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Speed record setting motorcycle sells for almost $1million at auction

The Black Lightning was the fastest production vehicle throughout the 1950s

AN AUSTRALIAN speed record setting motorcycle has made history – again – after becoming the most expensive two-wheeler to ever sell at auction.

At Bonham’s Las Vegas auction yesterday, the 1951 Vincent Black Lightning sold for $929,000 – that’s £651,715 on this side of the pond.

As one of only 33 models made, of which only 19 complete examples remain, the Stevenage, England-built 998cc bike was already incredibly valuable. But combined with its ‘as original’ condition and record-breaking history, Bonhams’ had a winner of another kind on their hands.

From launch in 1948 and throughout the 1950s, the Vincent Black Lightning delivered the most performance of any production street-legal vehicle – on two wheels or four. With a top speed of 122mph, it was faster even than the world's fastest production car at the time, the Jaguar XK120.

This incredible power earned the Black Lightning its legendary status as the first superbike of the modern era.

But the model that went under the hammer yesterday won fame for going even faster.

Built by special order for Tony McAlpine, number 7305 first stood out in early testing, when it was pit against Vincent’s own development and racing bike, Gunga Din, reportedly finishing with a 30-metre lead. Factory records later indicated speeds in excess of 130mph in third gear.

McAlpine imported the model to Australia, and in 1953 it made the headlines in the hands of Jack Ehret, who smashed the existing Australian speed record and achieved an average speed of 141.5mph.

Ehret was a renown racer of his time, and aboard the Black Lightning he went on to take numerous race victories throughout Australia, earning the bike global recognition.

After 50 years in Ehret’s ownership, and three owners later – taking it to a total of five – the Black Lightning found its way to the auction house, but not before a complete recommission by Vincent master Patrick Godet.

The motorcycle was reportedly purchased by an Australian telephone bidder, and looks set to return to the country where it made its name.

Commenting on the model Ben Walker, Bonhams Head of Motorcycling said: ‘Rollie Free and Marty Dickerson, both legends in the Vincent universe, knew of this motorcycle and Ehret’s acclaim.’

‘After the ‘Bathing Suit Bike’ ridden by Free, the Ehret bike is likely the most important Black Lightning in existence and is one of the world’s most desirable machines.’

All images credited to Bonhams.

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