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That Kawsaki 650, and its 900cc bigger brother, are both gorgeous for mid-proced production motorcycles, and the deliberately strongly retro styling is a testament to our current longing for "the good old days", especially during COVID.

Vehicle styling DOES strongly reflect current social attitudes. It is no coincidence that the space race between The U.S. and The Soviet Union, and the "tailfin" era on American cars, strongly coincided.

The "transformer" styling reflects our recent but now fading fascination with robotically enhanced superheroes, and like the tailfin thing, is unlikely to be a longterm trend. Gimmicky styling has a short half-life. The Polaris-Indian, Harley-Davidson, and Ducati brands understand this better than most of the other motorcycle manufacturers.

One specific motorcycle, the Vincent Black Lightning, is the one that has perhaps best stood the test of time. Interestingly, It's look was unique, not classic, but perfectly captured its essence: The very first bad boy superbike:

Tire Fuel tank Wheel Motorcycle Automotive tire


This very exclusive, low volume bike was produced only during 1948 to 1952. It was a 1000cc, V-twin that could hit over 120 mph in production form, and was the fastest motorcycle ever at the time. The prototype held the motorcycle world land speed record. It had very exotic componentry, inclduing magnesium parts, lots of alloy, and REAL race wheels and tires. As you can see in the photo, form folowed function rather closely.

This model was the production version of the very famous, much faster, "swimsuit record run".

Per Wikipedia:
"On 13 September 1948, Rollie Free achieved the US national motorcycle speed record at Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah riding the first Vincent Black Lightning. During test runs Free reached average speeds of 148.6 mph (239.1 km/h). To reduce drag, Free stripped to his swimming shorts for the final run, which he made lying flat with his legs stretched out and his head low, guiding the Vincent by following a black stripe painted on the salt bed. The stunt worked as Free covered the mile in 23.9 seconds, passing the 150 mph (240 km/h) barrier and on the return run he reached a record average speed of 150.313 mph (241.905 km/h).[5][6][7][3][8] This led to one of the most famous photographs in motorcycle history, known as the "bathing suit bike". The American Motorcyclist Association certified Free's record. Innovative features of the bike included the first-ever Vincent rear shock absorber, the first Mk II racing cams and horizontally mounted racing carburettors.[8][1] In 1950, Rollie Free returned to the Bonneville Salt Flats and broke his own record, averaging speeds of 156.58 mph (251.99 km/h) on the Vincent despite a high-speed crash during those speed trials.[5]"

Here's a photo:

Wheel Vehicle Automotive fuel system Automotive tire Fuel tank


This bike was the "real thing" and its styling faithfully reflects that. That's why SEVENTY-THREE years later, every knowledgeable motorcyclist knows what a Black Lightning is and what it looks like.

Jim G
 

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Discussion Starter · #24 ·
Nice write up Jim G and a legendary bike that looks, dare I say, modern even today.
 

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Here is a photo of one model of the current Brough Superior line of motorcycles:

Fuel tank Tire Wheel Automotive tire Automotive lighting


This very old British motorcycle brand (early 1900s) was revived recently (similar to Indian being revived by Polaris) and is now being built in France. The Brough Superiors run in the $70,000 and up range.

A famous owner of multiple models of the original Brough Superiors was Lawrence of Arabia, the British mikitary officer who led Arabian forces against Germany in World War 1. This photo shows what motorcycling was like in HIS time:

Tire Wheel Land vehicle Vehicle Motor vehicle


Lawrence of Arabia (T.E. Lawrence) was quite a rider. The Brough Superiors were the fastest bikes on the road in his era (the first bikes to hit 100 mph). He owned several of them, knew the company owner well, and had the factory custom modify the bikes to work with his 5'2" height! He died in an accident while riding his 7th Brough Superior motorcycle, while awaiting delivery of his ordered 8th.

Jim G
 
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