A Little of History
Rollie Free speed record attempt, Bonneville Salt Flats, 1948
Everybody knows this picture but does everybody know the Story ?
The famous picture of Rollie Free stretched out in only a bathing suit on a Vincent is not in fact a Black Shadow but a Black Lightning. The Black Lightning was a custom order from the factory and was some 100 pounds lighter and 25 hp more powerful than the stock Black Shadow. In one of his books, Phil Irving (the designer) said that there were only about 16 of the model produced. The Black Lightning is the fastest Vincent ever produced.
As for the famous "bathing suit bike" picture, it is of Rollie Free, an American, riding on the Bonneville Salt Flats on 13 September 1948. Free was determined to break the land speed record in the "Flying Mile." His first pass hit 148 mph (238 km/h), which broke the record, but Free was determined to break 150. Noticing that his riding leathers had started to come apart at the seams from the force of the wind, Free borrowed a bathing suit, cap, and a pair of tennis shoes and laid down on the bike. With the decreased drag, Free broke 150 mph, topping out at 150.313 mph (241.905 km/h), breaking his record of only a few moments before. That bike, also known as the "John Edgar Lightning" after its sponsor, is currently in the private collection of Herb Harris of Austin, Texas.
Hey boys, check out my comments on the Free bike, and buy his biography, 'Flat Out!'...it's really good.