The 1951 Vincent Black Lightning holds a special place in Australian history when in 1953 Jack Ehtet broke the Australian land-speed record reaching an average speed of 227.7 kilometres per hour.
Vincent Black Lightning 1951
The Vincent Black Lightning developed from the 1936 Vincent Rapide, a V-twin designed by Englishman Phil Vincent and Australian Phil Irving that was the world’s fastest production motorcycle for its time. The innovative design has the engine ‘hang’ from a stiff backbone, rather than be surrounded by tubes, lowering the motorcycle and thereby improving its handling.
In 1948, Rollie Free set the United States speed record at Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah, at 241.85 km/h on a specially tuned Vincent V-twin. Subsequently, Black Lightnings set national speed records in Ireland, New Zealand and South Africa, as well as in Australia.
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In 1953 this particular machine on display was used by Jack Ehret to set the Australian speed record at 227.7 km/h on a short stretch of road near Gunnedah, New South Wales.
Approximately 30 Black Lightning motorcycles were produced by revered British manufacturing company Vincent Motorcycles during the 1950s, purely for racing, and the motorcycle has been described as a ‘holy grail’ for collectors. Only 19 are believed to still be in existence. Western Australian collector Ian Boyd holds the world’s largest private collection of Vincent Motorcycles, including two Black Lightnings.
Country: United Kingdom
Power: 70 hp
Engine: 998 cc 50° V-twin
Designer: Phil Vincent & Phil Irving
- The famous photograph (illustrated) from motorcycling history shows American speed record-breaker Rollie Free — stripped to swimsuit, cap and lightweight shoes for speed — prone on his Vincent machine — the situation pictured is outrageous, incredibly dangerous, and impossible to repeat today.
- In 1953 Jack ‘Black Jack’ Ehtet broke the Australian land-speed record on his 1951 Black Lightning, reaching an average speed of 227.7 kilometres per hour. Ehret was pulled over by police while returning home to Sydney from his record-setting Gunnedah trip, for travelling eight miles per hour over the speed limit.
- In 2018 Ehret’s Black Lightning became the most valuable motorcycle sold at auction — for AU$1.28 million.
Watch: The most expensive motorcycle sold at auction
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