The ex Jack Surtees / Jose Amat, 1947 Vincent-HRD 998cc Rapide Series-B Rapide Project Frame no. UFM 690 (partial) RFM not visible Engine no. F10AB/1A/70

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Lot 164
The ex Jack Surtees / Jose Amat, 1947 Vincent-HRD 998cc Rapide Series-B Project
Frame no. UFM 690 (partial) RFM not visible Engine no. F10AB/1A/70

US$ 40,000 - 60,000
£ 30,000 - 46,000
The ex Jack Surtees / Jose Amat
1947 Vincent-HRD 998cc Rapide Series-B Project
Frame no. UFM 690 (partial) RFM not visible
Engine no. F10AB/1A/70
Crankcase mating no: A51

· An ex-Surtees family motorcycle
· Jack and John raced together on it as a sidecar
· A real piece of Motorsport History

The late John Surtees CBE (born February 11, 1934 – died March 10, 2017) - always referred to by Enzo Ferrari as Il Grande John and a favorite of George Barber of the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum just outside Birmingham, Alabama who has a dedicated area to his hero's success – was uniquely a double World Champion, on two wheels in 1956, '58, '59 and '60 riding for Count Agusta's MV team and in Formula 1 on four wheels in 1964 for Ferrari. But these World Championships titles tell less than half the Surtees track story for he ultimately created his own race car brand that soon gained international success.

The son of a south-London motorcycle dealer (and racer), Jack Surtees had John ride in the sidecar of his racing Vincent grasstracker at the age of 13 or 14 in a 'speed trial' at Trent Park in Enfield, north London, only to be disqualified because he was too young. However, at 16, in 1950 John went to work in Stevenage – north of London just past 'De Havilland' – at the Vincent factory as an apprentice. And, thus, he soon became a 'Vincent Man.' Not only did he build his own Vincents like his father did but he also raced them, his iconic, highly developed Grey Flash being perhaps the best known.

The bike on offer is the Surtees father and son (what was known as a) Quick Rapide built to a similar specification to that of the heroic George Brown's factory sponsored 'Gunga Din'. Gunga Din started life as a Series B Rapide completed on April 3, 1947 with serial no. 10AB/1A/71. The Kiplingesque track bike soon became a road development mule to be abandoned at the factory when it shut for the last time.

Full disclosure: The full Upper Frame Number of this project is no longer visible – it reads 690 – although it is thought to be R2690, a Rapide replacement frame member. The Rear Frame Member number has disappeared altogether (when supplied by the factory the UFM and the RFM the numbers would have matched.)

Simon Dinsdale, Machine Registrar of the Vincent HRD Owners Club in a letter to the seller, writes: 'Engine F10AB/1A/70 was built in March 1947 at the same time as the famous Gunga Din which was engine 1A/71. And engine 1A/70 was built to a similar specification as Gunga Din, but I cannot say they were both exactly the same spec as some details appear to be different. Engine 1A/70 was then built into a frame and sold to Jack Surtees in April 1947 in racing spec and with sidecar gearing, so probably for sidecar racing.

'In March 1948 the bike was returned back to the factory and the factory rebuilt the engine and fitted into a replacement frame, R2690, which is not the original frame that Jack Surtees used. The rebuilt engine in its new frame was then shipped as a complete bike to Jose Amat, Vincent dealer in Cuba, on March 27, 1948. This bike appears to have been fitted with 1-5/32in Amal TT carbs, racing mudguards (no hinge in the rear mudguard), rev counter, no lights and no silencer. Its color was black. Both the earlier 1947 and rebuilt 1948 bikes that had engine 1A/70 in it are listed as Series B Rapide as the model. The engine was reported to be in Chicago in 1975 but the then owner did not report any frame numbers at the time. This is the first time I have the engine listed in the database since it left the factory.'

Back to Jose Amat...he put an ad in the very first issue of MPH in January of 1949 where he challenged anyone that could beat his Rapide to a $300 race. Given that the bike was sent to him on April 27, 1948 it is thought to be a safe assumption this bike would have carried (the Surtees) 1A/70 engine. There is also an image of the Amat Rapide with a 'lightning bolt design on the tank' although the frame is not chromed in the picture, however, the time frame lines up. Worth noting is that the Amats were well known to order chrome Vincent gas tanks, although this bike was not one of those, It is possible it was chromed later. Also, in MPH is mention of Jose Amat Jr. winning the Cuban open class and circuit championships in '48 and 49' with his 'Lightning', again given the timeframe it would probably be fair to assume it's this machine. It is said that the Amat family fled Cuba with the fall of Fulgencio Batista in 1959, Jose Jr. moved to Chicago and brought the bike with him.

The bike as it is today is in pieces and justly defined as a 'project.' The UFM and RFM have been chrome plated and in the process the UFM has lost a couple of digits and the RFM frame numbers have become completely unreadable, the data probably polished away in the preparation process and as such cannot be confirmed.

The engine has been identified as 1A/70 but the seller is assuming that both the UFM and RFM 'belong' to it and that these three major parts do make up the 'Surtees father and son' bike's 'heart and soul.' All the 'tees are crossed and the eyes dotted' bar for the 'polished chrome polished too far'.

If R2690 were fully visible on both the UFM and RFM, we would be offering the ex-Surtees Quick Rapide with full, unquestionable provenance. But irrespective, we do certainly have a serious motorcycle artefact of infinite fascination...

Footnotes

  • Offered on Bill of Sale. As with all Lots in the Sale, this Lot is sold 'as is/where is' and Bidders must satisfy themselves as to the provenance, condition, age, completeness and originality prior to bidding.
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