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The Best Cruiser Never Built

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On: Sat, Jan 16, 2010 at 6:57PM | By: Clay Ritchings

The Best Cruiser Never Built

No one can argue the significant history of the prized Vincent Motorcycles, if fact all modern super bikes can trace their roots to the Vincent Black Shadow. The Vincents history is long and well documented in books and all over the internet. If it’s a history lesson you are looking for, well just click away now for there are far more qualified writers to cover that all over the web including many owners clubs across the globe. In fact the Vincent Owners Club is the largest single-brand motorcycle club in the world. Vincent’s are among the most desirable of motorcycling classics. A Black Lightning, in immaculate condition, can bring $125,000. What you will find here is the brief story of the rebirth of a modern legend.

Beginning in 1994, Mr. Li, a San Diego entrepreneur and motorcycle enthusiast, began acquiring the trademarks to the Vincent name. In 1998 Mr. Li sold Eagle One, his high-end car care business, to Valvoline and began working full-time to bring back the Vincent brand. Vincent Motors USA was formally launched in 1998 and by summer 2002 the company had completed five prototypes. The Vincent, Black Shadow, Black Lightning S, Black Lightning ST and the Black Eagle Shown above

Vincent Motors USA was focused on designing, manufacturing, and marketing a modern Vincent motorcycle, consistent with its tradition of legendary performance. James Parker and Detroit's Roush Industries were contracted to design and engineer the new motorcycles.

Making plans for a Vincent rebirth, they first explored using an updated version of the original engine, such an engine would be costly to produce and fall short of modern performance expectations. After determining that it wasn’t feasible to design and produce a new engine from the beginning for his startup motorcycle company, he went looking for one already in production. He found what he was looking for in Honda's 1000cc, V-Twin, water-cooled, dual cam, four valve, fuel injected 130 hp RC51-based engine.

Vincent Motors unveiled four modern prototypes to rave reviews, including the Black Shadow, Black Lightning "S", Black Lightning "ST" and the Black Eagle.
Cycle World reviewed the new Vincents in 2004, after a brief ride on the Black Lightning; Cycleworld writers claimed “Li has achieved his goal of creating a retro-influenced machine that still has a lot of modern sport bike in it”

I would love to have seen Li extend the worthy legacy of the Vincents, they were always mythical motorcycles that exceeded everything else. A resurrection of the Vincent name now seems unlikely as the Honda engine now out of production, and Li was killed in a single-bike crash while touring with friends in 2008. With the retro success of bikes like the classic Triumphs, it now looks like the new Vincents were destined for success, but the only evidence of one mans dream, are a handful of half million dollar showpieces used for investor recruitment and a website with photos of these beautiful bikes. I have tried to contact Vincent Motors USA to get an update, but I have not received response as of yet.

Photo Gallery (click a thumbnail to enlarge)



RoadKill | 4:24PM (Mon, Jan 18, 2010)

I am surprised that were going to use a Honda motor and not a triumph. Gorgeous modern design of the old classics. I wonder where the prototypes are now?


imwithcoco | 2:30PM (Tue, Jan 19, 2010)

Maybe they could use a BMW engine if the Honda is no longer available.

  • imwithcoco


James Roberts | 6:05PM (Mon, Jan 18, 2010)

Gorgeous bike such a shame even with a Honda motor.


tryarun | 9:08PM (Thu, Sep 3, 2015)

I love the pics you have uploaded here, but regret that this site does not allow me to save your pics. I live in Hyderabad, India, and have been a fan of classic bikes ever since I was little, for I had an uncle who had served in WW2 and later owned a WD 16H for 20 years. And, of course, we have the Royal Enfield Bullet. I followed the birth and sad disappearance of Li's Vincent Motors, but never thought that his effort would end with his demise. My own pride is the Harley-Davidson that I have owned for 10 months.

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