Every once in a while, a motorbike scares me. I’m not talking about some of the badly-maintained death traps I’ve tested for motorcycle magazines. I’m talking about radical motorbikes with the attitude of an unbroken mustang, that dare you to ride them. The Egli-Vincent Mark Fogg wheeled out of his London garage had that effect on me. Triumph supremo Edward Turner prided himself on his products, saying that they looked fast even when standing still. Fogg’s Egli-Vincent doesn’t just look fast: it looks mean. However, the bike has been dry-stored for a while and is neither road-registered nor insured so firing it up and taking it for a run to Brighton and back will have to wait. In fact, it’s not even run in. That said, it is a very special machine, which is why I am going to tell you about it.

Looking like an arched-back black cat, the Hamilton-Egli-Vincent is ready to pounce. [Prosper Keating]
How much power can a Vincent V-twin engine produce? Back in the early 1950s, a well-prepared 1000cc Black Lightning was good for a genuine 70 crankshaft horsepower at 5600 rpm. The 1570cc 4-valve Irving-Vincent motors made by the Horner brothers in Australia are claimed to put out nearly 180bhp at 7278 rpm. For most riders, these figures are rather academic as few ride at 130+mph. And a perfectly standard but well-sorted Black Shadow or Rapide is quite fast enough to lose you your driving license in most jurisdictions.

What other riders would likely see: the twin under-seat exhausts passing by, singing a 112hp song. [Prosper Keating]
The tuned 1951 Rapide engine fitted to Fogg’s Egli-Vincent is recorded as producing just under 112 bhp at 6100 rpm on the Heenan & Froud chassis dynamometer in Colin Taylor’s workshop. That was in 1998, when Taylor was working with the late Dr Ian Hamilton, a Scottish racer in the grand independent Clubman tradition, who raced highly tuned Egli-Vincents against modern machinery with surprising success before his death in an accident on the Cadwell Park circuit in 1999.

The best possible Egli-Vincent license plate…but it’s on Mark Fogg’s NorVin! [Prosper Keating]
I remember, as a motorcycle magazine staffer in the late 1980s, reading of Dr Hamilton’s Battle of The Twins performances against modern Ducatis and their contemporaries and thinking: Really? On a Vincent? I was familiar with Vincent H.R.D. twins and knew they could be made to go very fast, as record-breakers like George Brown proved time and again, but it is fair to say that even in its heyday, the firm never enjoyed quite the same success on race tracks as other British firms. Vincent’s prewar and postwar 500cc TT Comet and Grey Flash racers were better suited to track and road events like the Manx and Dutch Tourist Trophy races than their 1000cc V-twins.

Colin Taylor putting finishing touches on the Hamilton-Egli-Vincent before its first test ride [Egli-Vincent.net]
The ex-Hamilton engine is of course heavily modified but it is nonetheless a genuine Stevenage motor from 1951, rather than a highly-evolved modern unit like the Irving-Vincent or Godet-Vincent. It is best-described as Dr Hamilton’s testbed engine as it was still under development and had never been raced when he died. Dr Hamilton’s 90 bhp Egli-Vincent racer used a set of replica crankcases stamped with the serial number 11141, Dr Hamilton wishing to evoke Stevenage’s numbering system whilst making it clear that the engine was not a Stevenage product.

The chopped (ie, the gearbox has been cut off) 1951 Rapide engine that forms the basis of the 112hp monster. Not extra-strong or modified cases here! It’s all Vincent stuff. [Mark Fogg]
Mark Fogg found the chopped Rapide engine in the Ian Hamilton Estate through a classified advertisement in the Vincent H.R.D. Owners Club journal MPH in 2001. How long had Fogg been into Vincents? “I bought my Norvin in 2000. That was my first. I’d wanted a Norvin for twenty years. Then I got into the Egli. But I’ve had five Vincents since then. I had a very nice Grey Flash Replica, a road-going one. I had a prewar Comet Special with the alloy bronze head. That was very nice. They’re nice things! [Laughs].

Colin Taylor’s snaps of the machine coming together under his care. [Colin Taylor]
Fogg’s Norvin is indeed a very nice thing, with its Series B Rapide engine and the registration plate EGL1, which should really be on the Egli-Vincent. Mark laughs: “Yeah, I suppose I could transfer the number. The Egli isn’t actually registered. I’ve never ridden it! The engine was advertised as being from Ian Hamilton’s collection but I didn’t have any idea of who he was. Afterwards, I started reading his articles about ‘Wearing Out a Vincent Faster’ in MPH and the notebook that came with the engine and realised I had something quite special. I thought Colin Taylor would be the most appropriate person to build me the Egli because he was connected to Ian Hamilton and knew him well. Colin was building Eglis in batches of three at the time and, in the beginning, we both thought it would be quite a quick project.”.

The bobweight (ie, not full-circle) crankshaft, with titanium rods and lightened timing gear. [Mark Fogg]
Fogg and Taylor figured it might take a year to turn out an Egli-Vincent for Fogg using one of Taylor’s own Egli replica frames and proprietary parts like Honda forks, but the project ended up taking nearly ten years. Fogg continues: “As Colin got into it, he suddenly realised which engine it was and he got even more enthusiastic!’. Colin Taylor takes up the story: “Ian brought the engine, fitted to his bike, for testing on my Heenan & Froud chassis dyno in 1998. The engine failed and Ian went back to his Great Barford workshop to change it for the ‘old reliable one’, which was less powerful.”.

How you find them: the classifieds! Or at least, how you used to find them… How such simple ads sent us into spirals of conjecture and desire. [Mark Fogg]
Dr Hamilton had acquired the chopped Rapide crankcases for £250 in 1995. He fitted the bobweight crankshaft from his racing engine #11141, which he’d campaigned in the 1994 Battle of The Twins series. This crank uses original Vincent flywheels sculpted into bobweight form. Dr Hamilton replaced the standard 1” mainshafts with oversize 1 1/8” shafts. The main bearing housings were remachined with a line borer and sleeved. The Titanium connecting rods run on twin silver-plated INA caged roller big ends on an oversized crankpin. The 90mm Vincent stroke is unrevised but the 90mm bores––standard Vincent bores being 84mm––give a capacity of 1150cc.

Dr Ian Hamilton’s extensive development notes on this engine. [Prosper Keating]
Initially, the modified crank assembly had a negative balance factor so the flywheels were painstakingly shaved by hand to achieve the ideal target factor of 55%. Hamilton fitted 8.5:1 pistons, proving that one doesn’t have to fit excessively high compression slugs to an engine in the quest for speed. However, the cam lobes were Hamilton Racing Development one-offs giving an overlap figure of 109°. Timing pinions are lightened and machined to a width of just ¼”. All internals are polished. Hamilton paid attention to detail everywhere: he had the crankcase edges blended before stove-enamelling them black as per Stevenage works practice with Black Shadow and Lightning engines. The covers were highly polished and blended. All caps, nuts and bolts were drilled for lockwiring.

Dyno figures from various tests. The final figure, a note slipped in, states 112hp. [Prosper Keating]
Hamilton eschewed the usual practice of using twin front heads, Black Lightning-style, fitting ported, polished and gas-flowed front and rear heads with squish bands, twin plugs and oversize valves, held in place by Titanium spring caps and collets. The fuel flows through Mikuni 36mm smoothbore carburetors and is ignited by Pazon electronic ignition fed by one of the Hamon brothers’ Alton generators. The exhaust pipes curve up behind the gearbox and exit below the racing seat, which is a particularly neat touch typical of Colin Taylor’s attention to detail. While Taylor would never claim to have been an ace on racing circuits, he was a highly respected scrambler and off-road racer in his day and is particularly good at tucking things away when he builds bikes.

The Egli frame as found, brazed rather than TIG-welded, with soft curved fillets for strength. [Mark Fogg]
Mark Fogg points to the primary transmisson: “It’s got a forty millimetre Bob Newby belt drive and clutch. They drive the five-speed Nourish gearbox. Colin had to copy an SRM pressure plate with the radial bearing mushroom lifter. Then, on the other side, it’s got a Les Willams hydraulic clutch activator in the Triumph gearbox outer cover. The clutch and brake levers are from ISR in Sweden. It’s all hydraulics. The twin front brakes are six-piston set-ups made for me by ISR. I figured that with all that power on tap, it needed some spectacular brakes. ISR were making the brakes for the World Superbike Series at the time.

Six-pot brakes will stop the machine from 150+mph. [Prosper Keating]
Colin Taylor recalls his friend Ian Hamilton: “What I would say about Ian, which has maybe not been printed before, is that he was a very good listener and a meticulous note-taker. He was actually quite a shy person who would never boast. He is a sadly-missed enthusiast who would––and did––share what he learned about ‘wearing out a Vincent faster’ [Laughs]. Before his tragic death at Cadwell Park, I had worked with Ian on various projects, especially on frame changes, exhausts and dyno tests. Our involvement actually came about following another tragic accident when engine maestro Leon Moss was killed.

 

Rapide front and rear heads, Mikuni smoothbores, and a 40mm belt drive primary. [Prosper Keating]
“Leon had been the main man working with Ian on engine development. Up to that point, I was an assistant in the dyno testing part of Ian’s projects but I also worked on his frames. Ian used to enjoy what he called ‘experiments’. Mark’s bike is certainly different from the usual Egli-Vincents. Not too many feature two-inch exhausts under the seat, or a centrestand. Ian’s bikes had revised steering head angles, like his Battle of The Twins racer. I made the frame of Mark’s bike with this revised head angle.”.

A massive breather from the timing chest is a typical racer mod on Vincents. [Prosper Keating]
Taylor has been making Egli frames since 1974, when he was working for John Tickle, and the frame of Fogg’s street racer is one of his. “My Egli frames are all braze-welded, unlike others I know of. TIG-welded thin-wall tube frames have stress riser issues at their joints. The smooth concave radius present in properly applied braze-welding techniques has a much better performance when transmitting stress at a joint surface. I made my first motorcycle frame when I was fifteen years old in the mid-sixties. It housed a 500cc Manx Norton engine and as soon as I was sixteen, I raced it.”.

Under construction: sorting out the exhaust system under the engine and seat. [Mark Fogg]
Sitting on his Series B Rapide-engined Norvin, Mark Fogg looks at his Egli-Vincent and says: “I’d like Colin Taylor to get the kudos for what I think is the most radical Egli on the planet. I think he’d agree, if you asked him, that this is the Colin Taylor tribute to Ian Hamilton, which he built for me. I can’t ever thank him enough. I’m very lucky to have been involved in creating it. I bought an engine in a box and I’ve done that one thing that all the old Vincent guys should do. I’ve put a Vincent back on its wheels. Okay, so it isn’t a standard Vincent but what I’ve put together with Colin, it’s something very different. I’m also very grateful to Ian Hamilton. He was going to go further. He would have probably got more power out of it.”.  

Prosper Keating considers returning to a life of high-speed hooliganism. [Prosper Keating]
Mark Fogg hands me Dr Hamilton’s hardback notebook containing the meticulously detailed development history of the engine in his hands, its cover bearing a simple label ‘6590’, which is the engine’s serial number. The notes end suddenly, a few pages after Dr Hamilton tested engine number F10AB/1/6590 on the Snetterton circuit following its 111.28 bhp dyno test. Reading Dr Hamilton’s notes, it seems that #6590’s inlet tappets tightened up during the dyno test, which would have caused the engine to misfire and to lose power. He also had a problem with the bike jumping out of gear. So he refitted his Vincent replica engine #11141 and shelved #6590.

Mark Fogg with his very tasty NorVin, with all the right 1960s touches. [Prosper Keating]
According to the notebook, #6590 achieved 103.04 bhp at 6100 rpm on 21.8.1998. At 4571 rpm, the engine was producing 93 bhp. A week later, as a handwritten note slipped between the pages attests, the engine managed 111 bhp at 6100 rpm. The actual figure, after calculations and corrections, was recorded in the book as 111.28 bhp. There is room to increase the bores to 94mm, which would give a capacity of 1270cc and a probable increase of output. Dr Hamilton wasn’t a rich man. At times, he couldn’t afford new racing tyres. One rather telling, poignant entry in his notebook records his decision not to buy the £55 drill bit he needed to rework the head stud holes after opening out the crankcase mouths. He made do with another drill bit and got the job done.

It will be easy for a new owner to tell how fast s/he’s going, with a big 5″ Shadow speedo and tacho. [Prosper Keating]
How fast is Fogg’s Egli-Vincent? Taylor replies: “I’m not really into speculation. I ran the bike on a quiet mountain road near Britoli, which is in the Abruzzo region of Italy. With a hundred-plus bhp at its rear wheel, this Hamilton Egli will be swift. Don’t forget that it’s 1150 cc. Many other big bore Vins have been made which give more power, I’m sure. Certainly the blown ones do. But how this bike would perform against others is the stuff of talk. Not my way.”. Fogg looks thoughtful: “It’s got a hundred-and-fifty mile-an-hour clock. I’m pretty certain it’ll do more that after it’s run in. But it hasn’t been fired up since Colin tried her out on the mountain backroads near his workshop in Italy. The local coppers threatened to confiscate it.”

D’ya want it?  The beast is for sale: serious inquiries can be forwarded here.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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