1947 Vincent Series B Rapide Frame no. R2312 Engine no. F10AB1313
Lot 333Ω
1947 Vincent Series B Rapide
Frame no. R2312 Engine no. F10AB1313
US$ 120,000 - 150,000
£72,000 - 90,000
Lot Details
1947 Vincent Series B Rapide
Frame no. R2312
Engine no. F10AB1313
This 1950 HRD-Vincent Rapide was originally delivered in 1950 to Alex Phillip of Aberdeen, Scotland. Phillip was recently demobbed from the Army, where he's been a bombardier in the Royal Artillery in WW2, and remained in the military in Europe postwar, learning general engineering and servicing commercial vehicles. With military pay saved up, he purchased his HRD-Vincent Rapide, and set about tuning the engine for greater speed. Phillip entered the 1000cc class for the second running of the Isle of Man Clubman's TT, and rode to the Island with his wife, Annie, on the pillion.

Phillip led the race from start to finish, winning at an average speed of 78.58mph - one of 7 Vincents entered in the 1000cc class. Phillips' time was nearly 5 minutes faster than the Senior Clubman's Norton Inter of PH Carter, and over 5 minutes faster than the second placed 1000cc competitor J Alexander. Photographs from the TT show Alex Phillip really 'down to it', hurtling down Creg-na-Baa at top speed, leading one newspaper to comment, "The sight of Alex Phillip airborne at 130mph going past the Highlander pub was enough to put patrons off strong drink forever."

After winning the Clubman's TT, Phillip was riding his HRD-Vincent home to Scotland, with Annie again on pillion, but were unfortunately broadsided by a truck at Ormskirk. Both were badly injured and spent 5 months in hospital, and the Vincent went back to the factory for repairs. It was re-commissioned to full Black Lightning spec, although it took nearly a year for Phillips to collect it; he took the train from Scotland so he could ride the Vincent home. On the 500-mile journey, he found it performed 'like a rocketship', but he'd been out of work nearly a year, and put the machine up for sale shortly after. The 'most enthusiastic' response to his ad was from Lt-Col. Jack Churchill, who purchased the machine.

'Mad Jack' Churchill had just bought what was likely the fastest road-going motorcycle in the world in 1951, an HRD-Vincent in Black Lightning tune with a victory at the Isle of Man TT under its belt. This was entirely fitting, for John Malcolm Thorpe Fleming Churchill was no ordinary rider. His motorcycling career began in the early 1920s with a Zenith OHV single, which he carried to Burma and India during his first stint in His Majesty's Army; notably, he became the first person in each of those countries to traverse significant stretches of wilderness on a motorcycle, although he was occasionally waylaid by an errant water buffalo. His skill at archery landed him a spot on Britain's team at the 1939 International competition at Oslo, and his bagpiping skills netted him a 2nd place in an officer's contest at the Aldershot (the only Englishman entered!). His piping, rowing, and archery skills are immortalized in the films 'Thief of Baghdad', 'Sabu', 'A Yank at Oxford,' and 'Ivanhoe.'

Churchill earned the nicknames 'Fighting Jack' and 'Mad Jack' during WW2, when his battle dress included a claybeg basket-hilt sword, plus a 6' tall longbow with custom-made 'war arrows'. In 1940, he scored the first and only 'kill' during WW2 using a bow and arrow, while organizing the retreat of trapped British soldiers in the village of l'Epinette. Hiding in a granary, he spotted 7 Germans hiding behind a wall, and let loose a shaft, which hit its mark deeply. He was seen the next day riding a commandeered Motobecane with his bow strapped to the chassis and arrows in the panniers, with the unfortunate German sergeant's cap adorning the headlamp. Churchill was great press fodder during the war, playing up his frequent wounds (occasionally with his wife's lipstick!), earning two Distinguished Service Orders, and carrying a bullet in his shoulder for 55 years.

There can be few motorcycles with such provenance; a genuine Isle of Man TT winning machine, owned by one of the most outstanding real-life characters of the 20th Century. Vincent club records confirm ownership by Alex Phillip (Nov.'47) and Jack Churchill (1951), and the Rapide is in excellent condition, ready for further adventures!

Saleroom notices

  • This motorcycle is subject to import duty of 2.5% of the sale price. Please note that the title for this motorcycle is in transit. Furthermore, please note that the frame has been replaced at some point in the machine's life and the original frame number stamped onto the UFM.
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