1948 Vincent-HRD 998cc Rapide Series B
Frame no. R3086
Engine no. F10AB/1/1096
Crankcase mating no. L59
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). Like Davies, Vincent relied on proprietary engines until increasing dissatisfaction with suppliers led to the creation of Vincent's own engine in 1934. A 500cc high-camshaft overhead-valve single, this all-new power unit was designed jointly by PCV and his Chief Engineer, Phil Irving who, so legend has it, 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 utilized, thus reducing costs, an important factor for the fledgling concern.
On test, the prototype engine proved to be as powerful as its looks suggested, delivering a maximum of 45bhp at 5,500rpm on a relatively low 6.8:1 compression ratio. It was installed in a new version of Vincent's trademark sprung frame equipped with Burman four-speed gearbox, girder front fork and powerful twin front brakes, the complete machine tipping the scales at an admirable 430lbs. On the road the Series A Rapide fulfilled all of its maker's expectations, proving capable of reaching 110mph, comfortably faster then the rival Brough Superior SS100.
The outbreak of WWII 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 swingarm 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 110mph. The basic design clearly had even greater potential though, which would be realized 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 an 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 interim period there was considerable variation in the specification of individual machines, further complicated by Phillip Vincent's decision in 1949 to drop the 'HRD' part of the name, which hitherto had appeared on frame/tank decals and various external engine components. Establishing the exact 'factory specification' for a Vincent of this period is difficult, to say the least, and many Series B models have since been upgraded by their owners to incorporate the Series C improvements.
Purchased from Australia in 2003, the example offered here appears to be largely to early Series B specification complete with Brampton fork, straight seat lugs and 'HRD' tank decal and timing cover. Presented in very nice overall condition, the machine is offered with Vincent Owners Club Certificate of Authenticity, copies of the Works Order Form, factory build details and State of Illinois Certificate of Title. It is expected that a complete exhaust system will be with this motorcycle at time of sale.