1935 Vincent-HRD 500cc Series-A Meteor
Registration no. BCE 168
Frame no. D110/6
Engine no. M249
Phil Vincent courageously entered the motorcycle industry while still in his teens, in an era when the Depression had slowed the sales of all motorcycles to a minimum. Having acquired the defunct but respected HRD name from OK Supreme, in the late 1920s, it was most definitely a struggle for the initial few years described by author David Wright, in VINCENT, the Complete Story [The Crowood Press], as The Lean Years when the production of hand built HRDs was running at less than 50 bikes per annum. The motorcycles were fitted with engines sourced either from J.A.P., Rudge, or Python [a Rudge derivative]. After four years Phil was fortuitously joined on the design side by Phil Irving, from which point HRD began gaining a deserved reputation as a machine for the discerning rider. But, beset by engine supply difficulties in mid 1934, Vincent took a wise decision to manufacture his own motor, with a target date for introduction at Olympias annual Show, barely four months hence. Although in fact existing models already sported dual brakes and cantilever rear suspension [advanced features to which his clientele were only slowly appreciating] the all-new HRD with its ingenious system for operating the valves was most warmly received at its unveiling in London. Vincents new design, with considerable input from Irving, bristled with technical features that broke new ground, quite apart from its role as the forerunner of Britains most renowned range of post war motorcycles.
In addition to continuing the range, such as it was, of the previous models to special order, HRDs main focus for 1935 were three versions of the new 500cc design; namely, a standard Meteor, a sportier spec Comet, and a TT race model, all subsequently categorised as Series A. Pre-war HRDs, irrespective how many cylinders, are often accused of resembling a Plumbers Nightmare, but it must be stated the distinctive looking pushrod tunnels were an attractive alternative to the traditional positioned parallel tubes. Not only that but the Meteors massive ribbed crankcases helped fill the frame to perfection, inasmuch these HRDs now possessed a certain cosmetic appeal that was lacking in their proprietary-powered models.
Purchased in 2006 from a gentleman who had rebuilt the Meteor over several years the present owner spent a considerable amount of time ensuring that everything inside the engine, and throughout the chassis, functioned correctly. Indeed it did, for he enjoyed a stress free 350-mile trip, starting from Hertfordshire, to the 2007 Isle of Man Rally. In total to date he has completed less than 500 miles on the machine, which, on the occasion of our visit, started second kick. Tick-over, needless to say, was steady, and the level of the Vincents noise was a tribute to his fettling skills! Finished in a good standard of black and chrome, and fitted with a Burman gearbox, this early example Series A is a deceptively handsome motorcycle. Part of the accompanying provenance is a letter from the first owner, authenticating his purchase of BCE 168 direct from the factory in 1936, and confirming it was serviced at Stevenage through till 1940. A few spares are included, plus the original set of levers and black handlebars. Supplied with Registration documents, and a selection of bills for the work carried out.