While it is still cold here in the Northern Hemisphere, summer just wound down in Australia, which is the time each year when Shannon’s Auctions offers its Autumn Classic Sale. This year’s event was held on March 4 in New South Wales and included both cars and motorcycles as well as a collection of original New South Wales-numbered license plates. Although the highest-bid vehicle at the auction was a 1961 Mercedes-Benz 190 SL convertible at $165,000 AUD ($117,000 U.S.), the 1953 Vincent Series C Black Shadow motorcycle came in a close second and tied with a 1960 Porsche 356B 1600S Coupe at $160,000 AUD ($113,400 U.S.), plus 5-percent buyer’s premium.
The Vincent Rapide Series A motorcycles debuted in 1937 and quickly became recognized as some of the fastest production motorcycles ever made. Their 45-horsepower V-twin engines were virtually bulletproof; however, the clutch and four-speed Burman transmissions were prone to failure, leading to major production changes when the Series B bikes were released in 1945. In the Bs, the cylinder angle was changed to a 50-degree vee and the engine became integral to the frame assembly, making the drivetrain more reliable and stable as Vincent’s first unit-constructed model. 1948 saw the release of the Black Shadows as a Rapide Series B with blackened gearboxes, cases, and engines outside and higher compression inside, which upped the Black Shadows to 55 horsepower and a top-end speed of 125 mph.
Because each engine was hand-built, only the serious rider looking for out-of-the-crate performance could afford a Vincent when they were first available; however, the bikes earned their share of speed records at Bonneville and at other venues around the globe. Of the 1,700 to 1,800 Black Shadows that were made between 1948 and 1955, most were Series C models, such as the featured bike here. The two-cylinder 998-cc engines are still sought after by many motorcycling enthusiasts and often show up in hybrid performance bikes such as Norvins, using Vincent V-twins in a Norton “featherbed” frame. If you have been following recent motorcycle sales, you know that Vincents are right up there with the Broughs, Crockers, Indians, and Harleys at the tops of those sales charts. Their limited availability is almost a guarantee that the owner will not have to worry about bidding making it to the pre-auction estimate or any owner’s reserve.
1930 Triumph Model CTT 500 cc.
Additional motorcycles of note at this sale included a 1930 Triumph Model CTT 500 cc that sold for $17,000 AUD ($12,000 U.S.), a 1911 Abingdon King Dick 794-cc V-Twin bike that sold for $29,000 AUD ($21,000 U.S.), and a 1974 Norton Commando Interstate that was bid up to $16,000 AUD ($11,400 U.S.). In all, 40 cars and motorcycles were offered, with only two not meeting the reserve, a 95-precent sell-through rate.
Results of the complete auction of cars, motorcycles, and the vintage license plates can be viewed at Shannons.com.au. Shannon’s is planning two more auctions in 2019: The first is in Melbourne on Monday, April 29, and another auction in Sydney is scheduled for Monday, May 20.