"ZZ 23", a VINCENT BLACK SHADOW build underway

August 2010 update

ZZ 23 is perhaps 75% completed as of today. The front forks and rear swing arms are installed with the engine and main frame in place. The wheels are ready for installation as the brake shoes are finalized into place.

Up to date images show the front Girdraulic forks in place utilizing a mix of original, but reconditioned parts such as the upper spring box fitting with the new items which must have close clearances for proper range of movement. Old bearings, whether they are ball bearings, bronze bushings or spindles are gone at some point and the funeral held. New ones, by the nature of bearings are generally out of sight so the completed motorcycle keeps its modern secrets to itself.

This Black Shadow began as a racer and honestly, a good many parts were twisted even as tough as a Vincent is. Some hill climbing work is the reason, but we have a good inventory of original parts for this occasion such as the fork blades. What ZZ will wear is a very straight set of blades superbly painted in extremely tough paint. We don't expect you will likely try your hand at climbing hills in competition, but this is the first set of bent Vincent Girdraulics that I have ever seen.

What's next? Mudguards are, surprisingly to many, one of the most difficult parts to fit properly on a Vincent motorcycle. The reason is more than the rear flap seam and getting the line of the whole mudguard to have a continuous arc. The culprit is the front. Mudguard stays, (fender braces) are as unique almost as fingerprints. Each one had its mounting holes drilled somewhat differently. As well, replacement ones are generally less accurate than originals and you have a fitting process that typifies the entire reason a Vincent costs as much as it does to accurately remanufacture. Time-labor costs to fit it over and over. Each time, a fitting may show the hole is too short and needs slight lengthening. The mounting holes on the ends of the black, tubular stays determine not only how far off the tire that the mudguard mounts, but whether, once mounted, there is concentricity between the front tire and the mudguard around it. Put differently, can one see the same amount of space between the tire and the mudguard when standing back away from the motorcycle? If one end of the mudguard dips towards the tire, it draws the eye to the imperfection. In our book, Vincents are about perfection and so an obvious imperfection cannot be tolerated.

I can say that over the ten years I have had HVG and that we have been restoring the Vincent motorcycle, I cannot recall one front mudguard going on straight the first time. Period, without question. Next, the mechanic watching my face as I stand away and to the side to check the gap always becomes grim-faced when I don't smile. And I never do the first time. But, with patience and lots of time, the arcs become more closely concentric until it is perfect and that mountain is climbed.

Oh, some parts always go on right. A speedometer for example, generally fits right where its supposed to go and in the right plane and to the correct angle. Cables generally go where they must, etc.

But, there are areas of extreme concern and constant trouble, much like the Middle East if you will, including gear change mechanisms, mudguards as we have mentioned and oil tightness issues. Repeated test rides show up oil weeps and leaks. Breather timing or mistiming can be a cause, but we use the Dick Busby method and it generally produces a bike without crankcase pressure build-up and thus, leaks are at a minimum. We see leaks sometimes from rocker oil feed lines and from the decompressor mechanism at the top rear of the timing cover area. Anyway, these are hard to spot at times on a black engine, but we usually end up with a great result.

Anyway, the ZZ is almost ready for its tests and so, you may wish to make the choice to own it. A close look at the detail images is something I recommend to help you in that decision. It is a magnificent motorcycle, a thing of lasting beauty and value. We mean it when we use our motto of "Live the Legend." Join in.

Currently being constructed alongside its sister SHADOW, A4A, is the Series "C" Black Shadow, now referred to in the HVG shops as "ZZ 23" its case factory matching numbers. The Vincent factory gave a short, but unique series of letters and numbers to stamp on each component engine case to insure that during the manufacture process, they were not mixed with those of any other engine. It was important as the cases were fitted to each other, joints ground down to have no "lip" where two cases met and that as much as possible, oil leaks would not be present.

I can tell you that in a part of its previous life, ZZ 23 was a hill climbing racer. Little is currently known of its competition history in this peculiarly American type of event. No longer popular, hill climbing was as dangerous as almost any motorcycle speed event. It rewarded the innovative and crazy as the steepest of hillsides were chosen and the entrants started from a stop at the foot. Invariably, at some point short of the crest of the hill, the finish line, the rider and his bike slowed due to loss of traction or loss of horsepower or sometimes, both. What was inevitable was the moment that the crowds came to see, the dismount. With the engine still screaming and the chain sawing away and the rear tire churning dirt, the rider had to get off and jump clear of this mayhem without becoming carnage for the crowds. Almost, but not quite as thrilling as the Coliseum in Rome might have been in its salad days. (Forgive this overly colorful comparison).

Back to the ZZ 23. The left inner crankcase half, also numbered ZZ 23 but bearing the actual engine number is being repaired by our welder where the owner tried to separate the case halves once unbolted with a screwdriver, leaving a pair of gouges. Rather than fix it halfway with body filler, we are having it aluminum welded prior to painting to do it correctly. Note the crankshaft and rods, still wrapped in Saran Wrap, standing by for its turn to be inserted.


(Click images to enlarge)