Ehret wasn't exactly flush with funds, but knew that if he didn't get hold of the Lightning, one of his racing rivals would. Despite a few problems, he averaged an officially timed Over the next five years, Jack Ehret and the Black Lightning were regular fixtures at Australian road race meetings, with the Vincent appearing in both solo and sidecar guise, often in the same day, with Stan Blundell in the chair. Ehret and the Lightning wound up Australian Title points leaders in ahead of a host of famous names.
Undoubtedly its proudest moment as a solo came at the much vaunted international meeting at Mount Druitt in February , where cc World Champion Geoff Duke visiting from England was the star attraction with his works four-cylinder Gilera. Duke had demolished the opposition in his previous starts on his Australian tour, but on his home track, Ehret was fired up for action, and fancied his chances in the Unlimited TT.
Reporting on his tour in the British motorcycle press, Duke wrote: "Ehret made a poor [push] start in the Unlimited event, whereas I was first away, and piled on the coals from the beginning. Thereafter I was able to keep an eye on the Vincent rider approaching the hairpin as I accelerated away from it.
Although he was unable to make up for his bad start, Ehret rode to such purpose that he equalled my fastest lap, and we now share the honour of being the lap record holders. Perhaps with this goal achieved, Jack and the Vincent became less frequent competitors, and when Mount Druitt closed in the Black Lightning was mothballed for 10 years. In , Ehret made a comeback of sorts at Oran Park, with the Lightning now fitted with 16" wheels and John "Tex" Coleman in the chair.
Despite the long layoff, Ehret didn't disgrace himself, finishing third in the Sidecar race. But a further decade passed before he brought the Black Lightning out for one more outing, again at Oran Park. By this time, the Vincent was in a different class - Historic - and Ehret demolished the field to win both his races by almost a complete lap. Its last appearance was at the Eastern Creek circuit in , where Ehret lapped the entire field, winning both Historic Sidecar races passengered by his son John, then removed the chair for John to ride it in two solo races.
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Thereafter, the Lightning began a long hibernation in a Sydney shed while Jack Ehret started a different life running nightclubs in the Philippines, before it was put up for sale in , not long before Ehret passed away unexpectedly on July 7th, , aged The new owner was Franc Trento, owner of Melbourne-based EuroBrit Motorbikes, and a noted Vincent enthusiast who fortunately determined that the Lightning would not be restored, but would be kept in exactly the same "as used" condition he'd acquired it in. It had been returned to its original specification with 21" front and 20" rear wheels, and the very rare Elektron magnesium-alloy brake plates.
Far from becoming a static piece, the Lightning was regularly displayed, including taking to the track at the Broadford Bike Bonanza in and In , Trento sold the machine to the vendor, who shipped it to France where Vincent expert Patrick Godet re-commissioned it. All removed parts, together with the original sidecar - including the fairing, seat, etc - are offered with the lot.
As far as the vendor was concerned, wasn't ready to be tucked up in bed in a museum just yet — so he invited the author to come and ride it. To be invited to ride a bike such as the Ehret Vincent was an act of huge generosity, as well as implied trust. My two dozen laps came at the Circuit Carole on the outskirts of Paris, to which the vendor brought the battle-scarred warrior, re-commissioned by Patrick Godet, for me to ride.
The impression you get on the Ehret Vincent is that of being pulled along by a huge bungee cord. Once you see the rev counter needle track its way to the 3,rpm mark, the bungee cord releases and you're swept to what must have been unimaginable speed by midth Century standards. Nothing much happens below those revs, though, so you have to coax the engine into meaningful action with a dab on the Ferodo clutch's light-action lever.
Soon the tachometer is showing 6,rpm, at which point you stab the gear lever downwards with your right foot for the next of four gears. There are such massive amounts of torque, even by today's standards, that the Vincent just lunges forward when you get back on the throttle again. In returning the Vincent to running condition, Godet has been at pains not to destroy the truth of time. We stripped the bike totally, and rebuilt it using the original spec parts we have manufactured using the original Black Lightning factory drawings that we've obtained.
But they're all inside where you can't see them, so while the throttle and brake cables may look old, all the internal wires are brand new, to give a smooth action. We've also converted it to running on petrol rather than methanol - we have much better fuel available today than they did back then.
New pistons, liners, valves, dual valve springs, Mark II Vincent cams, cam followers and oil pump are fitted to the bike. The original parts have all been saved. The original 20" rear wheel has been replaced by a incher, as 20" racing tires are no longer available. Now shod with rear Avon GP rubber matched to a front 21" ribbed Avon Racing tire, the Ehret Vincent tracked well through Carole's infield section, with good grip delivered exiting both of its hairpin bends, which on most race bikes ask for bottom gear.
Not the Lightnings, though, thanks to their reserves of torque and the way they break into a gallop very quickly in second gear once you've straightened up. The ex-Jack Ehret Vincent Black Lightning is more than just an ultra-desirable collector's item, providing a window on the refined but still raw-edged performance that Philip Vincent's motorcycles delivered more than 60 years ago. How wonderful that its present owner rides and enjoys it, rather than wrapping it up as the mechanical objet d'art it undoubtedly is. Ben Walker Specialist - Motorcycles.
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The British-manufactured Vincent Black Lightning became part of Australian motoring history after Mascot-born speedster Jack Ehret rode it into the record books in Forty years later his son, former sidecar racer John Ehret, was the last person to ride the motorcycle in competition. In Jack Ehret began his quest to break the Australian land speed record held by rival rider Les Warton.
After a year of preparations, technical challenges and a battle to obtain permission from local authorities to stage the event, on January 19, , he succeeded. Ehret averaged a speed of After the record-breaking ride, Ehret continued to race the bike for many years and won several titles. In , two years before his death, Ehret sold the motorcycle to an Australian buyer who occasionally toured it around the rally circuit. After exchanging hands, the bike was sent to France in and mechanically restored but retained its original factory paintwork and years of patina. Another Australian connection to the story is Melbourne mechanical engineer Phil Irving who played a major role in the design of the motorcycle.
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Ben Walker of Bonhams auction house said the motorcycle attracted such a high price due its rarity, with only 19 remaining in existence. While it is unknown what the buyer will do with the bike, Mr Walker hesitated to say if it was legally rideable on Australian roads. Topics: human-interest , motor-sports , history , people , sydney , gunnedah First posted February 03, Contact Luke Wong. More stories from New South Wales. If you have inside knowledge of a topic in the news, contact the ABC. ABC teams share the story behind the story and insights into the making of digital, TV and radio content.
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