Black Lightning: 4 Facts About the Most Expensive Motorcycle in the World for Students in Auto Mechanic College
March 28, 2019
When people think of the automotive industry, they don’t often immediately think of motorcycles. These high-speed, high-performance, and high-risk vehicles have more than their share of enthusiasts, however, and older models still hold a special place in collectors’ hearts, as well as their displays.
Motorcycles have come a long way from the steam-powered prototypes, picking up speed during the road craze of the mid-20th century. While American enthusiasts soon began to form motorcycle clubs, across the pond, England was producing more than 30 motorcycle models. Of these, Vincent Motors would go on to produce some of the finest high-performance motorcycles of the era. In fact, one of their Black Lightning models recently sold at auction for $929,000 US ($1,245,029 CAD), adding a new world record to an already accomplished history.
What makes the Vincent Black Lightning motorcycle so deserving of its high price tag? Read on to find out a few facts that auto mechanics in training might be interested in!
1. Mechanics Should Know that Black Lightning Was One of the First Superbikes
Supercar, supersport, supercross—the word ‘super’ may feel a bit stretched out today, but when it first emerged onto the automotive scene in 1948, the Black Lightning motorcycle was one of the first true modern superbike pioneers.
A superbike, as students in an auto mechanic training program may know, must have a large capacity engine above 800cc and good handling, among other features—and that’s by today’s standards. With a twin 998cc air-cooled V-twin engine and a top speed of 240 km/h, the Black Lightning already had all the superbike features in spades 70 years ago!
2. The Engine May Surprise Students in an Auto Mechanic Training Program
We can’t mention the 998cc engine without going into detail. The Black Lightning was, above all else, a motorcycle meant for racing, and it needed an engine to match. Designed by Australian engineer Phil Irving, the V-twin engine features magnesium alloy components, polished Vibrac connecting rods, and high-compression Specialoid pistons. All told, it was capable of 70 brake horsepower (bhp) at 5,600 rpm.
All of its engine components, along with a dry weight of 360 lbs, helped propel the Black Lightning forward into racing record history—a performance that also helped justify its sticker price of £500 when it first launched, the equivalent of roughly £18,000 today ($32,000 CAD).
3. Black Lightning Motorcycles Are One of the Most Desired in the World
If you want to become a certified mechanic, you may already be aware of the fact that one of the things automotive enthusiasts love the most is exclusivity.
Production on the Black Lightning began in 1948, and it was only available on special order. In fact, less than 35 models were ever made before production ended in 1952. Today, around 19 matching-numbers Lightnings still exist, which means collectors are always on the lookout for that coveted original model.
4. Part of the Price Tag Was Due to the History of the Lightning Model
Although part of the Black Lightning’s price at auction was due to its limited exclusivity, its history had just as much influence over the asking price, and for good reason.
The recently sold Black Lightning was once driven by Jack Ehret, who wanted to find a machine capable of challenging the Australian Land Speed record. Challenge it he did, because in January 1953, Ehret rode the Black Lightning into a 141.5 mph record (227.7 km/h), and he continued to race the Lightning in competitions across Australia until selling it in 1999.
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