He was a bear of a man, whose fanatical love for Vincent motorcycles lasted over 40 years, and developed to the point of manufacturing the amazing Godet-Egli-Vincent specials for which he became famous.  At his small factory in Malaunay, just outside Rouen in Normandy, Godet built over 250 of his beautiful Vincent specials, and repaired/restored countless original Vincents and engines for owners around the world, with incredibly high standards.  The Godet Vincent reproduction engine could be ordered up to 1330cc, with double the horsepower of the original, and was built to a higher standard to cure many of the known faults of the 1940s design.

Patrick Godet at the Isle of Man for the Manx GP with his 500cc Comet racer, with rider Bruno Leroy behind [Sandra Gillard]
Patrick Godet purchased his first Vincent, a Black Shadow, in 1974, and soon bought a Black Prince as well.  The lure of racing caught him in 1979, when the French vintage racing scene was founded, and he tuned a Black Shadow to Lightning spec, and was formidable in French historic racing.  He further developed the machine to take on the British vintage racing scene as well, with veteran racer Hubert Rigal at the helm: the pair won the 1985 Vintage Race of the Year with the Vincent Spéciale. 

Patrick Godet racing his Vincent Black Lightning replica [David Lancaster]
Godet turned to Fritz Egli’s chassis to upgrade the potential of the Vincent engine, and approached the master for permission to reproduce the EV frame.  On seeing the quality of Godet’s work, he became the only licensed manufacturer of the Egli frame, and the Godet-Egli-Vincent was born.  It was the ultimate café racer, especially with one of the new 1330cc engines, which brought performance into modern territory, and were simply exquisite aesthetically. The GEVs were built in a new factory by a team of six by 2006, and the waiting list for new machines was very long indeed.

One of Godet’s later GEVs, with his own version of the Vincent engine – the ultimate café racer.  [Paul Coene]
After Patrick Godet’s sudden death in November 2018 at age 67, David Lancaster was moved to collect reminiscences from long-time friends, to tell his story through their words.

Patrick Godet and Fritz Egli at Egli’s office for a Christmas party.  The bike on the bench was sent to Australia. [Sandra Gillard]
Fritz Egli (friend and collaborator on Egli-Godet-Vincents)

Patrick was passionate about all Vincents. He first learned of our Egli special chassis from our successes with Fritz Peier and Florian Bürki, racing on British circuits. Soon, Patrick serviced Egli-Vincents in his Malaunay workshop; these were early machines delivered to French customers. He was very pleased with the handling, with the weight saving and soon a commercial cooperation started. Patrick became our French distributor for the Egli-Vincent chassis.

Godet with Fritz and Patty Egli at a French Vincent Rally dinner [Sandra Gillard]
There were numerous challenges, especially with exchange rates. The French import taxes made the chassis very expensive in France. Soon, we discussed production in Patrick’s workshop, avoiding custom costs, transport costs and currency problems. Having seen his tidy, well-organized workshop and having received and checked a first sample chassis he built, I was convinced that he is a good partner, that this was the way to go together.

A spectacular lineup of GEVs at a rally; any color you liked! [Paul Coene]
I never regretted it. From then on, he was the only man I allowed to produce the EV chassis and to use the name ‘Egli-Vincent’. I become his distributor for these machines in Switzerland and Germany. We had a regular exchange of tuning and developments ideas, to the benefit of us both. We rode many miles together with our Vincent-Precision outfits: Patrick with his Series D model, me with my `Black Rapide’ – both driven by his brilliant and powerful 1330cc Godet engine… So many good memories.

I finish with some of the words I said at Patrick’s funeral service:

‘Your decision was strong and brave, as you were. I was shocked. All our friends were shocked. Then we learned the brutal facts and we understood and accepted it. Patrick, sometime, somewhere in the universe we will re-unite: there will be no pressing burdens, no speed limits. Farewell my dear friend. We will meet again, with our Vincents, and we will release the clutch, and open the throttle.’

Peter Fox with a Godet Vincent Black Lightning at the Godet factory in Malaunay. [Andrew Nahum]
Andrew Nahum (London Science Museum):

I was lucky enough to meet Patrick about twelve years ago when an old friend, Peter Fox, suggested we ride down together to Malaunay on Peter’s Godet Egli Vincent and the Ducati 750SS I owned back then. The Egli was going home to Patrick for its first service. We arrived quite damp after a good fast haul down the A16 from Calais. Patrick looked over the Ducati and said: ‘if you like café racer – you must try mine’.  It was the first of several trips in Springtime, sometimes by van, to bring back or collect a bike. Usually we spent day or so looking at the latest developments in the works, followed by an excellent dinner with Patrick in Rouen or nearby.

Road testing the Black Lightning. [Andrew Nahum]
Making something as special as Patrick’s bikes was, of course, an enormous personal struggle. He took on tough commercial realities, real engineering challenges, and also contributed pure emotional commitment. And so, his Egli-Vincents are – to me – the most beautiful Eglis ever made and the team at Malaunay spare nothing in attention and care in every aspect of the engineering, the aesthetics, and the final build. No one should underestimate the extraordinary task Patrick had set himself to build such exquisite machines by hand and in small numbers for the real connoisseur.

Patrick Godet on his Vincent Black Prince outfit, contemplating messages left at the Fairy Bridge on the Isle of Man. It’s said that if you don’t pay homage or acknowledge the fairies at this bridge, bad luck will befall you in the TT, so contestants and their supporters leave messages of supplication to ensure a safe ride for their loved ones. [Sandra Gillard]
Of course, Patrick’s knowledge of every element in the Vincent – both engine and frame – was awesome, as you would expect with his unmatched experience on the road and track with them and in design, development and manufacture. And we should not forget that his interest was not just in the Egli – he has also done many impeccable restorations of ‘classic’ Vincents – Rapides, Shadows and Lightnings. I recall discussing some familiar problems I’d encountered years before when I ran an ageing Rapide. Two examples, out of many; the crank wheels can shift out of alignment if the crank wheels move on the big end pin. Then the bike starts to vibrate horribly and becomes nasty to ride. Another one; the engines can seize if the interference fit between the finned alloy cylinder or ‘muff’ and the pressed-in steel liner is inadequate. Patrick’s answer was very thoughtful. Vincents were, in his view ‘a question of metrology’. If all these interference fits are properly measured, the V-twin engines are impressively strong, as he proved by pushing the capacity of his café racers up to 1330 ccs and doubling the power.

A classic Godet-Egli-Vincent café racer, ridden by David Lancaster [David Lancaster]
The 500cc Egli-framed racer was another example of his adept engineering. I think it was in 2013 that Patrick showed us an incomplete prototype motor and talked about his hopes for it in classic racing. Barely a year later, it had all come together, with the bike putting up impressive performances against Manx Nortons and the like.

We are all so sad to lose him. Patrick was one of those rare people with the enthusiasm to enhance other peoples’ lives – ‘a true keeper of the flame’, a passionate and skillful designer and engineer, and a lovely guy.

A crossing of the Alps with Vincent enthusiasts Fritz Egli, David and Tom Lancaster, and Stéphane Membre. [David Lancaster]
Tom Lancaster:

‘Small Library Burns Down In Normandy

Patrick Godet became friends with my parents in the early ’70s, although in terms of age he was closer to my brother and me. He stayed with us often in London usually to attend Vincent Owners’ Club (VOC) events. I remember teaching him to play cricket as a youngster. He would always remind me of this. Patrick’s mind was a ‘sponge’ for anything Vincent-related even then, picking the brains of survivors such as Phil Irving, Eddie Stevens, PCV himself, even Rollie Free at the North American Rally in ’77. He returned home to set up the Section de France and unearthed the original French importer of the marque. Patrick grilled M.Garron about any remaining bikes or parts that he knew of.

A road-going Vincent Black Lightning replica with ‘Montlhéry’ long-distance fuel tank, all built by Godet, at the Montlhéry Autodrome [Bernard Testamale]

Dad and I rode to Patrick’s first French Section Rally. His family in Normandy seemed rather grand with a chateau and a haulage firm to pay for it. His brother was a fine artist in oils I recall. By the mid ’80s, I was working for Mark Williams of Bike magazine fame. Patrick was racing then and converting old Comets to Grey Flash spec (somewhat controversially). Editor Rick Kemp and I covered all this happily as Godet and his projects were always good copy. Patrick’s step-son was staying with me in London and Patrick came to visit us in a client’s Aston Martin DB6. So things were going smoothly.

Patrick Godet entertaining the troops at a French Vincent rally (his business partner Florent Pagny is behind, hoisting his wine glass). [Sandra Gillard]

There was some sadness in Patrick’s personal life, although he lived what always seemed the most enviable and worldly bachelor lifestyle. He was a product of les trente glorieuses and it may be that a sense of entitlement was part of the configuration, but his charm and seeming innocence remained effortless and natural. He could light up a pub, bikers’ beer tent or any haute brasserie. That changed after Sylvie died three years ago. Patrick was devastated. But he remained unfailingly kind and hospitable to me and my family. It felt like he would always be there for advice and a chat. A ride through Rouen will not be the same without stopping for lunch with Patrick. I can’t tell you how much I will miss him.

An original Vincent crate from the 1950s decorated Godet’s workshop office [Andrew Nahum]

In 1991 Argentina lifted restrictions on the export of its ‘national treasures’. These included some 800 Vincent HRDs imported from 1946 to 1950 when the going was good there (not so good in England). The first production Lightning, first Series C Shadow and other glories were said to be among them. Most, in fact, were destined for the Federal Police and Peron’s Presidential Guard, plus a few ”playboys” who would ”tit up and down the Avenida 9 de Julio” (my translation, from memory).

Godet was a skilled mechanic and craftsman, and hundreds of Vincents passed under his hands, and were better for it.  Here he inspects a Black Shadow in Florida. [Sandra Gillard]

Patrick and I had spoken of these bikes when I lived in Paris. We would sometimes retourner le monde into the small hours. But we were not alone. The Argentine Vins had been legendary – like a lost tribe – so there was a bit of a gold rush on. I had picked up some colloquial Spanish in a muralist brigade in Chile in earlier years, so I mugged up on my Series B parts list and eargerly took up Patrick’s invitation to go big Vin-hunting with him in the Argentine. I read all I could find in the house journal of the VOC going back decades, and consulted a couple of old hands: WW2 veteran Jack Barker and USAF pilot Alex Nofsger had both been down and come away empty handed pre-embargo days.

Patric Godet racing one of his early Vincents at the 1983 Bol d’Or. [David Lancaster]

Loaded with 19” B spec. sports mudguards – which Patrick rightly guessed would be suitable bargaining chips – I arrived at Buenos Aires airport where Patrick failed to turn up. First visit was to the offices of the original Vincent importers, Cemic, with colonial blinds and ceiling fans as I recall. Everything and everyone seemed to be from ‘central casting’. Then it was mostly gum shoe/barn find stuff: asking around at old garages, flea-pits, bars etc. As always, Patrick seemed to fit in wherever we went, even without any Spanish. We set ourselves a limit of one thousand pounds sterling per twin. This meant turning down some real lovelies when, out in the pampas grass, a gaucho-type would dust off a copy of the Classic Bike buyer’s guide, much to our dismay. The state of the bikes, however, was usually dire. They’d not been run for decades and there were hardly any matching numbers, or often even numbers at all.

An ultra-rare road-going Vincent Grey Flash racer, as found and restored by Patrick Godet. [Sandra Gillard – who rode both bikes in the photo!]

In 1950 el Presidente had imposed severe restrictions on imports. Phillip Vincent himself was Anglo-Argentine – we met his sister in Buenos Aires – and close to a quarter of his twins had been exported there. But not even the most basic spares could subsequently get through without bribery or major hassle. Patrick and I were continually amazed – and genuinely impressed – by the subsequent historic adaptations employed to keep these things on the road. Everything, from chain links to servo-clutch parts, had been hand-machined, often evidently to increase horsepower. We were initially puzzled by the widespread gaffer-taping of girder forks to look like the more up-to-date Series C Girdraulics, but accepted this as a ‘streamlining’ vogue. Hmm. We bagged about a dozen ‘complete’ bikes and enough spares to help fill up a shipping container. Without the Godet garage and expertise, however, I am not sure that it would have been worth it. Patrick’s passion was for the marque, and with him is lost a lifetime of expertise and magic. And a rare old friend.

Back in the 1960s on family holidays we visited Fritz’s workshops when he was building his Egli prototypes, mostly with Series B engines. Looking back now, I wonder what Patrick had had in mind for all those Argentine B Rapide lumps with near-useless cycle parts.

Patric Godet atop the Col de L’Iseran on his touring Black Prince. [David Lancster]
Chris Lipscombe (riding partner and friend since the 1970s):

During the 1970s and ’80s, I regularly spent summers in Europe riding my Vincent. I met Patrick in 1976, at the first French section VOC rally in Normandy which he organised, riding there with Alan Lancaster and Bryan Philips. In many ways, this set the pattern for many miles and adventures with him: we got lost in the fog off the boat in Dieppe, and came across the rally site by chance.

Patrick Godet with Chris Lipscombe in the 1990s. [Chris Lipscombe]
That night, introductions were made, dinner was served and calvados consumed. We stayed up all night – I damn nearly died the next day. It was the beginning of a long, long friendship. After the rally, I was invited back to his place in the hills of Rouen, Patrick leading the way on his beloved Black Prince, me on my B Rapide.

We took in the sights of his home town, met some girls, and it dawned on me this man was the King of Rouen. His family ran a transport business and soon I was working on Renault diesel engines there. In the evenings I would return to his home – on Rue de Vincent – where sumptuous meals would appear from one of his female friends. The foreman at the family firm, a wonderful man called Henry, saved Patrick’s ass too many times to count. It was a magical time. His cellar was full of Vincent spares and due to his ability there was a never a broken Vincent there for long.

Patrick Godet relaxing at his friend Chris Lipscombe’s home in the USA. [Chris Lipscombe]
For the next 20 years, I visited every summer. Alan Lancaster, Dick Perry, Patrick and I rode to rallies all over Europe. We imported two Eglis from Italy one year, borrowing a woefully under-powered Peugeot pickup for the drive, with a bag full of cash under the seat. Somehow we crossed the borders with two bikes in the back and absolutely no paperwork. A lot of English and French was spoken, however.

He visited me often in Maryland, helping me build up a Comet from a basket case, which is still racing around in Class C. He was generous beyond belief.

Many years ago: Phil Irving, legendary co-designer of the Vincent V-twin, with Patrick Godet and VOC president Bryan Philips. [David Lancaster]
Dee Vincent-Day (daughter of Philip Vincent):

I was saddened to hear of the death of Patrick Godet.  Patrick contributed greatly towards keeping the Vincent name alive.  His work in restoring Vincents was exemplary, creating demand from many Vincent owners including my son. His Godet racing team competed on Vincents at many veteran events including the Isle of Man Classic TT and Spa-Francorchamps.  His contribution to motorcycling was boundless.  He will be missed by many.

Patrick Godet and his beloved dog Elvis on the Normandy coast. [Sandra Gillard]
Philip Vincent-Day (grandson of Philip Vincent):

I can remember the first time I met Patrick. Or at least the first time that I could remember meeting Patrick. I was at a VOC international rally, about 15 or 16 years old, having received notice the rally was taking place in Essex close to where I was living at the time. I was sat chatting with Bryan Phillips when two Frenchmen approached. Before Bryan could introduce us, Patrick already knew who I was – I wasn’t quite sure how. I must admit that at that moment I had no idea who he was, and found it odd that I hadn’t had to be introduced.

Patrck Godet with the family business: a trucking company. [Tom Lancaster]
From that day, his reputation just seemed to grow and grow, and I kept hearing more and more about his Eglis. It didn’t seem all that long before I was regularly attending the Isle of Man classic TT races. Here I was fortunate enough to spend more time with Patrick, along with visits to the Egli-Vincent Rally in the Rhone valley and the Café Racer Festival at Montlhéry. Each and every time, the love and passion that Patrick felt for Vincent motorcycles, the engine, the design, even the way the wheels turned, shone through.

Godet with a classic NorVin café racer in the 1970s [David Lancaster]
He was tremendously (and rightly) proud of his bikes, yet he always referred to my grandfather as ‘The Boss’ – or at least while I was around. I can remember showing Patrick a video I had recorded of Bruno Leroy racing his Grey Flash through Glenn Helen. Patrick must have watched at close proximity 10 times before I had to ask, what was he watching out for? ‘Nothing particularly, I just love it.’

Sandra Gillard (friend and photographer):

In 2012, I wrote an e-mail to Patrick asking about photographing a Vincent. With this simple question, I went in August 2013 to his workshop to shoot the jewels he created and restored. Within a day, I had ridden an Egli-Vincent-Godet 1330 for the first time in my life. From there, I dreamed, travelled and rode with Patrick and his Vincent. Together, for the next five years, we began to write a page of a story that belongs to us. Patrick often told me I was his bench he could rest on.

Sandra Gillard ready to test ride a 1330cc GEV, as Patrick Godet makes final adjustments. [Shannon Saad]
With me in the side-car on his Black Prince we rode to three Egli-Vincent-Godet rallies, to Vincent Owners Club meetings and to the Manx Classic TT in the Isle of Man in 2015 and 2016. We travelled to Switzerland and Florida. I rode a Vincent Black Shadow in Florida and France and an original Vincent Grey Flash on the roads of Normandy. Last September, Patrick came to Switzerland to see my first photo exhibition in Lausanne.

Sandra Gillard aboard a Grey Flash racer at a French Vincent rally in 2017. [David Lancaster]
Being in the side-car of Patrick’s Prince was fabulous – travelling in the ‘basket’, on the right-hand side, is like being in a cart. Patrick was the perfect rider. I loved the sensation of speed – with my Canon always in my lap. To the Isle of man, we crossed England at speed. We broke down. Patrick repaired the bike. Once on the Isle of Man, we rode the circuit twice – the first time in the outfit, the second time I hired a Triumph and followed. Riding on the TT circuit is like being the ball in a pinball machine.

The Godet team (minus Bruno, Julien, and Alain) with a Vincent Black Lightning replica at the Café Racer Festival at Montlhéry in 2018.[Sandra Gillard]
Patrick was a wizard in his workshop. Eternally dissatisfied, he demanded perfection. His “guys” were part of his family. He was a bear, and he could growl. But he had a tender heart. If his anger could be memorable, his loyalty was unwavering. In turn, he was a jeweller and a magician, but first of all he was a man with a big heart.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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