Vincent "Bathing Suit Bike" Black Lightning
text by Herb Harris

"On a cool Monday morning on Sept. 13, 1948, Rollie Freee lifted from Harley Davidson the US national motorcycle speed record by riding the first Vincent HRD Black Lightning racing Rapide motorcycle to a speed of 150.313 m.p.h. When Rollie's leathers tore from early runs at 147 mph, he discarded them and made a final, heroic attempt without jacket, pants, gloves, boots or helmet. Aboard the motorcycle owned by the California sportsman, John Edgar, this final run resulted in the most famous photograph in motorcycling, the "bathing suit bike" shot taken from a speeding car on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah. Rollie lay flat out on the motorcycle wearing only a speedo bathing suit, shower cap and a pair of borrowed sneakers. The AMA certified Free's record. The Lightning remained in California and was raced as well as seeing duty on the street until it's owners moved to Michigan in the 1960's. Out of sight for decades, the bike has re-emerged recently in the hands of it's new owner in Texas. Special features included the first-ever Vincent use of a rear shock absorber, the first Mk II racing cams and horizontally mounted racing carbs still in place today on the Lightning. Seldom has a racing bike survived virtually intact for almost 50 years.
Following a feature story in CYCLE WORLD MAGAZINE, the Bathing Suit Bike was flown to London as the star of the show for the LOUIS VUITTON CLASSIC in June, 1998.  From there, it appeared as the featured bike at the VOC North American Rally at Mid-Ohio in July of last year.  Since then, feature stories on the bike and its owner, HERB HARRIS, have appeared in magazines in France, England, Sweden and Italy. Stories about the bike have recently appeared in THE LONDON TIMES and THE LONDON INDEPENDENT newspapers and a segment on SKY TV in England. Most recently, it was featured at the Greenwich Conn. Concours D'Elegance covered by Speedvision.  Little wonder that it has been named THE MOST FAMOUS MOTORCYCLE IN THE WORLD