Patrick Godet passed away on November 25, 2018. He will be remembered as a man of passion whose dream was to carry on the Vincent legend on the roads and tracks. A dream that materialized into a life-long dedication to his passion, with a lot of successes but also with very difficult life events that he would talk about at very rare occasions, when he felt comfortable to open himself. His outstanding motorcycles will definitely survive him as a testimony and achievement of his contemporary vision of the world’s fastest standard motorcycle.
Patrick was part of this hard core of Vincent riders who have decades of passion on the clock and an ever determination to contribute actively to the Vincent community: socializing, touring, rallying, racing, maintaining, repairing, restoring, building and even bringing together the French section of the VOC in 1975; a passion that had multiple facets in which he was engaged with the same enthusiasm. Although I knew Patrick since 1994, this is only through the preparation of his biography that I got to know him better: a man with a strong character, but with a high loyalty toward those he loved or appreciated.
Patrick’s knowledge of the Vincent nestled in every detail, learning from his elders in the 1970s and 1980s, those who worked at the Vincent factory or those for whom the Vincent had no secret; from there, Patrick made his own way but always in sync with the brand heritage. 45 years later his achievements are so vast that they entitled him to be one of the very few contemporary engineers who dedicated a lifetime to move further the design of the Vincent motorcycles.
Very early in his engagement with the club, Patrick was recognized by his peers for the quality of his work; the award for the restoration of his Black Prince—that he received at Shadow Lakes in 1979 from Phil Irving’s hands—has certainly been a significant milestone to later create his restoration business. As I was synthetizing our discussions and my notes, two words quickly imposed themselves: authenticity and respect. Authenticity because Patrick was convinced in his inner heart that the Vincents were designed and born as masterpiece and respect because he consistently echoed that there was no need to modify a stock Vincent in any way to ride it fast and reliably; a stock and ‘unaltered’ bike meticulous reassembled could simply get the same result. Thus, he could not be happier if a customer thought the same way for a restoration, particularly for well-preserved or historic machines.
But what Patrick was mostly known for, is certainly his contribution to the Egli-Vincent legend. From the restoration of a few original Swiss and British-built bikes, Patrick turned it into a business of completely recreated café racers that fueled his own passion and inspiration. It has not happen in months but rather in years of hard work. Step by step, one new part number refabricated after the other, the Egli-Vincent by Godet slowly matured in his hands and those of his team thanks to Patrick’s capability and dedication to pass his knowledge to the next generation. Patrick’s exigency for perfection was even recognized by Fritz W. Egli who solely authorized Godet Motorcycles to officially use the Egli-Vincent brand; this was 18 years ago when Patrick presented his Café Racer to Fritz, and since they had grown a genuine friendship and complicity on a background of a common knowledge and passion for the motorcycles built at Stevenage.
Patrick was also incredibly creative and productive as it came to product development. For the Egli-Vincent, he basically reactivated the design from where it was left by Fritz in 1974—after the transition to production batches of specials with Japanese powerplants—to make the most exclusive and desirable Café Racer on the road: The Egli-Vincent by Godet. All the business earnings were reinvested in development, not to build more motorcycles, but to make them better. Each of his bike was therefore custom-made, took about a year to be build, and was consequently expensive. His masterpiece—the 1330cc—outperforms any pre-1970s racing bike and could give a headache to many modern twins designed 50 years later. But what I found the most amazing and daring from Patrick, was his challenge to certify Euro III the Egli-Vincent 1330, knowing that he had to comply with 40 years of motorcycle regulation, including very tough emission standards. Patrick did it and it is an incredible achievement considering the size of Godet Motorcycles compared to the financial and engineering means of any motorcycle manufacturer.
Each time I was visiting Patrick’s workshop, there was a new project on its way. His latest focus was to rebuild all Vincent models in genuine Vincent chassis with his own engines of 500cc and 1330cc displacement. Orders were coming steadily from all over the world: recreations of Grey Flash, Black Shadow, Black Prince and the Black Lightning which was the latest, featuring his 1330 engine fed by a pair of Amal GP refabricated for the occasion and an all-panoply of goodies that you would expect on such machine. The next model had to be a Road Grey Flash 665cc that was in preparation for two years: a kind half-1330 with Albion gearbox and electric starter! In fact, Patrick’s appetite to always surprise, excel and fulfill his customers’ dream had no limit but the budget constraints of his small business that often required him to temper his big vision. The Grey Flash Racing Program is one of these; started in 1998, it took 16 years to deliver the first engine to be fitted first in a specially created Egli rolling cycle—due to the Albion gearbox—and then in a Grey Flash replica frame. The bike immediately shown a great potential to go after the fastest cammies, but Patrick knew that more work was needed to get there. There is no doubt that finishing first single on the Isle of Man would have been his greatest satisfaction for all these years of efforts.
Sorcerer? There was certainly a bit of that in in Patrick’s den at Malaunay and in Patrick’s own life, working relentlessly on new recipes for power that he would keep secretly, those that gave to his motorcycles an exceptional and distinctive charisma. But there was so much more in his head that what Patrick has already given to us; dreams and motorcycles that we will unfortunately never see rolling down the road. R.I.P. my friend.
Published in MPH #840 of January 2019