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Phil Vincent’s Life captured on film

Ewan McGregor is to narrate a new documentary on the life of Philip Vincent, the man behind the British V-twins of the 1940s and ‘50s which carried his name on the tank. Speed is Expensive: The Philip Vincent Story, will be available to stream from 25th September 2023 on Amazon, Sky Store, Apple TV and Google Play.

The Stevange-built Vincent-HRDs were the superbikes of their day, the fastest production bikes then available and holders of multiple speed records. The most infamous was probably Rollie Free’s setting of a new American motorcycle land speed record on Bonneville Salt Flats in 1948 – infamous, because to minimise drag he rode the bike lying flat across the seat and tank, clad only in a pair of bathing trunks.

The name Vincent is little known outside motorcycling, but writer and director David Lancaster hoped the film would gain wider attention. “We are delighted to join Lightbulb (Film Distribution) to bring Speed is Expensive to a wider audience. With hours of un-earthed family films, and audio recordings, the film is a very human story of a pioneer who is only now being recognised as the genius he was.” Vincent-HRD closed in 1955 and when Phil Vincent died in 1979, he was penniless and living on a West London housing estate – he never saw the classic bike boom and the sight of his V-twins selling for six-figure sums.

Jim Freeman, chair of the BMF, agreed that Vincent’s life needed wider recognition: “Phil Vincent was a motorcycling legend when I was a teenager, so I don’t think he’s as unrecognised as is being made out. Who cares anyway, it’s a fantastic story, and I’ll be watching when it comes out. Like so many creatives Phil Vincent was much better being inventive than at making a profit out of it. Just as an example, I remember the first time I saw a V-twin’s ‘frame’ and thought ‘Crickey, that’s brilliant!’ I’d say he’s in a very small club with other names like Britten and Buell and maybe dozen more. ”

Written by Peter Henshaw

Top image courtesy of Lightbulb Film Distribution