Grey Flash 2751

The history and restoration of a Vincent HRD Grey Flash

Close examination of the handlebars revealed that they were bent on the timing side.

As acquired.

The racing Doherty levers and throttle were exchanged with uncle Franco for genuine items that had been fitted to a Vincent from new. however, when the Amal twistgrip was offered up it wouldn’t slide home – this is when Bert realised that the bars were bent on that side.

Some work was required to achieve a satisfactory seating…

The handlebars have a dull chromed finish but I hadn’t considered them to be original to the bike, I mean, what would the chances of that be, right? Under this dull chrome was a thick layer of copper which hinted that the plating had been done many years ago; platers rarely employ this method nowadays and, if they do, the plating is usually very thin. This fact, in addition to the unusual dull chromed finish, leads Bert and myself to believe that there is a high possibility that these are the very ‘bars that 2751 left The Works fitted with. Usually they would have either been enameled or bright chromed but not dull chromium plated. The clincher is that we know that the special finishes 2751 sported were not known to previous owners of the bike and many original dull chromed/anodized parts had been painted over. There is no reason why anyone would go to the trouble of finishing the handlebars in dull chrome and we feel this point is conclusive enough to point to their being original. Perhaps we are wrong though… If anyone can suggest otherwise we will happily quaff down a large portion of delicious humble pie each! πŸ₯§

The timing side.
The drive side.
Ready to fit.
Tacho bracket and some cables in place.
Yes!!

This is looking so good! The next post on this blog will be regarding cable routing.

Over ‘n’ out for now! πŸ‘‹πŸ»

I have a good, clear image of 2751 – it was taken when the bike was at speed but whomever took it knew what they were doing. I used this photo to prise the rare K1FTT magneto from the grasp of its former custodian. The photo shows that magneto most beautifully.

A lot of detail is plainly visible.

Trying to work out the position of the adv/ret cable and HT pickup isn’t so straightforward though.

The magneto as I acquired it. The pickup is angled towards the barrel.

This arrangement hardly seems ideal as it necessitates the HT lead being bend upwards at an angle approaching 90˚…

I ran this past David Dunfey and Bill Hoddinott. They surmised that the pickup is indeed angled directly at the barrel fins or “muff” as some are wont to call it!

Surely arrow 1 in the above shot is the adv/ret housing and arrow 2 the pickup. The HT lead appears to be taped to the adv/ret cable to keep it off the fins. I felt that this had be right but Bert was having none of it… He held onto a strong view that the pickup should be of the “straight” variety, enabling the HT lead to be kept well away from the hot engine. He arranged for a pickup to be specially adapted to fit this application as there was nothing available that would suit. Once it had arrived from Switzerland he sent me some pics.

This is just plain wrong…
This is, I believe, how it perhaps should be.
This is what Bert was proposing…

You win squire! There is no contest whatsoever!! I gave him an immediate “green light” – if a future owner wants to revert back to the angled pickup then they are most welcome to do so – it can be easily done. Bert performed some modifications to enable it to seat and be secured and…

Gosh…

Once again I find myself bending a knee to the mighty Bert and his decades of wisdom! He’s spot-on and this arrangement looks far far superior to what I was proposing – the end result is really something… And Bert dug into his spares and found some period NOS HT lead – this has the very soft rubber sheathing and looks just ace!

Adjuster has a dull chrome finish.

And there was more… Because I was so magnanimous, Bert found a nice period adjuster for the adv/ret housing. πŸ‘πŸ»

I really feel that digging deep on this has been worth the effort and energy – I am much obliged to Bert for his enthusiasm and insistence.

I’ll let the pics speak for themselves – with added comments.

When I realised just how satisfactorily the restoration was progressing, the sudden rush of blood to my head caused a veritable nosebleed…
With the wheel in-situ. The T-bar axle is of course temporary.
10 bolt rear hub secured with period Simmonds nuts.
The foot brake assembly has now been completed.
There’s nothing quite as satisfying as seeing an exposed thread coated with “copper slip”…
Period nipple and drain plug suitably dulled down.

Here we are, 14 years after I acquired the bike… So much scheming, brain-storming, scouring for parts and information… So many lines of enquiry that ended in vain – but so much fortune and luck too! The realisation of many many years of hard work and dedication – without many people’s assistance and expertise it would never have been possible, especially wizard Bert…

The restoration is now approaching the “vinegar strokes” – the most exiting part. 😚✨

Using the “Looking for something?” search box feature of this blog and typing in “fuel tank” you will be able to read the story of how I managed to locate and acquire the original fuel tank for 2751 from New Zealand. It was extremely fortuitous though the tank was in a dreadful state with pannier extensions welded on the sides and slits ground into the bottoms, on each side, to allow fuel to flow into the added compartments.

Once the panniers had been removed and the remaining welds ground off.
The underneath – note the pump bracket.

Work was undertaken in the UK to repair the tank and refinish it. This was not an inconsiderable task… The slits and holes were brazed up and then lead wiped to achieve a smooth finish. It was then repeatedly thickly copper plated and the copper flatted with wet ‘n’ dry. This process was repeated until a suitably smooth appearance had been rendered. It was then plated.

A close-up of the resulting plated finish.

Although it looked spectacular, the finish was far from what it would have originally looked like… I showed the tank to Glyn Johnson and he immediately told me that what had been achieved was closer to a satin chrome…

We weighed our options…. Sending the tank to the platers again was a risky proposition as the chances of something going awry were quite high. Also, few platers would be prepared to take such a job on. Blasting it with a suitable media might result in an acceptable appearance but there were other risks associated with this procedure (such as non-uniform patchiness in the finish). Bert gamely elected to dull the finish down by hand using a variety of fine pastes.

Once finished.

This is much closer to how it would have originally looked. It’s still a little bright for our liking but, over time, it will dull down further and gradually blend in with the other metal finishes on the bike.

Much much better.
Offered up to the bike…

Quite a momentous occasion as this tank was parted from 2751 probably in the 1960s! It looks great though it’s now significantly heavier than it was when it left The Works…

In addition, the inside was showing signs of rust so was carefully de-rusted using an appropriate agent.

The primary chain has now been fitted.

A period grease nipple has replaced the modern one on the rear damper. The brass plug has also been dulled down.

It looks much better.

These Maughans-rebuilt dampers do look a bit out of place but we feel it would be foolhardy to use period ones as they will never work as well as these. Original damper units are available and can be fitted for display purposes if required.

Coming together…

The drive side foot control hanger plate is now in place and the brake pedal and footrest have been fitted. 2751, being an early bike, utilised pillion footrests – these were replaced later on by the beautiful knurled racing items usually associated with racing Vincents. As impressive as the knurled ones are, however, it should be noted that they don’t fold.

Assembly is continuing with progress coming along in leaps ‘n’ bounds.

The rear suspension assembly.

This is looking spectacular! The different chromium plated finishes complimenting the machined alloy of the damper and the cad plated fasteners. The finish of the brass reservoir drain plug needs to be dulled down a bit. The modern grease nipple also stands out… Bert managed to find period nipples to replace modern ones located on other parts of the bike. If we’re successful in finding some more then it can be replaced later on.

Herewith some shots of the assembled front end:

The timing side.
The drive side.
Close-up of the bottom link.
The beautifully lightened clutch basket/plates & new friction plates prior to assembly.
The clutch back in its rightful place.

As mentioned previously, this modified Norton clutch is being retained. The bike was raced with it and it adds a purposeful touch. If a future owner wishes to replace it with an Albion one then they can do so easily enough.

The FF32/1 bridge plate has been fitted into place and secured with period fasteners.

It has been reversed and put back to the way it was when the bike left The Works. The brake balance beam stop is now situated on the drive side.
Visible here.
The F55 brake balance beam in place.
The view from behind.
The beautifully made steady plate.

After much deliberation I have decided to omit this modification. I really wanted to leave it on but it’s going to be at odds with the overall look we’re trying to achieve. It will be kept with the bike and go with it when it sells.

Suitable levels of original mankiness…
Assembled they look impressive, resplendent with original fasteners on this side.
Those nuts aren’t of the correct type! Maybe not, but they’re period-correct… Vintage NOS Simmonds nuts are almost impossible to find nowadays…
The drive side damper fixing bolts had to be manufactured… The centre bolt secures the chain guard so is longer than standard.
Fitting and tweaking continues apace.

This rather long-winded term (from the 1950 Spare Parts List) is, in actual fact, referring to what is commonly known as the “inlet manifold”.

Here seen in situ as acquired.
And here with the fuel tank removed.

After sending photos out for comment I was informed that both the 32mm carb and the adaptor appeared to be original and that I was very lucky to have them as they are almost impossible to source.

Peter Johnson commented: “The carb came with many other original parts and I suspect/believe it is the original item. The manifold is cast iron… It was cracked when I got the bike, so we constructed a jig and re-welded it with cast iron rods and re-machined the clamp area to the correct diameter…”

Now as the restoration proceeds, we are looking at this cast iron adaptor more closely (Bert reckon SG Iron).

It appears to be cadmium plated.
The welded repair undertaken by Peter Johnson is visible.
The uppermost hole has been slightly elongated to enable the adaptor to align smoothly with the inlet tract in the cylinder head – it’s a perfect fit.

I ran what we know past buddy Franc Trento – he’s a veritable mine of Vincent racing parts info having carefully assembled the Ehret Black Lightning and rescuing it from being restored to death. Franc believes 2751 should be fitted with an early pattern fabricated steel adaptor, as per his old BL.

Visible here…

We needed to take Franc’s comments seriously. I ran our quandary past David Dunfey and he confirmed that his Grey Flash is fitted with a fabricated steel adaptor, the same as the Ehret BL.

Image courtesy of David.

In both these photos we can see that the adaptors are fastened to the cylinder heads by cap screws (5/16″ BSW).

We’re not really able to get to the bottom of why the bones of 2751 came with this later adaptor. It does appear to be an original Vincent part, and a racing part too. Could it have originally have been fitted to a Black Lightning?? One clue is a stamping on top of the casting.

Badly out of focus – sorry. “TOP / A”

Could it have originated on the front head of a BL? When the parts of 2751 were gathered up in New Zealand, might the original adaptor not have been present and this damaged one been included in its place? We shall probably never know… We’re going to leave it as-is – a future owner might be able to get to the bottom of this. If any readers of this blog are able to shed any further light I’d be very glad to hear from them.

Certainly an inlet manifold was included with the parts when they were in the ownership of Jim White of Dunedin.


Finally, there was the issue of how to attach the adaptor to the cylinder head. As we know, equal length cap screws were employed with the fabricated steel item, but this one featured a stronger, stepped arrangement. After some consultation it seems likely that studs (rather than unequal length cap screws) and special thin walled 0.445″ nuts would have been used. Bert rigged this fixing up to see whether it would work.

And it indeed does…
With the studs trimmed and the nuts tightened down. These will now be removed and given an appropriate finish.

Then the tank was seated on the UFM – the first time these original components had been re-united in many decades.

Yeah!

This is all looking very good indeed. We’re aware that the adaptor may not be original to 2751. We’re also aware that it is something special and interesting so it’s going to stop where it is! There is a story there and we don’t know what it is – if anyone is able to comment further then come on down!! πŸ’πŸ»

12/12/2020
Since I first published this post I have actually been offered a correct-type early fabricated steel adaptor. It seems highly likely that 2751 would have left the factory fitted with this type of adaptor and, due to the special finishes employed on this early Grey Flash, it would have most likely been dull chromium plated. After careful consideration I have decided not to change this part but leave the later cast item as-is. Some might poo-hoo this stance but I would like to reiterate that we are not trying to achieve a generic level of finish and, in the process, erase the racing pedigree of the machine and the DNA of the men who raced it. The finished restoration will feature untreated scars and some non factory parts as a homage to its history and to enable a unique story to continue be told from hereon. This makes the bike even more interesting in our opinion.

As assembly progresses more things are becoming apparent.

The steering head and fork link assembly is coming together well.
The original fasteners we’re able to employ are making all the difference.
A rubber boot has been added to the magneto advance/retard cable adjustment boss.
Spindles for the RFM. On the left are the s/steel ones that were fitted, to be replaced with original cadmium plated items on the right.
It turns out that these two nuts are incorrect; there is a special bracket required here.
Luckily we found one in the bag of fasteners acquired many years back from Vaughn Greene.

I think it’s necessary to acknowledge Vaughn for the invaluable contribution that he made to this project.

As mentioned previously, I ran an ad’ for original fasteners many years ago in MPH, the Vincent Owners Club monthly magazine. Vaughn, based in San Bruno, CA, was one of the few people that responded. He informed me that he had a large quantity of fasteners and parts that had been removed from Vincents that he’d been working on over the years. Vaughn was involved with the running, rebuilding and racing of Vincents since the ’50s and was well known in West Coast Vincent circles as being “the man” for many years. Anyway, a deal was struck and I arranged to have the heavy bag of fasteners delivered to me by a friend. When they arrived I discovered that this book, by Vaughn, was included as a gift.

One of two books that Vaughn wrote on an interesting observation that he’d made.

The premise of his argument is that many of the ancient carved stone images found around the world – depicting God-like figures – feature apparel resembling the space suits of modern day astronauts. It’s an interesting theory that currently cannot be dismissed outright until proven otherwise.

I heard that Vaughn died recently (August 2020) at the age of 92. Rest in peace Vaughn.