The outbreak of WW2 in 1939 brought production of all Series A models to a halt, and when Vincent resumed production at the war’s end it was with the all-new Series B. Its rear suspension aside, the Series A Vincent-HRD had been conventional enough: tubular steel frame, girder forks, separate gearbox, etc but with the Series B Messrs Vincent and Irving effectively established the marque’s reputation for the defiance of convention in the pursuit of engineering excellence. For a start there was no ‘frame’ as such, merely a fabricated box attached to the cylinder heads, that served as the oil tank and incorporated the headstock and the attachment point for the rear springs. The gearbox was integral with the engine, and the swinging arm pivoted directly in the engine/gearbox casings, features commonplace today but unusual 60 years ago. Only in his retention of the pre-war Brampton girder fork did Phillip Vincent appear to be lagging behind other manufacturers, almost all of which had switched to telescopics, but this apparent shortcoming would soon be addressed by the introduction of the famous ‘Girdraulic’ fork.
Introduced in 1946, the Vincent-HRD Series B Rapide was immediately the fastest production motorcycle on sale anywhere, with a top speed of over 110mph. The basic design clearly had even greater potential though, which would be realised later in the form of the Black Shadow and Black Lightning models. In 1948 the Vincent range began to be up-dated to ‘Series C’ specification. The most significant changes made concerned the suspension, there being a revised arrangement at the rear incorporating curved lugs for the seat stays and a hydraulic damper between the spring boxes, while at the front the new models boasted Vincent’s own ‘Girdraulic’ fork: a blade-type girder fitted with twin hydraulic dampers. These advances began to find their way onto production models during 1948 but it would be 1950 before all Vincents left the factory in Series C specification.
In the USA, Vincents were distributed by the Indian Sales Corporation, thereby giving the American manufacturer’s dealers an overhead-valve sports model to compete with Harley-Davidson’s ‘Knucklehead’. To cater for local tastes, some batches of the Rapide touring model were delivered to the USA finished in ‘Chinese Red’, the total being estimated at 107 machines.
First registered in the UK in 2011, the Series C Rapide offered here has been known to the Vincent Owners’ Club since 2003; and the Club has confirmed that it was despatched from the factory to the India Sales Corporation in June 1950. The machine was fitted with steel touring mudguards and raised touring handlebars, while the records also state that the tank was painted red.
Miklos Salamon purchased the Rapide from Daniel Donovan Classics of Kew, Surrey in January 2013 and immediately commissioned JMC Classics & Restorations to fit a starter motor and centre stand. The Vincent has also been fitted with a lithium battery and V3 left-side prop-stand. Related invoices are on file, and the machine also comes with a V5C Registration Certificate, the 2013 sales invoice, and various invoices for other parts and services, the most recent of the latter dated July 2017.
Report by bonhams.com