Kurt Carlson Resurrects the Vincent-Bonneville Legend | Ride The Lightning

By Aaron Frank, Photography by Getty Images, Rob Haynes, Steve Burton & Life Pictures

Carlson is certain that, with another season’s tuning experience, the Vincent Vikings will exceed the magical 150-mph mark next year, using essentially the same technology as Edgar and Free. “No longer do they allow the bathing suit; otherwise I would do that, too,” he laughs. I ask if he’s afraid of destroying this extremely rare and valuable relic, or of exposing it to the harsh, corrosive salt. “We take very good care of it,” he says. “The bike will be completely disassembled and cleaned when we return home. This is just what you do with a racebike.”

John Edgar’s Vincent wasn’t treated much differently, at least in the years immediately following Free’s record-setting run. He detuned the bike and often rode it around Los Angeles—sans headlight and seat—before loaning it to a series of local racers including Marty Dickerson (of Century Cycles fame) and future land-speed record-holder Don Vesco. The historic machine was eventually abandoned with an acquaintance of Edgar’s who sold it for $200—without a title—to a college student who relocated to Michigan. From there the story gets too complicated to detail here, though it’s explained fully in Basem Wasef’s excellent book, Legendary Motorcycles. Collector Herb Harris, proprietor of the Harris Vincent Gallery in Austin, Texas, acquired and then meticulously restored the Edgar bike in 2001, after essentially purchasing it twice: once from the Michigan owner to secure the bike, and once from the Edgar estate to nullify their claim of ownership.

The post-script of this saga was written in December 2010, when Harris sold the bike privately, to a very well-known car collector, for an astounding $1 million. Despite Kurt Carlson’s encouraging example, it’s unlikely we’ll ever see the John Edgar Vincent run in anger on the Salt Flats again, leaving it up to Carlson to keep the Black Lightning Bonneville legend alive.

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