The Vincati is one of those semi-mythical bikes that you occasionally hear about—and to many classic motorcycle fans, a marriage made in heaven. Quite simply, it’s a Vincent engine in a Ducati frame. “Big Sid’s Vincati” is perhaps the most famous of these hybrids, so I dropped Sidney Biberman’s son Matthew a line to get the full story:
“In 2000, my dad, Big Sid, was recovering from a heart attack and bypass surgery. One evening during a hospital visit, I brought him his mail and we found ourselves poring over shots taken during that year’s Isle of Man races. One shot caught my eye: it was of a Vincati, something I had never seen before. I was immediately smitten and right then and there challenged Sid: I vowed that if he found the will to recover we would build one together, come hell or high water.
“What you are looking at is the result of five years of hard labor. To our knowledge, ours is the seventh in the world and first example built outside of Australia. I have been riding it regularly for the last five years and enjoy it immensely. The motor began life in pedestrian Rapide tune but was built up to Black Lightning specs, with 10:1 compression, 32mm ported heads (mated to Amal MK1s), Lightning cams, and many other tricks. A key reason for its smoothness is that the flywheels have been scalloped, with a pound and a quarter of steel removed. The power is transferred effectively through a modern multi-plate clutch made by Aussie Neil Videan. The results make for a bike that is very easy to start, with far less vibration than one typically finds in a hopped-up Vincent.
“The chassis is a modified 1973 Ducati GT. The work done to enable the mating of the Vincent power unit to the Italian frame is really manageable, consisting largely of adding plates in the rear to accept the Vincent crankcases and the addition of a pair of cross tubes above to duplicate the Vincent head mounting system. A Norton Commando oil tank has been fitted under the left side cover. Amazingly, the Ducati motor is only ten pounds heavier than the British V-twin, another reason while the hybrid is such a pleasing machine.
“My dad has worked on Vincents for over 60 years now and he is very happy with this effort. The Vincati is beautiful, yes, but more than that, it is well sorted-out and a joy to ride at any speed (with it topping out at around 140 mph). Indeed, like a top athlete, the Vincati seems to rise to the occasion when the game is on the line. During its most public outings, I have watched the bike vanish from view with nary a tool packed under its seat.
“Though I am not reckless about doling out rides, I am proud to say that several friends have sampled its thrill, including moto-journalists Peter Egan and Aaron Frank, entertainer Jay Leno and most recently Mike Seate—who rode it on camera for a forthcoming episode of his Discovery Channel show Club Café Racer. The Vincati also won Best Modern Café Racer at the AMA’s Annual Vintage Days meet in 2009, and was featured at the Barber’s Fall Classic. It was a real thrill to start it for George Barber in his museum.
“It is rare to do good work late in life but both Sid and I now have enough distance from this build to be able to appreciate how truly fortunate we were to have made this machine. The Vincati is a tough act to top, though that doesn’t mean we haven’t tried! But that’s a story (or two) for another day!”
NB: Matthew Biberman’s book Big Sid’s Vincati has received rave reviews. It’s currently on offer at Amazon at 60% off—meaning you can get a hardcover copy for just US$10.22 right now.
[Images by Bob Hower/Quadrant Photography. That’s Matthew Biberman below.]