An Exquisite Vincent Motorcycle That Costs More Than A Porsche 911 GT3 RS - SUV VEHICLE

An Exquisite Vincent Motorcycle That Costs More Than A Porsche 911 GT3 RS

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Summary

  • The Vincent-HRD Rapide Series-A is one of the rarest and most special motorcycles with only 79 units produced.
  • It was Vincent’s first V-twin and set the stage for legendary models like the Black Lightning.
  • A meticulously restored Rapide Series-A, nicknamed the Grunter, is up for auction at The Spring Stafford Sale.



The 1930s saw the birth of two legendary motorcycles, the Brough Superior SS100 and Vincent-HRD Series-A Rapide. Today, both motorcycles are the ultimate barn finds, with the latter being more special and hard-to-find name between the two. Unlike the SS100 whose production numbers ran into the hundreds, only 79 Series-As went into production. Expert opinions differ on the exact numbers, though.

Nevertheless, in 2024, Vincent motorcycles are some of the rarest bikes you can find, and the Rapide Series-A is rarer still. Perhaps, it is only overshadowed by the Black Shadow and the Black Lighting when it comes to being rarities in the auction market. Here’s everything you need to know about it, followed by a rare opportunity to own one. If your pocket is deep enough, that is.

In order to give you the most up-to-date and accurate information possible, the data used to compile this article was sourced from Bonhams and other authoritative sources, including Vincent Owners Club and Auto Evolution.


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The Vincent Black Shadow deserves a high pedestal and reverence.

The Birth Of Vincent’s V-Twin

Philip Vincent’s love affair with bikes was old; in his 20s, he even filed a patent for a cantilever rear suspension design. With his passion, along with his family’s backing, he managed to purchase HRD Motors from Howard R Davies in 1928. This gave him access to HRD’s name, tools, patterns, and much more. The Vincent motorcycle was born.

Post HRD overtake, Vincent moved production to Stevenage, where he stacked his name above the HRD logo. The young company picked up where HRD left off, building single-cylinder JAP and Rudge-powered bikes. This time, however, the bikes used Vincent’s sprung frame design and patented cantilever suspension.


Unfortunately, these third-party engines weren’t up to the mark on the Isle of Man. So Vincent and his engineer, Philip Irving, produced a 499cc OHV Meteor engine, used in the Meteor and Comet models. This was a high-camshaft, overhead-valve design. Legend has it: Irving once noticed the drawings of this single superimposed on each other, and he came up with Vincent’s first V-twin. Many existing parts, twice the displacement, and immeasurable appeal are the fitting ways to define it.

The Plumber’s Nightmare, A Biker’s Dream

Power Output: 55 HP @ 5,500 RPM

Vincent-HRD Rapide Series-A Grunter V-twin close-up
Bonhams


The V-twin developed by Vincent and Irving was unlike other V-twins of the time. The prototype engine was powerful, pushing 55 ponies at 5,500 RPM with a relatively low compression ratio of 6.8:1–an impressive figure for a 500cc motorcycle even today. They plonked the engine in an updated sprung frame with updated components, and the Vincent-HRD Rapide Series-A was born.

The bike was far from perfect, though. The 47-degree V-twin was essentially two single top ends on new crankcase halves. Both the cylinders were identical, with headers facing the front; this saved costs but earned the engine the ‘Plumber’s Nightmare’ moniker due to external pipes and hoses. Its Burman gearbox was not up to the task, either. Owners were advised to avoid WOT (wide open throttle) until the clutch level was fully disengaged. On similar lines, the brakes were insufficient.

Nonetheless, the bike was revolutionary. It fulfilled expectations and beyond. It weighed close to 450 pounds, which was light for the time, which helped it reach 110 MPH. The Rapide was faster than its biggest rival, the JAP-powered SS100. Much to Vincent’s dismay, the motorcycle didn’t sell much.


Rapide Series-A Production Run And Vincent’s End

The Rapide Series-A was first displayed at the 1936 Motor Cycle Show, Olympia, in 1936. The following year, only a handful ever found owners. Bikers were skeptical of the young brand’s performance claims, but racers Manliffe Barrington and ‘Ginger’ Wood came to the rescue. The bike broke the Donington Park lap record in 1938 while setting a standing quarter-mile time of 11.75 seconds at Gatwick sprint.

Vincent-HRD Rapide Series-A Grunter detail shot
Bonhams


The year 1939 saw the start of World War II, which put Vincent’s motorcycle production to a halt. The last of the Series-A was built somewhere around July 1939. Post-war, Vincent resumed motorcycle production in 1946, this time, with a new Series-B. This all-new motorcycle used revised cylinder geometry, unit construction, and frame updates. Close to 1,800 Series-Bs were produced, and it was followed by the Series-C, Black Shadow. Between 1928 and 1955, Vincent produced over 11,000 motorcycles, but only 79 units of its first V-twin bike were produced. Today, only 60 to 65 Rapide Series-A survive.

Motorcycle Highlights

  • Engine used high-set camshafts
  • Two Amal carbs fed the engine
  • External pipes and hoses were fed by dry-sump oiling
  • Cylinders were relatively short, giving the engine a muscular look
  • It used Burman four-speed gearbox
  • Front end relied on a girder fork for suspension
  • Tiny dual drums at the front and a single at the back stopped the bike (or at least they tried to)


Performance Specifications

Engine Type

47-degrees, OHV, V-twin

Displacement

998cc

Compression Ratio

6.7:1

Frame Type

Brazed lug duplex tubular cradle

Front Suspension

Vincent girdaulic fork

Rear Suspension

Cantilever rear springing

Seat Height

32.5 in

Weight

455 lbs

Top Speed

110 MPH

(Specs sourced from Auto Evolution)

A Once In a Lifetime Opportunity To Own This Vincent

Auction Estimate: £240,000 to £280,000 (Roughly $299,000 to $349,000)

Vincent-HRD Rapide Series-A Grunter
Bonhams


If you’re drooling over this like us, we have good news for you. Bonhams has listed a Vincent-HRD Rapide Series-A for auction and it’s a special one. Something as legendary as the Series-A is bound to cost a bomb, but one with numbers-matching original case halves and chassis is a different ballgame altogether. What’s more, this particular motorcycle also brings comprehensive documentation and ownership history post-1955!

The Interesting Life And Birth Of The Grunter

The motorcycle began its life in February 1938, when it was sent to Adams & Gibbon, dealers in Newcastle-upon-Tyne. On 1st March 1938, it was registered as FTN 938. Over time, it went through a series of owners, and it was even owned by John Griffith, the former VMCC President.


In October 1990, George Pollard, a dealer, purchased the bike at a UK auction for a well-known Japanese collector. The bike was then acquired by the current owner in Japan in 2002, and at the time, the bike was nothing more than an IKEA special vintage. It was disassembled and had clearly been through… let’s just say a few speed bumps along the way. The basket even came with incorrect components. Fortunately, the vendor went above and beyond to restore the motorcycle to its original state — almost.

Vincent-HRD Series A Details
Bonhams

The first thing the current owner did was run the frame and crankcase numbers past Vincent Owner’s Club’s then Registrar, Goron Powell. They matched. Then, they sent the crated bike to the UK in 2004 for a meticulous restoration. Everything was put together with the help of Neal Videan, Jeff Hunter, Conway Motors, Corrillo, and Maughan & Sons.


The changes are too lengthy to be listed here, but every little detail was considered, down to the tachometer needle and the domed glass in the ammeter! The restored bike uses various original parts combined with refurbished parts, and accurate replacements fill the void anywhere. Bonham claims that even the most distinguished Vincent experts would only find a few details that differ from the original 1938 condition.

In May 2016, the owner got to view the assembled bike, and on Boxing Day, 2017, the bike was fired up. Over the following weeks, multiple progressively longer test rides were undertaken, and by the time the owner got to ride the bike, it had already covered 350 miles. During this time, the bike also earned the title ‘Grunter’.

The Current Owner’s First Impression Of The Grunter

The experience is way beyond any expectations that I had… Suffice it to say that there is merit and substance to the legend these machines generate: the power is phenomenal and the handling fine; ‘the power of a twin with the handling of a single’ indeed.


Up For Auction At The Spring Stafford Sale

Vincent-HRD Rapide Series-A Grunter
Bonhams

Related
10 Vintage Motorcycles Whose Values Have Soared

Motorcycles whose values have doubled, tripled, quadrupled… You get the gist. Some of these even cost close to a million dollars

The 1938 Vincent-HRD Rapide Series-A ‘Grunter’ is one of only 79 examples ever produced, and it deserves a pedestal about as high as any of the most influential motorcycles ever produced. Sure, there are better and faster Vincents, but that doesn’t take anything away from this masterpiece. This was Vincent’s first V-twin, setting in motion a domino effect that would end with the legendary Vincent Black Lightning, the fastest motorcycle for 20-odd years at the time.

1938 Vincent-HRD Rapide Series-A ‘Grunter’ Details

  • Registration number: FTN 938
  • Frame number: DV1476
  • Engine Number: V1017
  • One of 79 Rapide Series-A units
  • Comes with a comprehensive history of documents, including invoices, logbooks, V5C, factory record copies, Japanese paperwork, technical drawings, etc.


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