Minichamps MIN122134650 1948 Vincent-HRD Black Lightning Motorcycle with Roland 'Rollie' Free Figure, Black (1:12 Scale)
"The World's Fastest Standard Motorcycle - This is a fact, not a slogan!"
- Advertisement for the Black Lightning Motorcycle
It was with the introduction in 1948 of the fully race-prepared Vincent Black Lightning that Vincent produced the most legendary motorcycle of its time. The Black Lightning was advertised as The World's Fastest Standard Motorcycle - This is a fact, not a slogan! - a claim it could have made right up until the release of the 900 cc Kawasaki Z1, 20 years later in 1972. (This same claim had been made in advertising before, for the earlier fastest Vincents)
Around 30 Vincent Black Lightnings were built during 1949-52. They were available on special order, selling for $1,500.
The Black Lightning had magnesium alloy brake backing plates, racing tires on lightweight alloy rims, rear-set pegs, a solo racing seat and aluminum fenders. All these helped trim the Lightning's weight to 380 lb. (The Black Shadow was 458 lb)
The Black Lightning had higher lift cams, stronger connecting rods, bigger inlet ports, polished rocker gear, steel idler gears, racing carburetors, a manual-advance magneto and could be ordered with compression ratios from 6.8:1 to 12.5:1. The engine was rated at 70 hp (52 kW), and was said to propel the Black Lightning to 150 mph.
The proof of the advertisement's claim came in 1948, when an Indian Motorcycle dealer, Rollie Free, riding the very first Vincent-HRD Black Lightning built, raised the motorcycle speed record to 150.313 mph (241.905 km/h) on Utah's Bonneville Salt Flats. Initially wearing full leathers, he could only achieve 147 mph (237 km/h), and his leathers had been flapping so violently at that speed as to tear. He removed his riding apparel, and wearing a bathing cap, speedos, and a pair of sneakers, set out for another attempt, and set the new record. A fast car with photographer aboard followed, and took the famous "bathing suit bike" picture.
Pictured here is a 1:12 scale 1948 Vincent-HRD Black Lightning motorcycle that was used by famed daredevil, Roland 'Rollie' Free. Comes with Rollie Free figure, a kickstand and packaged in a handsome presentation case. Pre-order! Ship Date: 2014.
Length: 7 inches
Height: 3.50 inches
Release Date: ?
Historical Account: "Freedom of Movement" - Rolland "Rollie" Free (November 11th, 1900 - October 11th, 1984) was a motorcycle racer best known for breaking the American motorcycle land speed record in 1948 on the Bonneville Salt Flats, Utah. The picture of Free, prone and wearing a bathing suit, has been described as the most famous picture in motorcycling.
After an early career in motorcycle retail, Free became a regional racer of the 1920's and 30's on Indian Motorcycles. In 1923, Free tried out for his first national motorcycle race, the 100-Mile National Championships on the board track in Kansas City, but did not qualify. He developed his career in longer-distance events, and raced in the very first Daytona 200 on the Daytona Beach Road Course in 1937.
He joined the Army Air Force as an aircraft maintenance officer during the Second World War; during this time, he was stationed at Hill Field in Utah, where he first saw the Bonneville Salt Flats. In 1945, Free left the Air Force, and resumed racing the soon-to-be defunct Indian motorcycles in long-distance and sprint record attempts, as well as dirt track racing on Triumphs.
On the morning of September 13th, 1948, Free raised the American motorcycle speed record by riding the very first Vincent HRD (it is debated as to whether it was a Black Lightning or Black Shadow), owned by the California sportsman John Edgar and sponsored by Mobil Oil, to a speed of 150.313 mph (241.905 km/h). Special features included the first-ever Vincent use of a rear shock absorber, the first Mk II racing cams, and horizontally-mounted racing carbs. Free had already developed a style of removing the seat from his mount, and lying flat prone along the back spine - thereby minimizing wind resistance, and placing most weight over the rear wheel. It is generally believed that this bike is The Black Lightning though, a custom order from the factory and was some 100 pounds lighter and 25 hp more powerful than the stock Black Shadow. In one of his books, Phil Irving (one of the designers) said that there were only about 16 of the model produced. The Black Lightning is the fastest Vincent ever produced.
To protect himself and allow comfort when in such a position, Free had developed special protective clothing. However, when his leathers tore from early runs at 147 mph (237 km/h), he discarded them and made a final attempt without jacket, pants, gloves, boots or helmet. Free lay flat on the motorcycle wearing only a Speedo bathing suit, a shower cap, and a pair of borrowed sneakers - inspired by friend Ed Kretz. This resulted not only in the record, but also one of the most famous photographs in motorcycling history, the "bathing suit bike" shot taken from a speeding car alongside his run on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.
The Vincent used is sometimes mistaken for a Series B machine, having the stamp BB on its engine casing - but is actually a works modified machine, and recognized as the first, or prototype of 30 Lightnings. The bike remained racing in the United States until the mid 1960s, and now resides virtually intact in the private collection of Herb Harris of Austin, Texas.