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1952-1955 Cushman 1955-1956 The Pisser 1960-1961 First Vincent Racer
1962-1963 First Blown Vincent 1965-1966 Magnesium Monster 1967-1979 Quarter Hemi
1979-1999 Fuel Injected Vincents 1983-1984 AJS Scrambler 1985-1989 Grey Flash Replica
1989-1993 Norton Manx 1990-1996 Black Lightning Replica 1993-1994 Norton Manx Double Knocker
2003-2003 The Copycat

1960-1961 First Vincent Racer

I always liked British iron, but I never could get my hands on what I really wanted, which was a Vincent twin. It was cost prohibitive, as I was now making a career in the US Navy and raising a family.

While stationed in San Diego, California, I frequented the local motorcycle shops looking for a Vincent basket case. In almost every bike magazine at that time there were articles about Nero, Super Nero, The Barn Job, Gunga Din and others. I just had to get my hands on one of those things and build a racer.

Sonny Angel, who had worked at the Vincent factory in Stevenage, England for a short period in the 50's, had a motorcycle shop in National City, California. I can remember looking at his bike, a Vincent which he Lightningized, and was running at Bonneville. We began to talk, and he mentioned that he had a Vincent twin basket case in the back of the shop that he was willing to part with for the sum of $300.

Not having a penny in my pocket, (or in the bank either) I said, "I'll take it". The only obstacle that had confronted me in my long quest to own one of the beasts was lack of money. At the time I was stationed on a ship that had a crew of around 65 men, so to the ship I went for loans from the crew. To my great satisfaction they came through in sterling fashion, a dollar here, five, ten, and twenty there.

Soon I had the cash, and headed back to the shop in such a hurry a cop stopped me for speeding and gave me a ticket. I got to the shop and gave Sonny the money. At the time the only transportation I had was a 1954 Buick Century which I had customized. The Vincent was going to go in the trunk, but to my dismay, Sonny was closing for the weekend and didn't want to gather up the parts. The shop wasn't going to open until Tuesday morning.

I spent the next two days in absolute frustration, but was at the shop on Tuesday, waiting for the shop to open for better than an hour. My heart started beating faster as I watched Sonny drive up in his pickup truck. The day had finally come. The first order of the day was to push all of the bikes out of the shop that were for sale, and make coffee. It seemed like it took an eternity to accomplish these tasks.

At last Sonny got down to the business at hand. He first handed me a tattered Vincent owners handbook and a parts list, commenting, "You'll need these". Boy, was that an understatement! Then the search for the Vincent basket case began. It was not in three or four boxes as I envisioned. After a couple of rounds through the shop, me following after Sonny, who was making statements along the way like, "You'll need four of these, but it looks like I only have three". This was turning out to be not exactly what I had expected. Nevertheless I gathered up the boxes and took them back to the house to see what I had, and to assess what was missing.

I swept the garage floor and carefully laid out the parts on a clean bed sheet. Like parts were placed next to each other, and I'm thinking, "Man. I sure have a lot of parts here". I opened the blue parts list book. A cold chill ran up my spine. The parts I had in hand should have been at least 95% of the parts needed to put together a Vincent. What I had was about 50%. But I need not have worried. Over the next couple of months, Sonny made good on the missing bits, each time saying, "Are you sure I didn't give you one of these?".

I wanted to run the bike at the drags, so I made the following modifications. High compression pistons, 12 to 1, drag slick, Shaller cams, 44mm Dellorto carbs which I bought from Sonny at a cost of $150. I bought them on time, and it took me three months to pay for them. I wish I still had them.

So, with a set of 2" Lightning exhaust pipes (borrowed from Sonny), I headed for the drag strip to set the racing world on fire. The bike ran strong. I had it on gas, but it was far from the times being posted by others, such as Clem Johnson's Barn Job, and shifting problems plagued the bike. I just didn't have the experience and know how to make it work well.

There isn't much more to the story of my first Vincent other than in a fit of stupidity, at a drag strip in Tecate, Mexico, I traded the bike for an Ariel Square Four. That was probably the start of my handle, "Mad Max"...

Don't have a picture of the bike. Wish I did.