How to make a page dedicated to the Egli-Vincent and not to mention the Montlhéry Shadow? There are a few key events, which made the Vincent the myth we know as the World’s fastest standard motorcycle. Rollie Free in swimming bath is one of the first chapter written but the speed records at Montlhéry are also in a good place with a different objective.
According Paul Richardson (1), two Black Shadow came at Montlhery. The “Hack” as he called it, for practising and testing, and the actual record bike that some sources say to be the factory test bed also known as Gunga Din. Paul said the first was a standard Black Shadow with stock cams, carburators and exhaust, and to be fast enough for the purpose of practising around the track.
The factory prepared the actual record bike which took the official FIM records very close to the Black Shadow specification. Philip Vincent would also have required to change Gunga Din’s crankcase for a stock model without the special bearings. Firstly to demonstrate the Black Shadow reliability and secondly to display the Vincent brand as Gunga Din crankcases had at that time the HRD logo embedded in the casting. The specification was a standard Black Shadow with 8:1 compression as supplied to the American market, 1-5/32″ TT Amal, but Lightning cams. Other modifications included the removal of the front brakes and the rear flap.
Because the Record bike has to fit the morphology of eleven very different riders a few more details were changed. The addition of a Feridax perspex flyscreen, rearward footrests, a special five Gallon petrol tank and modified handlebars gave a very flat riding position enabling the riders to lay on a Sorbo ‘mattress’ fastened to the tank top.
The pilots selected for the event were: Ted Davis as the chief tester, John Surtees as apprentice, Danny Thomas as tester, Cyril Julian as TT rider, Phil Heath, Denis Lashmar, Gustave LeFevre as the French Importer, Bill Petch, Robin Sherry as AMC factory racer, Johnny Hodgkin and the journalist Vic Willoughby of Motor Cycle magazine. Ken Bills was team manager.
However Ted Davies, who was part of the event, and in charged of the bikes preparation, wrote in MPH #528 (Jan ’93) that he personally delivered a squad of 7 bikes at Montlhéry. Ted also said he was responsible for building “the three record specification Black Shadows, one slightly modified hack Shadow and three slightly different Lightning.” He tested all of them for about 250 miles each and then drove them to Montlhery in the factory transporter.
There is conflicting information from these different sources. However, there is no reasons to doubt about Ted Davies’ testimony and this recoup other information stating that seven bikes can claim to be part of this historic event. This Shadow presented as the “Montlhery Shadow” and recently sold for an astonishing £113,500 on auction at Bonhams, but also Gunga Din that was used as the records bike.
The team racked up eight new world records, including the six hours at 100.53mph record, 1,000km at 100.67mph, and ten hours at 99.17mph. Other records were seven hours at 99.73mph, eight hours at 99.73mph, nine hours at 99.40mph, ten hours at 99.17mph, 11 hours at 91.98mph, and 1,000 miles at 99.20mph. It was an incredible achievement for the time, so this event was featured widely in the worldwide motoring press. Once the objective accomplished, Surtees was also asked to set a speed record, but the rear tire started to delaminate after two laps at 129mph, and it was decided to stop there.
Philippe Guyony © 2013
(1) http://www.voc.uk.com/net/docs/19.6/19-43-4.pdf by Paul Richardson
Nb: some sources state that the second Montlhery Shadow is own by Harris Vincent Gallery, mentionning that there is no record of which bike was which. (http://beforeitsnews.com/motor-junkies/2013/03/montlhery-vincent-100mph-for-6-hours-2461856.html)