1954 Vincent 998cc Rapide Series-C at Bonhams

This handsome Rapide has some paperwork dating back to its original owner, one R.H. Juber, who bought it on February 2, 1954 in Newport, Wales just over England’s western border and registered OLN 795. Between his purchase until its arrival in the USA, we know nothing further until the second owner, one A.J. Welcome, bought the bike on August 24, 1970 for the sum of $650.00 from R.G. Wilson Motorcycle Sales in Boylston, Massachusetts, and it remained in his possession for 25 years, until June 24, 1995, that is. Under the Mr. Welcome’s stewardship, the Rapide’s motor was rebuilt to Black Shadow specification using solely OEM parts.

Just exactly how and when this Series C Rapide ‘came together’ is also something of a mystery. The UFM, or upper frame member complete with steering head, is from a C Series Comet (which was dispatched on November 11, 1950 to a dealer called Bannister in the county of Kent, south-east of London, England.) The number stamped on the RFM, or rear frame member complete with ‘swinging arm’, is hard to read because it is filled with paint but it is thought to be ‘original to the engine, and thus a Rapide. Unfortunately, the factory records for the engine are missing but it is thought that it dates from November through December 1953. Thus, one can imagine, perhaps, that the original Rapide may have had a frontal impact requiring a new front fork and steering head early in its life.

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On paper this engine upgrade means na increase of ten horsepower, from a quoted 45 at 5,300rpm to 55 at 5,700rpm, with the major hardware difference being high compression pistons and 1-1/8inch bore carburetors as opposed to 1-1/16inch – still Amals, of course. There were some internal materials changes at the factory and some ‘improvement’ fettling. All the work performed – both maintenance and restoration – on the bike during this long period – from its arrival in the USA in 1970 to its sale in 1995 – was undertaken by ‘Charlie’ at Charles Taylor Vincent Service of Stonington, Connecticut, and included in the history file are approximately 20 pages of receipts, and hand-written notes from Mr. Taylor to Mr. Welcome.

In 1995, the bike was sold to Miller Classic Cars in Groten, Massachusetts. It was then bought Jerry Wood, highly regarded historian and proprietor of J. Wood & Company Auctioneers. Jerry kept this Rapide in his collection until 2013. He is on record saying that he believes the bike has less than 500 miles on the Shadowized-motor – even after Jerry had replaced the original Lucas KVF magneto for a BTH to enhance the ‘starting experience.’ (The magneto is hidden by a cover and thus of little consequence to the ‘originality police.’) The headlamp glass is a period-style P700 tripod Lucas item replacing a Miller original. The bike has a lovely original profile. From the side, especially the right side, it is aesthetically picture perfect, from Girdraulic fork at the front to single muffler and ‘low’ fender at the rear. Standing still it carries that industrial-look…if you squint it could be doing 150mph!

Since 2013 the bike has been in an east coast private collection, and is now offered for sale. Today, the bike is in excellent condition. It carries its rich patina with obvious pride. And it starts and runs beautifully and is sold with a history file, toolkit, its original Lucas magneto, and shop manual.

Report by bonhams.com

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