Director David Lancaster opens up on Velocity is Costly, a film on Phil Vincent, the flawed genius behind Vincent Bikes.
Revealed On Jul 31, 2022 10:00:00 AM
In 2018, Bonhams offered a 1951 Vincent Black Lightning for $929,000, making it the most costly motorbike ever offered at an public sale. Setting data is a really Vincent factor and so are inspiring superlatives. The Black Lightning, a racing model of the Vincent Black Shadow, the primary ever ‘superbike’, was the world’s quickest manufacturing motorbike within the post-war years. In 1948, American motorbike racer Rollie Free achieved a median pace of 150.313mph (241.905kph); two years later, he would return to obliterate his personal file, touching a median pace of 150.58mph (242.335kph). In 1956, in New Zealand, a Vincent set a brand new pace file at 186mph (299.338kph).
Rollie Free stretched out over a manufacturing unit tuned Vincent Black Shadow on the Bonneville Salt Flats, on his approach to a file 150mph. Courtesy William Edgar archive
Vincent Bikes’ commercials within the early Nineteen Fifties proclaimed: ‘The World’s Quickest Customary Motorbike. It is a Truth Not a Slogan.” Vincent may need made big-bore, high-performance bikes, however they weren’t all solely about pace. The bikes have been additionally constructed to exacting requirements, utilizing supplies reminiscent of magnesium alloy; Vincent’s improvements included a cantilever rear suspension (an early model of the monoshock) and the chassis-less development of the post-war Sequence B Rapide, which impressed engineers reminiscent of John Britten half a century later.
In comparison with the likes of Triumph and BSA, the corporate produced only a few bikes yearly, however they price twice as a lot as merchandise from different British motorbike firms.
In case you are an fanatic, particularly a basic motorbike lover, you in all probability know every thing about its story that started with the acquisition of HRD Motors in 1928 and led to 1955. However what of Philip Vincent, the driving drive behind the bikes? In ‘Velocity is Costly’, which premiered on the Barnes Movie Competition in June, David Lancaster takes an unflinching take a look at a temperamental, cussed engineering genius who was born into wealth and educated at Harrow and made, as a line within the movie goes, “bikes no person wanted and few might afford.”
The documentary is narrated by Ewan McGregor and options Vincent house owners reminiscent of tv host and comic Jay Leno, The Conflict bassist Paul Simonon, and John Surtees, a former apprentice at Vincent and the one man to have gained world championships whereas racing bikes and cars.
David Lancaster with Phil Vincent’s grandson Philip Vincent-Day, and Jay Leno
Right here, Lancaster, who teaches journalism on the College of Westminster, speaks to Autocar India concerning the making of the film and attending to know Phil Vincent higher.
When did Vincents come to dominate your life?
Most likely fairly early. My father owned a Vincent Sequence B Rapide, which is the motorbike I now personal, and my dad and mom, too, made a number of journeys into Europe. Vincents weren’t price as a lot cash or tremendous particular within the Nineteen Seventies; they have been simply quick, previous bikes, however simply bikes.
What did directing a film on Phil Vincent’s life train you about him? What kind of a person was he?
He was – I got here throughout this phrase a couple of years in the past – an ’employer entrepreneur’. Due to his pretty rich background, he was in a position to purchase the rights to HRD. He was making bikes on the age of 19 and he by no means actually labored for anybody else. He went to Harrow and had this wonderful self-confidence and dedication to unfold his personal concepts. For those who take a look at a Vincent, you already know it’s constructed very otherwise. Vincent and his design accomplice Phil Irving created bikes with none thought of what’s going to price cash and the place they may make cash. It was utterly totally different to BSA and Triumph, as an illustration, which had this hierarchical construction, with a board of administrators and all that. However after his crash in 1947, he was a modified man. John Surtees says that right this moment, it could be termed post-traumatic stress dysfunction, however in these days it was, form of, mud your self off and get on with the job. He was additionally a little bit of a gambler. He gambled his household’s cash away on growing the bikes within the Nineteen Thirties and once more gambled considerably on the absolutely enclosed Sequence D, which was a convincing flop. The irony is that almost all massive bikes right this moment are absolutely enclosed. He was method forward of his time. The trajectory of his life after 1955 was fairly stated. He by no means designed one other automobile that may go into manufacturing. However he at all times had concepts. He had this concept to make a rotary engine utilizing ceramic supplies and he did construct a prototype. He knew emissions from commonplace piston engines could be an issue and noticed rotary as the best way ahead. In a method, Vincent, the corporate, was lots like Bentley. When WO Bentley was in cost, they weren’t distracted by making a living. They only wished to construct stunning automobiles.
He attracted one of the best of expertise. Was he a charismatic man?
He clearly had the flexibility to encourage individuals. Vincent by no means paid the very best wages, however individuals wished to work there as a result of it was an attention-grabbing motorbike to provide. It wasn’t a BSA Bantam. John Surtees has labored with the likes of Enzo Ferrari and Soichiro Honda, and he put Phil Vincent proper up there together with these males. He may need not made the influence like Ferrari or Honda, however what he did was utterly totally different.
Observe @speed_is_expensive on Instagram for updates on the discharge of the documentary.
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