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Aussie Vincent Black Lightning sets world record

On Australia Day, an Australian speed-record-holding 1951 Vincent Black Lightning has set a world record at the Bonham’s annual Las Vegas motorcycle auction.

The 1951 Vincent Black Lightning sold for $US929,000 ($A1,155,000, €748,500), making it the most valuable motorcycle ever sold at auction. 

The record was previously held by a yellow 1915 Cyclone owned by Steve McQueen and sold for almost $A1 million in 2015.Tony Ehret's 1951 Vincent Black Lightning

The Bonham’s action is one of two major motorcycle auctions on the famous Nevada Glitter Srip this weekend.

Together with the Mecum auction, some 1836 bikes will go under the gavel this week, including Steve McQueen’s Pope and the entire Excelsior-Henderson brand.

Record-setting Vincent Black Lightning

The record-setting Vincent Black Lightning was built by special order and imported new into Australia by Tony McAlpine in 1952.

Vincent Black Lightning number 7305 is one of only about 30 Black Lightning models built by the Stevenage, England, factory.

Jack Ehret's 1951 Vincent Black Lightning

At the time of its build, another well-known Vincent nicknamed “Gunga Din” was undergoing work in the factory.

Upon completion of both, the two machines were contested at an airfield where it was said that McAlpine’s bike was a clear 30 yards (27.3m) ahead of Gunga Din, and factory records later indicated speeds in excess of 130mph (209km/h) in third gear.

Jack Ehret's 1951 Vincent Black Lightning
Ehret at the Castlereagh Speed Trials 1952

Most important, however, was that in 1953 the McAlpine-ordered motorcycle smashed the existing Australian speed record when Jack Ehret achieved an average speed of 141.5mph (227.7km/h).

Under the ownership of Ehret, the Black Lightning would also clinch numerous race victories throughout Australia and become renowned around the globe. 

Tony Ehret's 1951 Vincent Black Lightning
Jack Ehret on the Vincent

“Rollie Free and Marty Dickerson, both legends in the Vincent universe, knew of this motorcycle and Ehret’s acclaim,” says Ben Walker, Bonhams Head of Motorcycling.

“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.” 

Rollie Free sets record - expensive motorcycle
Rollie Free sets record

In original, unrestored and running condition – recommissioned by none other than Vincent master Patrick Godet, this tremendously important and rare Black Lightning was in Ehret’s ownership for nearly 50 years.