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1955 Vincent Black Shadow in sale at The Canterbury Auction Galleries

In its day the legendary Vincent Black Shadow was the world’s fastest production motorcycle. Considered the first “superbike”, it was capable of 125 mph. Pam Doyle, from Canterbury, remembers SXW 606 as her childhood transport of delight when her Uncle, John “Johnnie” Sawyer, took her out riding pillion for spins around the Kent countryside.

Mr Sawyer died last year, aged 82 and now the family has decided to sell the motorcycle, built in 1955, one of the last from the Stevenage factory. It will be offered at The Canterbury Auction Galleries on September 4-5 when bids of £30,000-50,000 are expected from Vincent enthusiasts worldwide.

Production of Vincent’s Series D range began in 1955, the same year that the factory closed. Only 144 Series D motorcycles were made in 1955 and matching numbers show SXW 606 was one of the final 38.

The machine was purchased new by Uncle Johnnie, then aged 27, from Conway Motors in Shepherds Bush, who registered it for him in July 1956. He paid around £500 – the price of a house back in the day.

Since then it has covered 54,129 miles and among a raft of documents and photographs to be sold with it are MoT certificates from 1967 to 1989, the last one showing a mileage of 53,968.

In addition to retaining its original registration number, the motorbike also has both old and new V5 registration documents; tax discs from 1979 to 1990; numerous service bills, insurance certificates and an all-important certificate from the Vincent Owners’ Club confirming its age.

Said the auctioneer’s consultant Dave Parker: “Finding an unmolested Black Shadow is a remarkable discovery that is sure to excite fans of the Vincent marque around the world. The bike is in extremely good, unrestored and original condition, the only modification being the polished engine cases.

“Photographs show the machine was supplied with black cases and we do not know when, but the owner polished them shiny. It was a common thing to do when the black finish became worn but it is not a major procedure to have the black finish restored.

“The machine was laid up by the original owner in 1990 due to clutch failure. We were called in by the family to sell it and minor re-commissioning work was carried out by Kent Classic Motorcycles. This consisted of fitting a refurbished clutch, new battery, the seized Amal carburettor slides were replaced and the machine was checked over thoroughly. It is now in full running order and ready to be MoT’d.

“Uncle Johnnie’s motorbike is a piece of motorcycling history. The engine note makes the hairs stand up on the back of your neck and it’s running as well as it did in 1955. It remains one mean machine.”

For further information, please contact Dave Parker or Tony Pratt at The Canterbury Auction Galleries on 01227 763337 or

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