I started this blog on the 16th October 2019 to record the history and restoration of Grey Flash 2751. Just over two years later the motor was fired and the bike was ridden, bringing to an end an at times frustrating but ultimately successful and rewarding project. The blog contains 100s of posts; a warts ‘n’ all record of everything that I have learnt about this very special racer. As the posts are date stamped and run consecutively, navigating them can be a bit of a nightmare – yeah, I could have done a better job with the layout 😬 … So, I decided to list some links that I believe depict some of the critical moments and most interesting aspects of the project – these can be found below. 👇🏻
The history part of the blog is easily accessed from the menu at the top of any page. Clicking on “Welcome!” or “Grey Flash 2751 History” will bring you to the start – then just scroll down.
Likewise the various special parts of this racing motorcycle can be viewed by clicking on “2751 Parts” from the menu at the top of the page.
Then there is the search function: “Looking for Something?” which can be found in the right hand sidebar.
Lastly, I would recommend not using a smartphone, to peruse this blog.⚠️ Please use a device with a larger screen, preferably a desktop computer.
Well, here we are, some 13 years after acquisition and 2751 breathes fire once again! And running on methanol – as last raced – what a sound… Bert booked an airfield and rode up and down the runway, gradually unwinding the motor as his confidence grew with each run.
With many decades of riding and fettling a wide range of classic/vintage machinery I was eager to know what Bert’s riding impressions would be. “It bloody goes!” was his reaction – and we should remember that the man is a master of understatement which is a characteristic of one born ‘n’ bred in the north of England…
So there we have it! 13 years of painstaking hunting for the rarest of parts in addition to countless hours of research culminating in the restoration and this superb result! A unique racing Vincent returned close to how it left The Works.
I am indebted to all who have assisted in this project – I have listed them under the “Respect Due” heading in the sidebar of the homepage. I hope that I haven’t forgotten anyone.
Without Bert’s expertise, practical common sense and skill-set I’d still be looking at all the parts and sucking wind through my teeth, or what’s left of them!
Firstly I would like to apologise to all followers of this blog for the recent interruption in service. I briefly took the website out of the public domain with the intention of keeping it private, with access only by invitation. Unfortunately I encountered some complications with this format and, try as I might, I was unable to iron them out and get the new system running smoothly… So, here we are back in the public domain again – but at least all the content is visible and it works as it should.
If for any reason content is unviewable or you encounter any other issues then please contact me on: firstname.lastname@example.org And if you wish to receive emails informing you when I upload new content, please select ‘Home’ from the top menu and scroll down for the ‘Subscribe’ button. And thank you for your patience.
Herewith some high-res shots of 2751 taken by a professional, using a good quality camera. I’m very happy with how the restoration has turned out – it’s so very satisfying for me to see the bike looking like this and is the culmination of 14 years of research, hunting down rare parts and head-scratching.
The next job on the cards is to order some methanol and to acquire some starter rollers – I have a search currently running on eBay. Oil has already been delivered and Bert has started priming the motor – loosening banjos in order to assess whether oil is draining down and filling all the pipework and galleries. Once everything is gone through and checked several times then the bike will be taken to a suitable location to be started and run. I will be posting a video of this event and it will be a momentous occasion.
There’s a little more work to do: a stripped thread needs repairing, some adjustments have to be made and pipes re-routed. But for all intents and purposes the restoration of Grey Flash 2751 is at an end, some 14 years after originally acquired. It’s been a long journey that’s required much focus in order to get the detail right. Much more of the bike was more original than initially thought which was a very pleasant surprise. Sourcing the original fuel tank and the incredibly rare Lucas K1FTT racing magneto was incredibly serendipitous. From now work will focus on starting and running 2751 and the necessary shaking down process.
I think the photos speak for themselves. Without Bert’s expertise and experience this restoration would not have been completed so expediently. 🙏🏻
Finally, finally the platers called Bert and told him the exhaust pipe was ready to come and collect. Vernon Moss had done a top job; well up to their usual high standards. Bert had schemed-up a jig to hold the pipe, whilst he peened over the exhaust port end, to trap the nut.
The pipe was fitted to the bike in its freshly chromed state.
Now it was a case of patinating the chrome… I have very mixed feeling about parts that are made to look old and original… If done well it can give an impressive illusion though I have seen some restorations that have employed the aged look to the whole machine – and it gave an impression that the vehicle one was looking at was phony from top to bottom… In the case of 2751 we wanted to achieve as uniform a finish as possible. And as the vast majority of the bike actually was original, any newly finished parts fitted would have clashed with the rest of the ensemble and looked simply horrendous. This was especially so with the exhaust pipe… So, that beautiful chromium plating really had to be tarnished.
Getting the exhaust pipe right has been a surprisingly difficult challenge. It’s been much harder than we could have ever envisaged… We are very happy with the result achieved here: the bend is as close as ‘dammit’ is to swearing and it is angled on the bike just where the original pipe would have been when 2751 left The Works in 1949. Without a doubt, as original, the pipe is positioned badly for serious circuit racing – many of the period photos we have show it damaged and scraped… It must have been a constant worry to Len Perry when he had the machine canted over on a fast right hander…
The “vinegar strokes” of the restoration have been reached. Once finished I will be updating the blog with photos of the finished bike.
This has been a giant faff!! Much more than was anticipated… The Grey Flash exhaust pipe is just a 2″ straight-through racing pipe, right? Well, there were several types employed and there is very little data out there. The period shots we had of 2751 were as good as any a place to start.
Bert decided to make a template from the old pipe to make the pipe bender’s job easier. For a full week we back ‘n’ forth’ed his tweaks. Getting the bend right around the tacho drive was, to say the least, challenging… Too much taken out or added meant that the pipe was no longer parallel to the ground and looked hideous. It had to be right.
MPH 866 features a fascinating account by Jim Mathers of his rescuing of 3685. He was lucky enough to acquire an NOS racing pipe, from Harpers, which appeared identical to the one fitted to 2751. The tragedy is that that bike was badly damaged in the NMM fire though…
Notes by Bill Hoddinott and David Dunfey were devoured; their input and advice is always much appreciated.
Finally, the bike was ready to be transported to the pipe benders for an exhaust pipe to be fabricated by the traditional method.
Ben at Raysons set to work… Two weeks later Bert got a call to come and collect the bike.
Safely back in Bert’s workshop he set to work. The pipe needed trimming to length, brazing up at the port and the bracket sorting out.
So much work went into this… We may not have got it perfectly correct but it’s as close to “dammit” is to swearing! And this was a crucial undertaking as the pipe is very visible and would have looked horrible had it been angled incorrectly. Big thanks to Bert and Ben! Off to the platers with it now. It’ll come back as shiny as a new pin and will need tarnishing.
Whilst we are waiting for the exhaust pipe to be made I thought I’d post a bit about the seat we will be using.
Early Vincent HRD racers came fitted with a trimmed version of the standard road-going seat. I believe these were a Feridax product that featured a Dunlopillo foam with “cells” cast into it to provide adequate cushioning. Later on a special racing seat was designed; a lean and purposeful item that enabled the rider to assume a lower racing crouch with ease. When I acquired 2751 it came with an NOS one of the these racing seats.
I was initially elated though this turned to disappointment when I learned that 2751 would never have been fitted with such a seat. So I offered it to a friend who had a Black Lightning and he bought it from me for US$7,000 – this was a big help in recouping a bit of the initial purchase price of the bike (some US$90k).
Here are some period shots of the seat originally fitted to 2751:
The seat that came fitted to 2751 and was used in anger, by Peter Johnson when racing the bike, is actually not that far out shape-wise.
I had an original seat and cover complete with Feridax badge on stand-by to cut down. However, early Feridax seats did not feature a badge to the rear. Later a silkscreen printed logo was featured to be later replaced with the brass badge most Vincent owners are familiar with. So 2751’s original seat would not have had a badge.
Rather than try to recreate an exact copy of the original type we have decided to use the seat that the bike came with. It is not so far from the profile of the original and a little thinner – it actually looks better in our opinion. A newly made replica would be out-of-keeping so we will go with this. In addition, it has been actually used on the bike when raced and it is very well made.
We feel that this is an acceptable compromise. 😊
NB: Peter has been in touch with me and informed me that the seat was acquired from Ted Davis.
Amongst several of the period shots that I have of 2751 racing in-period is one set of 4 images. The photos have been marked differently but were obviously taken at the same event. Recently I was looking closely at them and noticed a road sign was visible.
One of the captions mentioned the Matarawa GP. I started researching old NZ road racing circuits and the enormity of the task soon became apparent; there were scores of courses and many of even the larger ones were re-located several times… I may be accused of being many things and being persistent is one of my more annoying characteristics! I became obsessed with this side project and spent any free time on the computer poring over any leads and trying to find corresponding terrain on Google Maps. About one week in I started trying to track down another annotation that read ‘Senior Taranaki GP’. Then I had a stroke of luck: I found the image of an old programme from the inaugural race held on November 25th 1950 – the course layout was depicted in an aerial shot. This corresponded with the date written on the photo and Weston Webb would have taken delivery of the bike then as it was despatched from The Works on 11th November 1949. I started studying the Waitara/Tikorangi area and environs to see whether I could find a road layout that matched that depicted on the programme cover.
I’d nailed it! Then it was a case of carefully searching likely spots for a match at Street View level. This took longer but I managed to find the exact spot where the photographs had been taken over 70 years previously!! I was so engrossed in this work that I didn’t get to bed that night until 3am… So, here are the photos with corresponding shots grabbed from Google Maps:
The location I’ve pinpointed seems to have been used as an off-course assembly point. There is one more shot from this race:
The following year, 1951, saw Len travel to Europe to ride in the Isle of Man TT (and other races) where he came 9th in the Senior riding a Norton.
The Taranaki GP was held from 1950 – 1956 on the above course.
This is a very satisfying result which has added considerably to the provenance of 2751. 😎