The ex-Works, George Brown,1947 Vincent-HRD 498cc ‘Cadwell Special’ Racing Motorcycle
Lot 419
The ex-Works, George Brown,1947 Vincent-HRD 498cc ‘Cadwell Special’ Racing Motorcycle
Sold for £34,500 (US$ 58,048) inc. premium
Lot Details
The ex-Works, George Brown
1947 Vincent-HRD 498cc ‘Cadwell Special’ Racing Motorcycle
Engine no. F5AB/1/1461
This single-cylinder Vincent racer was constructed at the Stevenage factory by works rider George Brown in the winter of 1946/47 and ridden by him to numerous victories at Cadwell Park, Scarborough and other venues, gaining the nickname ‘Cadwell Special’ as a result of George’s dominance at the demanding Lincolnshire circuit.

One of the legendary figures of British road racing and (later) sprinting, George Brown started work at the Vincent-HRD factory in 1934, at first in the service department and then as a test rider. He competed in grass-track events pre-war on a Velocette and rode one of the first Series-A twins at Brooklands, but his racing career did not commenced properly until hostilities had ended in 1945.
In the winter of 1946/47, George Brown and service foreman Norman Brewster approached Phillip Vincent with the idea of building a Comet-based racer. PCV gave his consent on condition that only existing spare parts were used. In George Brown, Cliff Brown’s biography of his brother, Cliff, who also was employed at the Stevenage factory, recalls that the pair used the frame and engine of a pre-war Comet Special – engine number ‘TTC17’. “It turned out to be a very successful machine. Its first outing was at Cadwell Park which, following the demise of Brooklands, became the main place for racing on the mainland. It was at Cadwell that George competed for the handsome silver Folbigg Trophy and on this machine won it three or four times in all. So what more natural that it should be dubbed the Cadwell Special.”

At around this time, Phillip Vincent was approached by the West Ham Speedway Team with the proposal that Vincent’s produce an engine suitable for the sport. The resulting Vincent speedway motor was basically a pre-war A-Series bottom end fitted with a cylinder barrel and ’head from the new B-Series Rapide, from which the cooling fins had been removed to facilitate quicker warm-up. Engines were loaned to West Ham and performed admirably throughout the trial season, but the project eventually foundered and work proceeded no further. Because the speedway engine had gone so well, George Brown removed ‘TTC17’ and fitted a modified speedway unit to the Cadwell Special in its place. A fin-less engine would have been quite unsuitable for road racing, so the principle modification must have been the reinstatement of a standard barrel and ’head.

Wins continued to come following these improvements, as Cliff Brown recalled: “At this time George was turning in some extremely creditable performances, both on the Cadwell bike and Gunga Din (the Series-B Rapide racer) and just before the 1948 TT I remember that at Haddenham in Buckinghamshire he won every race he entered on the Cadwell bike. And this was against some really top-line professional racing opposition in the form of Nortons, AJSs and Triumphs ridden by Geoff Duke, Bill Doran, Ted Frend, Syd Barnett and the Australian Harry Hinton.”

In spite of its countless successes, the Cadwell Special was destined for early retirement as Phillip Vincent wanted George to concentrate on racing current models. What happened to it over the course of the succeeding 20-or-so years is not known, but in 1968 Eric Houseley rediscovered the machine, which was hanging from the roof of a garage in Yorkshire, recognising it immediately as the same one he had raced against in the late 1940s. The Cadwell Special was subsequently converted to run on petrol (rather than alcohol) and raced with great success by Eric’s son David in vintage events during the 1970s.

Compared with larger and better funded rivals, Vincent-HRD built very few works racing machines, so the Cadwell Special represents a rare opportunity to acquire a genuine Vincent factory bike, constructed and raced by one of the most talented riders of his generation, the great George Brown.
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