Grey Flash 2751

The history and restoration of a Vincent HRD Grey Flash

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: greyflash2751@yahoo.com 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.

🙏🏻

Anyway…

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. 🙏🏻

This plate is undoubtedly original to the bike and would probably have been anodised. On other GFs these plates were usually left polished.

As seen fitted to another GF here…
…and here.
The one fitted to 2751 after application of the transfer.
And now fitted to the headstock.
Below the cover plate it’s extensively “Swiss cheesed”.
Not far off now!

I thought I’d take the opportunity to “show a bit o’ leg” here. Finishing off is underway and Bert is busy snagging.

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 jig employed to good effect.
Plenty of thick copper plate under that chrome. 👍🏻

The pipe was fitted to the bike in its freshly chromed state.

Pipe length had been determined from period shots.
Much effort was taken to maintain a uniform collar where the pipe was necked down at the exhaust port.

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.

Acid was applied to the chrome and left on it for 24 hours but had no effect. So Bert resorted to dulling it down using wet ‘n’ dry.
Some heat and oil finished the effect.
Not trying to fool anyone but this needs to look right…
And it really does!

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.


Several reference points here.
And here… The original pipe had been bashed; a crease is plainly visible adjacent to the timing chest.
This shot was most useful – the length could be calculated accurately by studying it. Not all is as it seems though – the bike is canted and it’s also likely that the photograph was taken from quite a low angle.
Cutting ‘n’ shutting…

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 doing his thing…

Ben at Raysons set to work… Two weeks later Bert got a call to come and collect the bike.

Bellissimo!

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.

This and the following photos speak for themselves…

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.

A rare and wondrous thing…
NOS from the ’50s…

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:

Hardly svelte…
Comfy, no doubt…
Not very in-keeping with the lean and stripped nature of the Grey Flash but no doubt eminently practical.

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.

Compare this to the above period shots.
This is how it looked when I acquired 2751.

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.

As seen here…

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.

The work of Peter Johnson?

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.

This is plainly visible…
…but quite illegible.

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.

Ngatimaru Road – boom!!

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 Norton mounted rider is possibly Pete Stone. They look as if they have just come in off the course as they are pointed away from it.
The next shot shows Len helmeted though this doesn’t necessarily mean he’s preparing to ride – the bike has no stand fitted and would have been leaning against Len. I think he was about to roll it forward and put his helmet on rather than risk dropping it.
The helmet is not done up and all three riders look dusty as if they have just come off the track. Note the straw tied to the electricity pole to act as a cushion in the case of a collision.

The location I’ve pinpointed seems to have been used as an off-course assembly point. There is one more shot from this race:

Len is riding 2751.

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. 😎

In this post I will give instructions on how to mate with a 1940s Smiths chronometric tachometer… 🧑🏻‍🏫

Okay, that was a lame joke BUT such is the patinated beauty of this instrument that just looking at it positively generates an erection…

The re-profiled bracket.

The bracket was re-profiled as outlined in a previous post. It was then sent out to be dull chromium plated for the second time…

Oh no, I’ve “premmed”…

That looks so in-keeping with all this restoration has been focused on: the icing on the cake, a veritable visual smorgasbord, a riot of the senses, an orgy of ocular splendour, a classic motorcycle aficionado’s wet dream, a… I could wax lyrical ad infinitum…

In the meantime, Bert has been wrestling with the profile of the exhaust pipe… Details of this to follow.

A correct pattern tacho drive gearbox was sourced and fitted replacing the incorrect unit fitted to the bike as acquired.

This was supplied by uncle Franco.

Sorting out the tachometer wasn’t quite so easy though… 2751, being an early bike, wasn’t ever fitted with the rare racing “yellow number” tachos.

Such as this example fitted to the Ehret BL.

Using what came with the bike + another head, Bert assembled a correct pattern unit using a period face and bezel acquired from David Woods.

Outstanding work Bert!

This required much research and faffing by Bert but the end result is spectacular and will look just the part once mounted.