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SNAPSHOT 279: 1949 Vincent HRD Black Shadow

This advertisement was found in a 1950 Argentinian sporting weekly.  It celebrates the success on Vincent HRD motorcycles of two Argentinian riders, Francisco Gonzálvez and José Cruz, in the 1949 Argentinian Motorcycle Championship.  Gonzálvez achieved 1,831 points for the year and Cruz 1,711.  The third-placed Robiano was way behind at 683 points, evidence of an emphatic victory for the Vincent HRD team.

The local HRD importers, CIMIC of Belgrano in north-west Buenos Aires, promoted another victory in the previous year’s “12 Hours of Rafaela” race.  Vincent HRDs took the top five places in the Formula Libre class (1,000 cc bikes), with Gonzálvez first and Cruz third.

Francisco Gonzálvez was born in Buenos Aires in 1922 and died in 1996.  He was not only a racer; for 28 years he taught mechanics at the Upper Industrial School.  We also know something about José Cruz.  In July 1948 it was announced that “… Jose Cruz will try to beat the South American record with the model “Rayo Negro”, specially brought from England for this purpose”. Indeed, the first production “Black Lightning” (and the show bike from the Earls Court Show later that year) was due to be sent by Philip Vincent to CIMIC on 17 January 17 1949, to arrive in late February.  The idea was to beat Roberto Sigrand’s 1930 South American record, achieved on a heavily modified Zenith-J.A.P. KTOR, and thus to produce a strong advertising impact throughout the area.  Sadly, it appears that the attempt was severely delayed and perhaps never took place.

The advertisement in our Snapshot contains some interesting slogans.  The first is the description of HRD as famous throughout the world “because where it runs it wins”.  At the base of the publicity is also the phrase “The Fastest Production Motorcycle in the World”.

The Argentinian advertisements almost certainly show Black Shadows and not the legendary and ultra-rare Black Lightnings – but even Black Shadows had a formidable racing reputation.

The connection with Argentina, and Phil Vincent’s intention to send a Black Lightning there, is not as unusual as it may seem.  Vincent’s father was Argentinian, and he had dual citizenship in the UK and Argentina. The family owned a large estancia in Argentina and part of the Stevenage works capital came from this source. Vincent HRDs enjoyed racing success in Argentina, Brazil and even Cuba, winning events like Havana’s National Handicap Road Race of 1948. The very first Series “B” Rapide was shipped directly from Stevenage to CIMIC in Buenos Aires.  800 Vincents were said to have been exported to Argentina from 1946 to 1950, most of them Series “B” Rapides for the Argentine police.

Picture courtesy of the Richard Roberts Archive

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