Jeff Decker’s New Sweetheart. A Very Sexy Vincent Black Lightning

British manufacturer Vincent Motorcycles (1928-1955) produced some of the world’s fastest production motorcycles. The 1952 Vincent Black Lightning featured here was the racing version of the Black Shadow with every part on it that could be remade refabricated in aluminum for lighter weight (380 lbs or 170kg) powered with a 998 cc air cooled twin cylinder pushrod engine (70 bhp or 52 KW) resultting in a top speed of 150 mph (240  km/h)  Only 31 Black Lightnings were ever built before production ended due to Vincent’s financial problems in 1952. It is one of the most desirable classic motorcycles, and today can bring up to $150,000.

About his new sweetheart, very proud owner and restorer, Bronze artist Jeff Decker tells me: “The bike is based on a HVG (Harris Vincent Gallery) Chassis. Herb set me up with all the juiciest left overs he had from Rollie Free & Marty Dickerson. I took a perfectly built motor with all the rarest goodies, spine, ’48 forks & tail section & spent a few hundreds of hours more with my uncle Curtis creating/ finishing/customizing this bike. I will not go into details as to what is correct & what is my expression. Read ‘KNOW THY BEAST’ because that is exactly what a Vincent is… a beast, a racehorse at heart & a Clydesdale when street legal. It is inspired by the Drag & Bonneville bikes of the era when these bikes were relevant”.  And with humor Jeffs adds: “I am open to critique. Please send me photos of the latest Vincent Black Lightening 1952 you have customized in a more tasteful manner than I did” Jeff Decker Studio. (photography Mark Shubin)

26 Responses to “Jeff Decker’s New Sweetheart. A Very Sexy Vincent Black Lightning”

  1. 1 TodT Jul 5th, 2010 at 7:51 am

    I could not imagine what it would feel like going 150 MPH on that….
    That being said, it is indeed another beautifully designed bike.

  2. 2 Bill Siemer Jul 5th, 2010 at 8:16 am

    Very beautiful bike. As with all race bikes, things change from the original build. They can be restored to an “as raced on” date, but that still relies on someones memory of the race day. Hell, they change during the course of the race. That being said, I don’t think $150,000 would be enough money for this bike in this condition. Damn, it is fine.

  3. 3 steveb Jul 5th, 2010 at 8:37 am

    that looks like alot of fun (shit it’s fun just to look at), no matter how fast it goes…
    …and looks to my eye like a skeletonized watch… with a mean black heart

  4. 4 nial Jul 5th, 2010 at 9:28 am

    this is an awesome piece of history and although i build custom motorcycles everyday i am saddened by what you have done. you have taken a pure piece of history and altered it with your own style. this is sacriligious to a purist. you have also decided to break the lineage of this line. your arrogance as far as this goes has ruined a perfect piece of history that can never be retrieved. you have spit in the face of the original builders of this marque, and i have no doubt you are talented beyond most peoples comprehension, but did you do it for the money or the notoriety or the accolades if so this is the saddest part!

  5. 5 Larry R Jul 5th, 2010 at 9:43 am

    I like!! It’s beautiful and definately not a cookie cutter bike, but yours and yours only. Good job, Jeff.

  6. 6 Spencer Jul 5th, 2010 at 10:31 am

    In the late 60’s you could find these bikes for $500.00 and there were plenty of them around. I had several friends riding Vincent motorcycles and had the chance to work with them on those bikes. Who would have thought that all these years later they would be worth $150K and they would look as good as they do. Nice job.


  7. 7 JZ Jul 5th, 2010 at 10:32 am

    Decker’s creation is gorgeous. With the exception of the notorious Vincent factory seat, I never really imagined that a Black Shadow could be customized to look better than the original configuration. (And yes, that includes Eglis, in my opinion.) Phil and Phil were brilliant designers and engineers but it looks like Jeff has been able to improve upon perfection. Kudos to him. it’s damn beautiful.


  8. 8 Somer Jul 5th, 2010 at 10:47 am

    Nice job!Great attention to detail.

  9. 9 cantrell Jul 5th, 2010 at 12:17 pm

    Jeff Decker…You do nice work! You should be proud. I surely am.


  10. 10 raycwheeler Jul 5th, 2010 at 1:19 pm

    great bike.

    ray usa

  11. 11 jack1340 Jul 5th, 2010 at 1:50 pm

    magnifique jeff!!! many detail! great ! great !great!!!!!!!!!!nice work!

  12. 12 Brenda Fox Jul 5th, 2010 at 2:04 pm


    Jeff’s the MAN!

    From such a talented artist, It no surprise to see this beauty!
    And lets face it, any leftovers from Herb Harris are gonna be drool worthy…
    Great job.

  13. 13 Doc Robinson Jul 5th, 2010 at 4:13 pm

    Top job Jeff, ‘drool worthy’ fits perfectly and then some.

  14. 14 martin Jul 5th, 2010 at 6:55 pm

    Wow what a beautiful job well done! Martin

  15. 15 Brian Klock Jul 5th, 2010 at 7:18 pm

    Congrats Jeff! Over the top, with your amazing talent and eye for simple yet difficult design this almost comes to be expected, hats off for reaching that level of expectation once again and creating a timeless treasure that is an expression of yours to behold. Well done.

  16. 16 Captain Bob Jul 5th, 2010 at 9:59 pm

    Actually Vincent ceased production in 1955, not 1952.

  17. 17 A 1 CYCLES Jul 6th, 2010 at 7:44 am

    anybody can restore one..takes a real man to cut one up! beautiful bike jeff

  18. 18 Mike Kiwi Tomas, Kiwi Indian Motorcycles Jul 6th, 2010 at 8:07 am

    By just reading the headline and associating the 2 together of Jeff Decker and Vincent one could visualize the bike before even seeing it. Right on, well executed and a “very lean clean fighting machine”. Congrats on a fine build and a mate to your Crocker.

  19. 19 Crocker Motorcycle Co Jul 6th, 2010 at 9:54 am

    Well done Jeff! Beautiful bike!

  20. 20 Lloyd Gloekler Jul 7th, 2010 at 8:32 am

    I saw Jeff’s Vincent and Crocker at the R.W. Erickson antique power show June 26th in Wallsburg, UT. Sweet bikes. The Vincent really fits the period racer theme and the details are fantastic. I had to grab my camera when I saw the article to verify that it was indeed Jeff Decker’s bike that I had seen. Seeing how I also ended up with a picture of Jeff’s van parked outside and photo’s of several pieces of his excellent bronzes inside just confirmed the sighting.

    An article on the R.W. Erickson collection would be nice to see. His annual power show, first weekend after Father’s day, draws a good crowd of honest, hardworking motorheads from all walks of life.

  21. 21 Herb Jul 8th, 2010 at 1:51 pm

    How he sees things the rest of us don’t see really amazes me. I’ve never seen anyone drop Vincent pipes under the bike before. Using the Vincent, using an all-black platform for a custom is something no one has done and may represent a new direction for customs. Minimalist, vintage (not “retro”) but fast even from the promise it makes to the viewer who sees it. Besides, only Jeff Decker would ride something like this with 60 year old tires. I am amazed at what he did.

  22. 22 UHL Jul 9th, 2010 at 7:26 am

    El Jeffe, you have an unfair advantage!!! Looks like you pulled your gloves off for this one

  23. 23 Stephen Sep 15th, 2010 at 4:46 am

    “Jeffs adds: “I am open to critique. Please send me photos of the latest Vincent Black Lightening 1952 you have customized in a more tasteful manner than I did””

    I am sure Jeff would not get any emails… because most people would have more respect for the Vincent than to alter such a unique part of their history. I am *all* for customizing a Vincent. However, it’s all in how one approaches it that matters most. It’s the *way* you do it.. which admittedly can be somewhat subjective. I think the issue is, *should* a real *Lightning model* have been done to this ‘California Hot Rod Bobber’ style in the first place? Is it good taste to have done this? I’m not sure. Regardless of taste, the owners of these machines need to look at them *not* as “owners” who can do whatever they like, but as temporary stewards of a part of history that can never be replaced. This is where I tend to be a bit more conservative in my views. If Jeff had simply taken a Shadow… or used all reproduction parts and made this… I would have absolutely no problem with it *at all*, as I am not a purist at heart. However, with a Lightning, I think preservation would have been the ‘right’… the responsible way to go. Jeff is a brilliant sculptor, but so many things on this were done with seemingly no real knowledge of what Phil Irving or even Phil Vincent would have done… that I can not bring myself to appreciate it they way I would like to… the way I really want to. There is no ‘nod’ to history or heritage here… nothing that shows me that Jeff really understands what makes these machines important. If it came out looking like, ‘the lost Lightning” or “the Lightning they *should* have made” then I think it would have been a more successful interpretation that did not alter an important part of Vincent history. That being said… the quality of the craftsmanship is undeniably good, and some of the modifications are very interesting. Jeff being ‘who he is’ as an artist might, as time goes on, bring a unique value to his interpretation of a Vincent.

  24. 24 rob r. Oct 4th, 2010 at 7:46 pm

    beautiful bike! still looks like a vincent- and faster than hell.
    one thing the few people who dont like the bile seem to miss is that all the alterations look like they cat be reversed with just basic tools and the correct parts- one of the coolest things about the ‘modular’ vincent design. the forks are series ‘b’ originals, and he didnt cut off the lugs for the seat-struts on the swingarm, so returning it to ‘real’ lightning spec would no problem.

    personally- tho a bit americanized for my tastes- i think it is simply stunning and looks even more ‘functional’ than the original- a black speed torpedo. i envy jeff decker both his eye in building this bke and the fact that he gets to ride it!


  25. 25 Taimoshan Dec 3rd, 2010 at 4:02 pm

    I am on Jeff’s side on this one, it’s a gorgeous bike and congrats! SO ……To the purists: grow up! and get your facts right before bleating on about moral obligation blah blah …..

    Where, in any of the published text, Jeff Decker website or anywhere for that matter, does it say that this is one of the 31-32 original black lightnings or 13 additional black lightning spec engines that where produced and fitted to race cars?

    What the text does say is that Jeff built the “bike” to or more specifically that the bike is set up as a black lightning and that everthing is racing spec . It says nothing about using original black lightning engine casings, only that the engine was built using 2 std but ported front heads like the lightning and that Jeff used some original lighning parts ( ie spares) from 2 very well known vincent gurus ie cams, pistons, flywheels and some non-specific magnesium parts ( referrring to the covers , drive side, timing chest, clutch and G/box ). Correct me if i am wrong but some lightning spares fitted to shadow or rapide casing does not make an original lightning!!

    The UFM ( upper frame member ) and RFM ( Rear frame memeber / swingarm) and headlug were not claimed to be original black lightning , not that i can see in the text anywhere.

    And finally to quote Jeff Decker himself in the UK’s BSH Mag ( Back Street Heros Mag ) Jan 2011 issue 321

    ” My theory is that if I have to do something that’s going to be a bastard anyway, then I might as well use my own inspiration. So I don’t think I am doing anything wrong. I am not destroying anything tha’t genuine or right. I’m just adding my own thoughts to the pieces that are missing”

    Go Jefff!!



    ps Jeff, I will send you that photo you asked for in a few months when my custom “black lightning” is finished…. 🙂

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