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1952 Vincent Black Shadow from Sturgis Museum

The Bike and Owner History

By Christine Paige Diers, with photos from the Sturgis Museum


After purchasing the HRD company in 1928, Philip Vincent added the name to his own line of motorcycles. As an inventor and engineer, Mr. Vincent produced some very innovative designs during his career, and bikes carrying the Vincent HRD logo were known for their quality construction, and high prices. It was the latter that would lead to the company’s demise in 1955, although he tried to cut a deal with Indian, but they both went down.

Postwar Vincents looked a bit odd, as though all the individual components were bolted to each other rather than to a skeletal frame, which they were. But most important to buyers was that Vincents were the fastest bikes of their day. In 1949, a high-performance version of the Rapide joined the line. Called the Series C Black Shadow, it had black-painted engine cases and was even faster than the Rapide, and today is one of the most coveted classic motorcycles in the world.

This particular Black Shadow has a rich history. It was brand new when Leo Splinter bought it. He actually owned a 1950 Indian Chief and ordered a brand new 1952 Chief – however, Indian workers had gone on strike and there was no expected delivery date for the new Chief. So, the Indian field representative for the Mankato, Minnesota area talked Leo into ordering a Vincent – which Indian was importing at that time.

That same year, Leo and a friend rode from their home in Minnesota to Sturgis where they spent the weekend enjoying the races and even went to the dance in downtown Sturgis.

Leo spent two years in Korea in 1953 and 1954, but upon his return, he and a couple of friends took their bikes to Daytona for Bike Week in 1955. He and two friends spent days on the road in nasty weather conditions. They planned to cover 500 miles a day in order to get to their destination in time for the races they planned to attend. They had a great time in Daytona, but the trip back proved to be not as good. The Black Shadow broke down in Alexandria, Louisiana, and Leo ended up leaving it there and riding with his friend until the weather kept them from riding any further (somewhere in Iowa). They took a bus back home, and returned to pick up the Vincent a week later.

Leo, and his '52 Black Shadow.
Leo, and his '52 Black Shadow.

Later that same year, Leo married his wife Phyllis – and the two of them took the Vincent with them on their honeymoon. Leo and Phyllis and their sons still own this bike, which has been on display in the Sturgis Motorcycle Museum & Hall of Fame since 2003.


Leo, his wife, and their sons.
Leo, his wife, and their sons.


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Reader Comments

What a great story. Made for good reading.

Conover, NC
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Great story, I am glad Leo still has his bike, and of course I am glad Louisiana was included.

new orleans, LA
Tuesday, April 26, 2011

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