A lot of motorcycles would be nominated for that list, but one that every enthusiast would put in the top 5 would be the Vincent Black Lightning. What is amazing is that this revolutionary bike was made in 1948, and was the fastest production bike well into the 1970s, 20 plus years after the company ceased production.
Vincent motorcycles started when a young Phillip Vincent acquired the rights to the trademark of the well respected British HRD motorcycle in 1928. With the help of engineer Phil Irving, Vincents got better and better. Besides adding power, the Vincent machines pioneered features that were innovations to motorcycle technology. This included the first full rear suspension, a foot shift 4 speed gearbox, V Twin engine, and side stands. The Vincent Black Shadow of 1948 pushed the envelope further, with a cruising speed of 100 mph, and a maximum speed of 125, despite the speedometer’s 150 mph top peg.
The Vincent Black Lightning also came out in 1948, and was a sensation in the motorcycle world. It had a top speed of 150 mph, and was rated at 70 horse power. On September 13 of 1948, Rollie Free became the worlds fastest motorcyclist at a speed of 150.313, riding a specially tuned production model Vincent Black Lightning on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah.
The previous record was 136.183 mph, set by a Harley Davidson. Free’s riding leathers had torn in earlier runs of 147 mph, and they were scooping air and flapping, so for the record breaking run, he wore a speedo and sneakers, and extended his legs back to reduce drag. Vincent Black Lightnings went on to win races and set records all over the motorcycle world. Unfortunately, the company went out of business in 1955. Never forgotton, Black Lightnings are much sought after. A Black Lightning is dangled by Bruce Wayne (George Clooney) in the movie "Batman and Robin", to entice the juvenile deliquent Robin (Chris O'Donnell) to stay on at the Wayne mansion. Recently, bluegrass song of the year "Vincent '52" by Richard Thompson, Rumor and Sigh CD, was centered on a highwayman, his girlfriend, and his 1952 Vincent Black Lightning.