A Vincent Red “White Shadow” smashes the world record for the model at Bonhams’ highest-ever grossing Las Vegas motorcycle sale.
On January 7, 2016 in the ballroom of Bally’s Hotel & Casino on the famous Las Vegas Strip, Bonhams hosted what was at the time its most successful Las Vegas motorcycle auction with over $4.8-million sold. The sixth iteration of the annual sale attracted a near-capacity room of bidders from around the world augmented by bidders on the telephones and internet. It was in this electric air of wealth, the willingness to risk loss, and ultra-rare motorcycles that the much-storied marque Vincent drew the vast majority of the top bids.
The standout by far was the rare, one-of-one built 1951 Vincent Series C “White Shadow” in Chinese Red. After an exciting start from a host of bidders in the audience, a long and spirited match ensued between two bidders on the telephone, one in Australia and one in Great Britain. In the end, it was Britain winning the prize at a sum of $434,000 or $ 617,174 in Canadian funds—a new world record for a Shadow model.
Any Series C Black Shadow is a rare and desirable beast, as the Stevenage factory produced only 1,507 in 1949-52. Even more rare are the White Shadow variants, identical except these eschewed the usual black stove-enameled crankcases and were sold with polished bare metal cases instead. Records show that just 15 White Shadows were made.
The particular example seen on these pages takes that rarity even further, as it left the assembly line with its gas tank, fork tubes, fender braces, brake backing plates and sundry other parts painted in the factory’s Chinese Red, a special-order shade usually reserved for Rapide touring models. Reportedly no other Shadow was so-equipped, as verified in several Vincent histories and in correspondence from the Vincent Owner’s Club, making this ‘Red’ White Shadow a true one-of-one.
Now with its third owner the matching-numbers bike has always lived in the Pacific Northwest, though by the late 1980s it was overdue for restoration, the engine tired and the tinware sprayed an unattractive green. In researching the machine prior to the rebuild, the new owner unearthed its White heritage, and traces of paint left in crevices of the polished Girdraulic fork led to the Red discovery.
While the chassis was being restored to its as-shipped red livery (the exception being the alloy fork, which was left polished), the engine was farmed out to Vincent guru and AMA Hall of Famer Mike Parti for a complete overhaul, including the addition of Carrillo connecting rods. Built to ride, it is also equipped with more modern Amal Mk.II carbs, electronic ignition and a two-step, high-volume oil pump. Factory records indicate that steel touring fenders were fitted originally to the bike, but it now wears more sporting stainless-steel blades, as most Shadows did. Reproductions of the touring fenders are included in a spare parts kit that also contains the original carburetors and magneto, as well as the as-found green aftermarket fenders. Some 200 pages of restoration receipts were also included in the sale.
The subsequent five positions of the auction also went to the Stevenage, England-made motorcycle with the one-owner-from-new 1955 Vincent Series D Black Prince selling for $164,500; a 1948 Vincent Series B Black Shadow making $150,000; a 1953 Vincent Series C Black Shadow fetching $140,000; a 1951 Vincent Series C Black Shadow selling for $137,000; and a 1954 Vincent Series C Black Shadow achieving $125,000.
Other motorcycles that sold well were the 1977 MV Agusta 750 S America, with just 41 original miles, that made $120,500; a Brough Superior SS80 (fitted with a Matchless engine to SS100 specification) that was bought for $120,500; and the rare early American motorcycle, the 1910 Royal Pioneer, that was sold for $115,000.
“It’s obvious from the results that the rare, unusual and original machines stand out and that people are willing to invest $100,000-plus on good quality motorcycles,” said Nick Smith, Bonhams US head of motorcycles.
“We’re delighted with the results here in Las Vegas,” said auctioneer and Bonhams co-chairman Malcolm Barber. “We had lots of new faces bidding, broad international interest and better than ever results overall. It was a very good day.”
That appears to have been a slight understatement.
(Sources: Bonhams files)
Canadian Biker Issue #319