Vincent Black Lightning breaks auction sale record in Vegas

Yesterday, a Vincent Black Lightning broke the world’s motorcycle auction sales record, selling for $929,000 US.

The Bonhams auction was the same sale where these Von Dutch artpieces were sold (mostly for much more than predicted). It was held at the Rio Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

All Vincent Black Lightning motorcycles are desirable, with only 30 examples produced, but this bike had a particularly storied past; this 1951 model was exported from England to Australia, where it set a top speed record for that country/continent at 141.5 mph. Its performance down under was no surprise; in testing, this bike had hit 131 mph on a test track in third gear—a performance level unheard-of for those times.

The motorcycle was used in other racing victories over the years, and was sold in unrestored, running condition. The photo above shows it in use during its heyday, with rider Jack Ehret behind the bars. Ehret owned this motorcycle for more than 50 years, reportedly.

The previous record price for a motorcycle auction was $825,500 US, for a  Cyclone board racer that had been owned by Steve McQueen. That was a Mid-America auction 2015.

The constant upward trend in these sales is indicative of the classic motorcycle collector scene as a whole. While ignored for many years as motor enthusiasts chased vintage cars, classic bikes have now started to draw attention for their affordability (at least when compared to equivalent cars—not many riders have $929,000 US in their sock drawer, waiting for a rainy day). The increased attention, ironically, is starting to hike the prices of the motorcycles.

For more details of the history behind the Black Lightning model, visit here.

6 thoughts on “Vincent Black Lightning breaks auction sale record in Vegas”

  1. 141.5.5 mph is not too special for a Vincent “Lightning” since Rollie Free ran one of the first ones to 150.313 mph (2 way average) at Bonneville salt flats in 1948. Much later, in 1953, with the same bike he pushed the fuel top speed record at Bonneville to 160.73 mph (also a 2 way speed average). That Vincent is still around in the US.
    Speeds with supercharged engines were higher of course and the Brough Superior (2 way)record of 168.4 mph on a 2 lane highway in Hungary in 1937 was beaten later that year by Ernst Henne on a supercharged BMW running on a German Autobahn at 173.67 mph. Henne quit while he was ahead, indicating that such speeds were suicidal. Eric Fernihough tried to better that mark with the same Brough in 1938, and died in the attempt when a crosswind blew him off the narrow 2 lane Hungarian highway and into a tree.

    Over 1 million Canadian loonies is certainly a lot of dough for a second hand motorcycle. But it only takes 2 people with more money than they know what to do with to get into a bidding war. The poor bike will, in all probability, end up in someone’s Garagemahal, pining away for someone to come and start ‘er up.

    1. It might not be too special for the Vincent, but it was good enough to set a speed record in Australia, so I reckon it’s good for something. Plus you know how land speed races work: Anything from air temperature to humidity to wind can scrub a lot of speed.

      1. I have a good deal of respect for the post-war Vincent v-twin. And even though I found the riding position OK for me, realized that it was uncomfortable for most of the taller riders who had bought one. And a main reason why it was never very popular in this country.
        Phil Irving, who I was lucky enough to meet long ago for a few minutes, was the genius who designed and made the Vincent work as well as it did in spite of the mess that Vincent – and others – made of the company.

        1. I actually know where a Black Prince is, supposedly, in a barn. At least, where it used to be. I tried to get a look at it, but the owner (a dirt farmer) was unwilling. I may go back and look again someday.

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