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If the Brough Superior was the Rolls-Royce of motorcycles, then the Vincent Black Shadow was the Aston Martin. When Vincent began back in 1928 they started out the way they meant to keep going as “the makers of the world’s fastest motorcycles”. In fact the pièce de résistance Vincent, the Vincent Black Shadow, is commonly described as the world’s first superbike and there are few who would disagree. Phil Vincent entered the motorcycle manufacturing business in 1928 and because he had been advised to trade under an established name with a trusted public profile he purchased the rights and tooling to the HRD name and began manufacturing motorcycles he called Vincent HRD.
The motorcycles Phil Vincent designed featured a cantilever rear suspension of his own design and patent. The bikes used proprietary J.A.P. engines as did many British motorcycles of the period. Things could have continued without a lot of change but in 1934 Vincent entered three bikes in the prestigious Isle of Man TT and all three suffered engine failures. By this time an Australian engineer named Phil Irving had joined Vincent and so the two Phils got their heads together and decided to create their own engine. Phil Irving got out his sharp pencil and paper and the single cylinder 500cc engine that would be the parent of the Black Shadow’s V-twin was born.