Café racers are some of the most popular kinds of retro motorcycles on sale today. And while some are purely about the aesthetic, others, like the Triumph Thruxton RS, channel the performance spirit of their ancestors. But for Jay Leno, there’s one bike that stands above the rest: the Egli-Vincent by Patrick Godet.
A Patrick Godet Egli-Vincent is a classic British superbike done ‘Singer style’
Although never described as-such in-period, the original Vincent Black Shadow was a genuine superbike. In the late ‘40s one set a production bike top-speed world record that stood until 1973, Hagerty reports. And for the time, it featured some fairly unconventional technology, including a stressed-member engine, fully-adjustable controls, and a rear suspension system not unlike a modern swingarm, Cycle World reports.
However, while the Black Shadow offered tremendous speed, like many motorcycles of the time, it didn’t necessarily handle well, Hemmings reports. Plus, while innovative, the frame couldn’t really handle high loads, Silodrome reports.
This is where Swiss racer Fritz Egli comes in. In 1968, he took the Vincent’s 998cc V-twin and installed it in a redesigned, stronger frame, and upgraded the suspension and brakes, Cycle World reports. The resulting Egli-Vincent immediately won the 1968 Swedish Hill Climb Championship, and orders from existing Vincent owners poured in almost as quickly, Silodrome reports. And this is all before Patrick Godet comes into play.
Eventually, Egli stopped making Egli-Vincents himself. But not before he officially licensed his frame to a French builder named Patrick Godet, Classic Avenue reports. Jay Leno compares Godet’s work to that of famed Porsche restomod company Singer, and it’s a fairly apt comparison. That’s because, like Singer, Godet’s Egli-Vincents took everything that made the originals incredible and added more through modern touches.
For one, the Egli-Vincent by Godet is more powerful than the original Black Shadow. That’s because it has a 1330cc version of the original V-twin, complete with an electric starter and better carburetors, Hagerty reports. The café racer also has modern 12-volt electrics, a higher compression ratio, stronger engine internals, a new four-speed transmission, upgraded magnesium brakes, and upgraded shocks, Silodrome reports.
For Jay Leno, the Egli-Vincent is “the ultimate, the most beautiful café racer”
Jay Leno owns an original 1951 Vincent Black Shadow, and he still enjoys riding it. By his admission, it’s still a quick and comfortable bike. But he straight-up loves riding his Egli-Vincent.
Although “excellent” in-period, Jay Leno notes that the Black Shadow didn’t really handle like a modern bike. The Egli-Vincent, though, is noticeably better. While it still has drum brakes, rather than discs, the front ones are quad-shoe self-energizing drums, Hagerty reports.
Plus, in addition to the upgraded front forks, the Egli-Vincent has a tachometer, something the Black Shadow never offered. And both it and the speedometer are “built like a watch,” Jay Leno says. He was once so mesmerized watching it move that he blew past a cop at 90 mph—and the speedometer is so big, the cop could see it.
That might be the Egli-Vincent’s biggest strength. It’s a genuine classic café racer, right down to the translucent oil line by the instruments and the mechanical ersatz gear indicator. Plus, crucially, the vintage style and rich sound. But it has better suspension, a stronger oil-tight engine—still a stressed-member—no kick-starter, and turn signals. Little wonder Jay Leno compared it to a Singer.
Beauty doesn’t come cheap
You’ll need some deep pockets to get one, though. In November 2020 a Godet-built example sold on Bring a Trailer for $83,500. And based on several past RM Sotheby’s and Bonhams auctions, that’s slightly below average. But what else would you expect from the ‘ultimate café racer?’
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