focused as much on industry-leading performance — a Series-B Black Shadow was billed as the "world's fastest production motorcycle" in 1948 — as on craftsmanship and looks. Everything on these big V-twin bikes was substantial, a little overengineered and built to last. In the lean postwar years, the Vincents tended to cost twice as much as their competitors, but they effectively delivered twice the performance, with the Black Shadows capable of reaching speeds in excess of 120 mph. Finding a place to hit those speeds safely was a different matter then as it is now.
Most motorcycle enthusiasts know that the name Black Shadow comes from the black-painted engine casings — most of the approximately 1,700 motorcycles left the factory this way. Most, but not all. About 16 examples kept the unpainted aluminum finish of the V-twin engine casings, so they were dubbed White Shadows.