Vincent Rising

The latest brand to find a new company to revive it is Vincent.

Yet another dusty company name may come out of retirement, with the debut of Vincent Motors USA. The San Diego company is set to bring back the legendary Vincent motorcycle marque - a long-out-of-production British brand that in its day produced the legendary Vincent Black Shadow, among others.

Four distinctive prototypes were unveiled at an event held recently by Vincent Motors founder and president, Bernard Li. Li is trying to resurrect the brand, which last appeared in 1955. He acquired the trademarks in 1994 and formally launched Vincent Motors USA in 1998, spending about $2 million building prototypes that resemble the old Vincent but sport modern engineering and high-end components.

The unveiling marked the first time the new designs were shown to the public. In addition to the Phase I prototype, based on the 1955 Black Lightning, the four modern designs included the Black Shadow, Black Lightning "S", Black Lightning "ST" and the Black Eagle. James Parker (perhaps best known for creating the front suspension of the Yamaha GTS) and Detroit's Roush Industries were contracted to design and engineer the new motorcycles. American Honda also has signed a letter of intent to supply its 1000cc V-Twin RC51 sportbike engine.

The prototypes are well-crafted, running models sporting the Honda engines surrounded by top-shelf bits (such as Brembo brakes) and an aerodynamic body design utilizing carbon-fiber accents for an exotic look. In dusting off the Vincent marque, Li hopes to tap into the still-burgeoning streetbike market. He says today's "retro" bikes, which aim at the nostalgia of baby boomers, are mostly cruisers - but nobody is making retro sportbikes. "Indian is a retro cruiser. We rely on a similar sentiment, but we appeal to a guy who probably grew up riding Japanese sportbikes."

Li thinks it will take about $18 million to get into full production, and hopes to have bikes in dealerships by 2004. The machines would cost about $20,000 for a standard model. Visit www.vincentmotors.com for more details.

Andy Cherney

James Parker's prototype chassis for the revived Vincent reflects some the technical flavor of the originals.