Bars Bikes, the Bar Hodgson Collection of rare and collectable vintage and classic motorcycles
The Collection - Bikes for SaleAbout Bar - Current Projects - Links - Archives - Contact - Main

Bar's Vincent Black Lightning Replica Project

Part 1
Update 1 Collecting all the Original Parts
Update 2 The Engine in all its glory
Update 3 The Two Phils Redefine What Came Before
* Part 2 has Updates 4, 5 & 6
* Part 3 has Updates 7, 8, & 9

Collecting all the original Black Lightning Parts

In between the various hold-ups that often occur during a current project, I deal with situations for future projects. So with the 'Café Godet' frame slowdowns I've moved over to my 'Black Lightning Replica' project acquired many years back when a friend in our Vincent Owners' Club Eastern Canada section realized that he had a few projects too many...
Vincent Black Lightning replica project
Red Bullet - Vincent Black Lightning replica project A mock up photo of many of Bar's Black Lightning components spread out on the work bench.
My friend had been collecting rare, original factory 'Black Lightning' racing components since the early 60s including a trip to England in search of these usually unfindable items and continued to accumulate his stockpile for the next 40 years. Vincent projects often go this way….. I had also been acquiring factory Black Lightning parts, so when his hoard became available I snapped it up with the intent of seriously building the Black Lightning Replica Project. However, a rare opportunity to acquire the genuine, highly prized 'Lost Singapore Lightning' arose as an unfinished restoration from another friend in our section and the 'Replica' moved to the backburner while I finished off the restoration of the 'Real Thing'.
The Lost Singapore Lightning Vincent

Red Bullet - Vincent Black Lightning replica project The restored 'Lost Singapore Lightning' was unveiled at the 2015 Canadian Cobble Beach Concours.
Although out of sight but never quite out of mind, I had always planned to build the Black Lightning Replica as a faithful reproduction of the Factory Race Bike utilizing all Black Lightning authentic parts and with all the necessary modifications but with street legal additions. It would be a faithful reproduction but not one of the original thirty-three that the factory proudly built, raced and set land speed records on all over the world in the 1940s and 50s. Instead, one that I could proudly build and track ride on Canada's Mosport International Raceway's 2.45 mile Grand Prix course and also on the 'Queen's Highways'. What more could one ask for?



The Black Lightning Replica engine in all its glory

Some years back when I had finally collected all of the Black Lightning engine components I commissioned Phil Mahood to assemble the Replica engine identical to a Factory Black Lightning engine. Phil did an extraordinary job and the great pride taken in his work is evident wherever one's eyes fall on this magnificent engine.
Engine for the Black Lightning project a replica build in progress by Bar Hodgson
Red Bullet point Although the list of genuine Black Lightning parts assembled in this engine both internally and externally is extensive, a couple of the external Lightning parts evident in the photos are the Lucas KVFTT Black Lightning racing magneto and the Amal 32mm 10TT9 Black Lightning racing carbs and Works cast extended manifolds.

Vincent Black Lightening Replica parts layout of the build project

Red Bullet point This is a particularly interesting phase of the project when I get to lay out a lot of the related components strategically around the engine. This greatly helps in envisioning the finished product and in identifying possible missing components. Note the complete girdraulic front suspension that I had machinist extraordinaire, Ken Roseveer, verify the fit and alignment of all the individual components and then Mike White serviced and assembled it, ready to install once the mocked-up upper frame member is repainted and the bearing cups installed.
Vincent Black Lightening Replica build project by Bar Hodgson

Red Bullet - Vincent Black Lightning replica project This process also greatly helps in breaking down the various work lists requiring component assembly, painting, polishing or possible outside services, etc. Note the mounted Factory Black Lightning rear set plates, Factory footrests and both rear set shift lever kit and rear set brake lever kit laid out on the bench.

The Two Phils Redefine What Came Before Them and Influence What's to Follow Them

It must have been an exciting time for the two Phils. The war was over and Vincent was going to be the first horse out of the gate. Not by just remaking their groundbreaking pre-war product but with completely new ideas and designs. These guys were amazing. The big bikes of the 30s all had wheel bases that were way too long. And Phil Vincent wanted to change that. The only way he could make more room was to get rid of the frame. So all the old ideas get thrown out and fresh new innovation fills the vacuum. At first they built the new upper frame member as a box construction, however the resulting welding distortions caused misalignment between the front and back.
Vincent Black Lightening Replica project frame and mounting They totally resolved that by making the steering neck as a separate casting that also picked up the top front cylinder frame mount, whereas the remaining oil tank was formed as a welded box beam construction while underneath at the rear of the oil tank they positioned the pick-up for suspending the rear head in a slotted bolt mount. At the very rear is the seat mount at the top, the mount for the hydraulic damper unit (which Vincent had to invent and manufacture themselves as no one supplied such a product for motorcycle use in those days). They utilized jig-mounted dead accurate machining to accept the very special high tensile bolts and self-centering tapered nuts and receivers. Take a second look at the exploded view and envision what they achieved, in post-wartorn England, by doing this. Mount the assembled upper frame member to the top of the 998cc Vincent power unit and you not only have a most magnificent stressed member assembly but after bolting the front suspension to the extremely rigid cast steering neck, you conveniently can bolt the lower frame member (swingarm) directly to the rear of the engine crankcase casting allowing the rear suspension to be joined up to the upper frame member. Motorcycling would not see this type of triangulated on-road swinging arm suspension in a bike again until the advent of the Yamaha TZ750 road racer in the early 70s, while the front suspension upper frame member concept did not arrive back on the scene until the modern-day Ducati Panigale appeared.

While the upper frame member was disassembled I performed a number of service items and minor repairs (after all, it is over 70 years old) installing new bearing cups, chasing front fuel tank mount threads, cleaning the interior of the oil tank, and making sure all mating surfaces were square to each other, and that rear suspension mount bushings were all in acceptable condition.

Vincent Black Lightening Replica carbs closeup The last thing I had to do was perform an assembled dry run fitting of all the upper frame member components to the engine then install the gas tank by its front rubber mounts and elevate the rear tank rubbers to provide clearance for the front 32mm Amal 10TT9 carburetor's short velocity stack. By cheating a bit in every direction we will just have the clearance we need.

All photos are by Hedy Hodgson unless otherwise noted

Read More: Updates 4, 5 & 6 in Part 2


Join our email list and we'll let you know when new updates are posted. Email with your request to join our mailing list. It's free!

Back to the Projects page - Back to the Main Page

The Collection - Bikes for SaleAbout Bar - Current Projects - Links - Archives - Contact - Main

© 2021 Bar Hodgson Productions Ltd. - Website Design: AGWebServices