1938 Vincent-HRD 500cc Series-A Comet
Registration no. DUR 851
Frame no. D1518
Engine no. C862
The Vincent-HRD marque originated in 1928 when Philip C Vincent acquired the name, jigs, tools and patterns of the recently liquidated HRD Company. (HRD stood for Howard Raymond Davies, the Isle of Man TT winner who had founded the firm in 1924). Vincent moved production from Wolverhampton to Stevenage and set about putting his motorcycle design ideas into practice, commencing with an innovative sprung frame that would remain a feature of Vincent motorcycles until production ceased in 1955. Like Davies before him, Vincent relied on proprietary engines until increasing dissatisfaction with suppliers led to the creation of Vincents own in 1934. An overhead-valve, 500cc single, this all-new power unit was designed jointly by PCV and his Chief Engineer Phil Irving who, so legend has it, later came up with the idea of a 1,000cc v-twin after seeing two drawings of the single superimposed on one another. By producing a v-twin in this fashion, many of the existing single-cylinder components could be utilised, thus reducing costs, an important factor for the fledgling concern.
Messrs Vincent and Irving brought fresh thinking to the design of what would become known as the Series-A motor, opting for a relatively short stroke of 90mm coupled to an 84mm bore, a high-set camshaft and two guides for each valve with the rocker arm engaging between them; the sum of all these features resulting in a compact engine with considerable scope for tuning. The names Comet and Meteor were chosen for the sports and touring versions respectively of the stylish new Vincent-HRD, which had not even been started, let alone ridden, when it was first exhibited at the 1934 Motor Cycle Show at Olympia. Fortunately, during the Show a tester achieved a speed of 90mph on a Comet, a highly respectable figure for a 500cc sports roadster and one that fully justified Philip Vincents prior performance claims. In the 1935 Isle of Man Senior TT, three of the new Vincent-HRDs finished in 7th, 9th and 12th places, demonstrating that they possessed reliability as well as speed. Sales increased steadily, but the Vincent was an expensive and exclusive product, and ownership remained the privilege of a wealthy few. Production of all Series-A Vincent-HRDs ceased on the outbreak of WW2, and today the single-cylinder Comet and Meteor the machines that effectively kick-started the Vincent legend are highly prized by discerning collectors.
This Vincent-HRD Comet was purchase new directly from the factory by its first owner, a Mr Barnard from Luton, on 21st May 1938, the order having been placed on 25th February that same year. The price new was £86 plus an extra £1 for the stainless-steel fuel tank and £2 for pillion equipment. Not used during WW2, the bike came to Devon in 1946 and had covered relatively few miles when second owner Mr Harold Pittwood purchased it. Harold, a motorcycle mechanic by trade, was working for Harold Coles who owned a motorcycle shop in Queen Street, Barnstaple. Mr Coles had a brother in London, also in the motorcycle trade, and he purchased the Comet from Mr Barnard on Harold Pittwoods behalf for the sum of £60. In 1949 Harold had an accident while riding the Comet, colliding with a Royal Enfield at Shirlwell Cross near Barnstaple, which possibly explains the bikes post-war Vincent front wheel and headlamp. A couple of years later, in 1951, Harold swapped the bike for his brother Georges cammy Velocette. George Pittwood used the Comet to take him to work, on holiday to Cornwall and Dorset, and also for weekly trips to Exeter Speedway. It was he that fitted the dual seat after complaints from his wife about the previous pillion saddle. Last licensed for the road in March 1964 after several years reliable service, the Comet was purchased by the current owner and registered in his name in June 1966. For the past 40-plus years it has been kept preserved in its original condition and was last started circa three years ago. The machine is offered with its original handbook, continuation old-style logbook (issued 1956), VMCC Dating Certificate, sundry expired tax discs, assorted literature, DVLA correspondence, VOC Parts List, photographs of various past owners, Swansea V5C registration document and a small quantity of assorted spares. Representing a rare opportunity to acquire one of the legendary Series-A Vincent-HRD singles, DUR 851 has covered only some 35,000-or-so miles from new and thus is presented in substantially original, unmolested condition.