My dad Big Sid was a life-long Vincent enthusiast and an honorary member of the Vincent HRD Owners Club. The story of the Vingusta begins while Sid was still alive but ends after his death in June 2013. Back in 2011, Sid and I had just returned from fulfilling a long-deferred dream of his: setting an AMA record at Bonneville with one of our Vincents. One of my first chores upon our return to Louisville KY was to cut the grass. While mowing, I saw a car pull up and stop in front of our house. It was Larry Elmore, an old friend of Sid’s, who happened to own a basket-case Black Shadow he had won in a poker game decades ago. Larry had been stopping by for years to chat with Sid about Vincents and his dream to restore this particular Black Shadow. I was still mowing when Larry exited and as he walked back to his car, I killed the mower to say goodbye. Without stopping Larry told me that I needed to go inside and talk to Sid.
That afternoon I learned that Larry wanted us to buy his Shadow. Larry’s doctor had given him bad news about his medical condition—his spine was rapidly deteriorating and his motorcycle days were over. Fresh off the thrill of Bonneville, Sid and I immediately bought that Shadow and collected it. But before we could begin serious work on its reassembly, Sid died in June 2013. During one of my last hospital visits, I brought Sid some of that Shadow’s parts, freshly cleaned, for him to inspect. Turning them over in his hands, Sid said, “son, you are going to build this one on your own.” Back when my father had suffered his heart attack in 2000, I had rejected such sentiments, promising him that if he recovered we would build a Vincati, a special we completed in 2005. This time I didn’t argue. This time I accepted his words and braced myself for doing something I had never done before: build a Vincent without Sid.
It took over two years, but I got to ride that Black Shadow during the 2015 North American Rally (at Shadow Lake) and later sold it at auction in January 2016. That’s when Steve Hamel called to congratulate me and to issue me my next challenge: to build a Special, a worthy follow up to the Vincati. Steve, you see, happened to have two 600 cc Prince top end kits and he wanted me to buy them as a way to start this next project.
And with that purchase, I began the Vingusta. The build then languished until January 2017 when I spotted an eBay listing for a Prince frame (#17B). It came with a pair of mismatched but original crankcases that had been mated by Bob Dunn. Not only had Dunn prepped the cases to accept a brace of 92mm pistons, he had also installed a lightened flywheel assembly and a 5 speed gearbox! But for various reasons, work had then stopped, and the owner Ed Shingles was now ready to pass it along.
When I called Ed, he told me had been inspired after seeing an Egli at a bike show, and that after a call to Big Sid he had reached out to Prince and ordered his frame. Sid’s earlier involvement seemed a blessing. After I won the auction, David Lancaster kindly arranged for collection. I then installed the top end of the motor as well as its other components. My partner in this build, Logan Robeson (who had known Sid for a decade and who was our Bonneville pilot) encouraged me to graft the front end off an MV Augusta Brutale 910R. Soon the Vingusta (so christened) was up on its wheels—Pirelli Sport Demons mounted on classic 40-spoke Sun Rims. Suspension front and rear is up to date and fully adjustable with Marzocchi 50mm RAC upside-down forks and a Progressive 465 RAP monoshock. To tame the beast, Brembo P4 radial calipers grab massive 320mm Braking SK2 discs. Other features include a set of Colin Taylor 2 inch exhaust pipes, a Pazon twin plug ignition head, V3 clutch (run wet), Grosset Electric start kit, and an Alton 12 volt generator system.
Last summer, Logan and I got the Vingusta running before then transporting it to Craig Rodsmith’s shop located just outside Chicago. Logan had met Craig some time back and knew that Rodsmith who is well known for his Moto Guzzi customs, had long dreamed of doing the body work for a Vincent. This April Craig, Logan and I showed the bike for the first time at the Hand Built Show in Austin Texas.
The chance to continue Sid’s work with the Vingusta has been very special for me. I find that when I am building a Vincent, I often hear Sid’s voice in my head; most of the time he is making suggestions, reminding me to check for certain potential problems. But when I first lit off the Vingusta, I can assure you all I heard from Sid was, what a thrilling exhaust note the bike has, and how he wishes he could ride it. Final fettling work (including the installation of its road going gear—lights, turn signals, etc.) is now wrapping up and I look forward to sharing that first ride report soon. As Sid would say, Vincents remain one of the things that make life worth living.”
Matthew Biberman ©