Sid Biberman, Jacqueline Bickerstaff, Kevin Cameron,
Marty Dickerson, Roy Harper, Herb Harris,
Jerry Hatfield, Bill Hoddinott, Somer Hooker,
Stuart Jenkinson, Bruce Main-Smith, Glenn Shriver, and David Wright
down, or click on the name above to go directly to that individual’s
Phil Vincent and Argentina
By Somer Hooker
As World War Two ravaged Europe,
most manufacturers switched to wartime production. The Vincent
H.R.D. Works was no exception. Like many of the soldiers in
the front, both Phil Vincent and Phil Irving dreamed of motorcycles
after the war. Even with bombs dropping around them, they
were looking ahead to peacetime production and redesigning
the H.R.D. twin-cylinder Rapide. Finally, in 1946 they were
able to go into production with the new Series B Rapide. Pre-war
twins had been plagued by a poor clutch design, so Irving
developed a clever servo-clutch that was able to transfer
up to 200 horsepower.
father was a wealthy and well-connected Argentine rancher.
He had funded much of the acquisition of the H.R.D. Company.
Vincent himself had dual citizenship. During WWII, Argentina
had built up one of the largest gold reserves in the world.
The country had prospered by supplying beef to the troops
in the Pacific Theater. After WWII, Argentina could afford
to become an importing nation, while Europe was just crawling
out of the clutches of the war. There was little money for
motorcycles in England or Europe, but there was a great thirst
for vehicles in Argentina. Furthermore, the continuing sale
of beef facilitated the balance of trade between Argentina
and UK/Europe. Many a person remembers eating Argentine meat
after the Second World War.
The Argentine Vincent
importer, Cemic, was so hot to have a new motorcycle to display
at its upcoming show that it was decided to air freight the
first production Rapide to Buenos Aires. Though a fairly common
practice today, this was an almost unheard-of extravagance
in 1946. The show was a success, and orders came in for Vincents.
This was a double bonus for Phil Vincent, because as an exporter,
he got preference for allocation of steel and alloys essential
to the manufacture of his motorcycles. The UK needed hard
currency, and exporting products was the best way they could
get it. In fact, after the war, the British motorcycle industry
ranked third - only behind automobiles and whiskey –-
for earning export revenue for the UK. Phil Vincent saw an
opportunity and nurtured it, knowing that the Argentines’
sporting blood would provide a lucrative market.
In the late 1940s,
the popular markets for H.R.D.s were the United States (primarily
California), Australia, and Argentina. When some of the newer
models were released, they were showcased in these markets.
It is of particular significance that both the first production
Black Lightning and the first production Series C Black Shadow
–- both of which were fitted with Vincent’s innovative
Girdraulic fork - were sent to Argentina. At the same time,
H.R.D.s were used by the Argentine police. The bikes were
configured slightly differently for the Argentine market.
Typically, they were shipped with two 19-inch wheels instead
of the typical 20/19 setup. Steel valanced fenders, later
called “touring fenders,” were often fitted. Both
of these alterations were probably intended to help with the
poorer road conditions found in Argentina. Rocks thrown from
tires could slowly decimate the alloy fenders, and a wider
tire was less likely to plow.
Frankly, if it hadn’t
been for the lucrative Argentine market, Vincent might not
have made it after the war. In the years just subsequent to
the war, Vincent exported close to 800 bikes to Argentina.
This was probably 25 percent of the company’s production
prior to 1950. After 1950, most imports into Argentina were
cut off by the newly-elected Juan Peron. Peron mandated that
Argentina would become self-sufficient, and an isolationist
state. Suddenly this important market evaporated for the Stevenage
Flashes in Argentina
world and domestic markets helped compensate, but it was about
this time that Vincent began his second round of receivership
with his lending banks.
In 1991, I was fortunate
enough to go to Argentina and buy the remains of a restoration
shop. Due to the great imbalance between the Argentine peso
and the US dollar during the 1980s, there were many Argentines
smuggling motorcycles out of Argentina, into the US. At that
time, Argentina had laws to protect “National Treasures,”
but there were always ways to get objects out of the country,
usually with bribes. When I first went to Argentina, two significant
changes had taken place: the peso was pegged to the dollar,
and the prohibitions on exporting had been lifted. I was able
to acquire the remains of 18 Vincents, including part of a
Grey Flash single-cylinder racer. They were in poor shape
because the Argentines had not been able to import parts since
1950, so they were forced to make their own, and make do.
Many repairs were acts of desperation; some of the parts were
quite good and some of the repairs quite clever. I was introduced
to the owners of several private collections, and I found
a wealth of antique vehicles there, Vincents included. Argentines
are truly what we call “gearheads.” They love
their high-performance vehicles, and without them it is debatable
whether the Vincent H.R.D. works would have made it in the
days just following the war.
About the author:
Born in Memphis, Tennessee, in 1946, Somer Hooker was for
many years a professional in children's mental health. He
explains that his current profession as an international rare
motorcycle broker grew out of his efforts to keep an old Matchless
G15 running, and that a trip to Argentina in 1991 in search
of British motorcycles and parts was a break-through experience.
Today, he serves an international clientele of motorcycle
collectors in search of Broughs, Vincents, and other top-tier
marques. Hooker is pictured above at Daytona in 1997.
Notes from a Satisfied Vincent Customer
By Stuart Jenkinson
My first experience with Vincents
was with a Series B Rapide, which I bought in 1949, and for
two years I was the fastest guy on wheels in the North East
of England. But after this “honeymoon,” I was
persuaded by the local Vincent dealer that a Black Shadow
would “blow the Rapide into the weeds,” so I splashed
out on a 1952 Series C model. However, this bike turned out
to be no quicker, and I found out later that the Rapide had
in fact been “breathed on” by its previous owner.
Then in 1954, the enclosed Series D Vincents hit the motorcycling
press. I saw them at the ’54 Bike Show in London and
convinced myself that a new Black Prince -- a Shadow with
bodywork -- in 1955 would indeed be the ultimate touring iron.
The weather protection looked as if it would be a benefit
in the naff weather of my daily commute to work. I was fortunate
also in that the Black Prince purchase was followed fairly
soon by a job change that gave me two months of summer vacation
However, I have
to say that the first few years of ownership of the Prince
were a serious disappointment. The handling was abominable,
it leaked oil from every joint, the “weather protection”
only kept the pillion passenger’s back dry and the panniers
clean, and it rattled as much as both my earlier models. I
wrote to Paul Richardson, the then service manager for Vincent,
about this last point, and in his fairly short reply he merely
said, “Yes, of course, but you know that all aluminium
engines are noisier than cast iron ones, don’t you?
We trust that at the speeds at which your motorcycle was designed
to cruise, the noise is not really obtrusive.”
Then, after a few years of wallowing ownership, I decided
to bite the bullet and replaced the original Series D “rubber”
Upper Frame Member with the much stronger Series C unit, chopped
at the rear to accommodate the Series D rear monoshock. This
rather drastic modification, plus Koni shocks at both ends,
really transformed the handling. And, as several more years
went by, I gradually fettled all the oil leaks. By this time,
my forays into Europe were concentrated every year on Greece,
and it was here that another shortcoming became apparent.
At ambient temperatures in the low 40 degrees Celsius, on
dirt roads, with steep gradients, in first and second gears
for an hour and more at a time, I burnt out an exhaust valve
on two different occasions. Of course, I know that this isn’t
the sort of going that the bike was designed for, but since
by now I was pretty strongly attached to it, I decided to
modify it a bit more, rather than buy a different machine.
I ditched the original engine panels and the headlamp fairing,
and designed a fairing that gave far more cooling. This one
has two 100-watt Cibie lamps, and there’s now a 240
watt alternator to feed them. That 36 watt-Lucas dyno was
a tad puny!
ago a change of career enabled me to do even more European
touring, and now Vinnylonglegs and I are in Europe for more
than four months every year, leading groups of modern bikes
on two and three-week trips. It is true, of course, that in
spite of almost 53 years from new, we have only managed to
rack up 710,000 miles together, but I really am beginning
to love this bike.
To finish these notes I’d like to plagiarise one
of Phil Vincent’s phrases and say, “THE VINCENT.
The world’s best touring motorcycle.
This is a fact,
not a slogan!” It might also be appropriate here to
confirm another of PCV’s views, that the longevity of
his machines was not conducive to repeat customers. I feel
that Vinnylonglegs confirms his opinion. The bike is comfortable,
economical on fuel (60-plus per gallon), and is happy to cruise
all day at 70 mph on quarter throttle and 100 mph on half
throttle. It is easy to maintain, though in fact very little
maintenance is normally required in a year’s touring.
Spares are not expensive, and absolutely everything can be
obtained by return of post. And minor repairs (like changing
exhaust valves!) can be carried out with little more than
the standard tool kit, at the side of the road if need be.
Here is Vinnylonglegs’ maintenance
history after 53 years:
Five big ends: The
original Vincent unit lasted 50,000 miles. The second Vincent
unit lasted 100,000 miles. The third Vincent unit lasted 135,000
miles. The next Alpha unit lasted 340,000 miles. The current
Alpha unit has been in for 85,000 miles so far.
Re-bores: The first re-bore at 50,000 miles, second at 150,000 miles, third at 285,000 miles. Back to standard at 418,000 miles. Re-ringed at 478,000 miles. Last re-bore at 650,000 miles.
Bearings: All wheel bearings are still original, one set new gearbox bearings and three sets main engine bearings.
In spite of my claim that the Vincent is the world’s
best touring motorcycle, I have constantly striven to “gild
the lily” and to make it more fit for my purpose. Ignoring
minor developments like directional indicators, pannier equipment,
and high-level LED brake light, the most significant changes
Replaced original upper frame member with earlier stronger one.
Installed Lucas Rita ignition.
Installed a front fairing of my own design with improved lighting and 12-volt alternator.
Fitted temperature sensors fitted to both cylinders with two-way switch and gauge.
Installed disc brakes all round.
About the author:
Stuart Jenkinson served five years in the chemical industry
in plastics and pharmaceuticals, 28 years lecturing in chemistry,
and has spent 25 years running his own motorcycle touring
As It Was Then
By Bruce Main-Smith
Stevenage! On Britain's Great North Road, the famed A1. A factory in that Hertfordshire town's High Street in an olde-worlde and rambling building (though later newer and better works came with the Harper connection). It was Ted Davies, who most successfully raced a factory sidecar outfit, who told me of the delights of having that famous road on the doorstep. He was letting me drive his Lightning-powered three-wheeler, "114 mph available, Bruce," he said "and the place is the A1."
In those halcyon days there was no nationwide 70 mph speed limit. And what car could catch an innocent-looking, matte-alloy three-wheeler, with a barely silenced racing V-twin banging out the horsepower.
Ted, the tall and quietly-spoken factory development engineer
- who also brought the Picador target-towing engine up to
military capability as well as the Vincent lifeboat engine
- dwarfed Managing Director PCV, and it must be said
they did not always agree over everything, especially that
three-wheeler project of which only one example was built.
It was Ted who told me that, using the very same engine in
his racing outfit, there was nothing to choose between them
in lap times, and whilst his Lightning with Canterbury racing
sidecar was at its peak of development he felt that his pet
project, the three-wheeler, had good potential still to be
It must be said that PCV was rather aloof. I met him often and wondered if he was actually shy.
The factory in those post-war days had many great personalities.
Phil Irving (PEI) was the technical wizard, but let not the
reader suppose that Philip Conrad Vincent was not also most
capable when it came to sliderule and drawing board. Likeable
Ted Hampshire, a keen roadster sidecar man, assisted Paul
Richardson, the service manager. Paul was Dutch and friendly,
respected by all despite his onerous task of sometimes having
to bounce a warranty claim.
George Brown was the factory's famous solo racer and record breaker. From a Grey Flash in the TT thru to his very famous twin Gunga Din, the abruptly-mannered George not only raced 'em, but he and Bob Brown (no relation) road tested the product to okay it for delivery. George and his brother Cliff ran a motor cycle shop further along Stevenage High Street. He had a very bad crash at a Eppynt, tiny Welsh circuit, that hospitalized him and left its legacy of facial scars. There is no doubt he was a most courageous rider when it came to manhandling his 998 racer on the track, for he was not a big man.
It was pure muscle that enabled London-dealer Jack Surtees
to compete successfully with a Vincent outfit, crewed by his
lightweight son, John. John served an apprenticeship
at Stevenage, and I always recall him with gratitude when,
in 1955, he helped me with my twin's clutch in the paddock
at London's very own Crystal Palace circuit. Another likeable
Vincent H.R.D. man was Jack Williams, who went to be in charge
of AMC's race
department when Vincent staff were dispersed at closure. Jack had a spell at the helm of the ill-fated De Havilland motor cycle racing project. How that aircraft manufacturer got talked into bikes is to be attributed to the Austrian Dr. Joseph Ehrlich and his East German EMC split-single two-strokes.
When I was a staff man for Motor Cycling, I went up to Stevenage to field test (that's politely put) PCV's pet idea of a modular small two-stroke, which first appeared in a rotavator. It didn't catch on, nor did the Amanda water scooter. Both were ahead of their time. Later, Honda grabbed the small-industrial market, and nowadays Mr. Everyman pelts around Europe's inland waters aboard any of the numerous breeds of water scooters.
I would sum up PCV as being too much of a visionary, seeing
opportunities before the market was ready for his ideas. The
Series A twin was bedeviled by its heavy clutch and was
dubbed a "Plumber's Nightmare" (I had a 1937 Series
A Comet, and concur about oil leaks). The Series B, C,
and D had an overly clever servo clutch and far too many bells
& whistles. Simplified, the C could have been much cheaper,
and it would have sold better. But the Vincent was the most
revered of the post-war top-rankers. Right up to the present
day, the basic power plant, when substantially breathed upon,
hurls sprinters and roadsters alike down the tarmac in a way
that will cause the modern Japanese marques to take notice.
About the author:
For 12 years, Bruce Main-Smith was a staff writer for the
British magazine Motor Cycling, and was the Road
Test Editor at the time of its closure in 1967. He was well-known over
the years not only for his road test reports on manufacturer's
brand new machines, but also for his track tests of the very
best of Britain's racing bikes during the late fifties
and the sixties, usually at Silverstone or Brands Hatch. Before
joining the magazine, he campaigned his own Vincent H.R.D.
sidecar outfit, equipped with a home-brewed swinging-arm
rear suspension and his own short top-link in the Girdraulic
fork. He was sometimes Chairman, and later a Vice-President,
of the Vincent Owners Club. Main-Smith is pictured above on
the Sussex South Downs in 1951, with his 1950 Comet.
Philip Conrad Vincent: From One Vincent Owner’s Perspective
By Glenn Shriver
PCV was enamored with motorcycles
all of his life. He was an avid rider, and built his first
motorcycle while at Cambridge University. On this machine,
he developed his ideas for rear suspension and frame design
for which he earned his first patent. Later, when he wanted
to start manufacturing his own motorcycles, he was advised
to buy a well-known “name,” rather than use his
own. Discovering that the H.R.D. name was for sale, he acquired
it and the Vincent H.R.D. was born. Every motorcycle ever
produced by Vincent employed rear wheel suspension, but the
general riding public was suspect of such a new concept, in
spite of its obvious advantages.
About 1929, Phillip
Edward Irving, a young Australian similar in age to PCV, passengered
a Vincent H.R.D. sidecar outfit from Australia to England.
Becoming familiar with Vincent motorcycles during that experience,
PEI interviewed with PCV for a job as chief designer, and
was accepted. This was the beginning of a nearly 20-year association
with Vincent (as well as Velocette). PCV and PEI made the
perfect pair: Vincent had the ideas and Irving made them work.
Becoming disappointed with bought-in JAP and Rudge engines,
the first Vincent-H.R.D. engine (the 500cc Series A single
cylinder) was born in about 1934 or '35. Later, a twin Vincent
H.R.D. Series A engine came about in 1936. After successful
tests, it proved to be one of the fastest vehicles on the
roads, ergo PCV's brilliant promotional slogan: The Worlds
Fastest Standard Motorcycle--This is a Fact, Not a Slogan.
In their spare time
throughout World War II, while doing government work, the
two Phils dreamed of the perfect motorcycle to build after
the war. The subsequent Series B Rapide was so successful
that they dropped the single cylinder models until a public
outcry convinced them that there was a market for a good 500.
Subsequent speed trials around the world proved that their
new design was quite successful. The Vincent was the fastest
thing on two, three, or four wheels. In spite of this, Vincent
suffered from cash flow problems from day one. PCV had always
counted on his father, a wealthy English cattle rancher in
Argentina, to fund his manufacturing needs, but in those times
it was not possible to send large amounts of currency out
of Argentina as was hoped. Small amounts of money could be
sent from time to time, but the Vincent H.R.D. always suffered
from under funding.Financing could not be acquired in England
When Vincent was
forced to cease manufacturing motorcycles around 1956, their
order books were full to overflowing, but they could not obtain
the capital to buy the required raw materials or machine tools.
Towards the end, they tried an association with the Indian
Motocycle Co. in the USA. They built two experimental machines,
the "Vindian"- a Rapide engine in a Chief chassis,
and a second standard Vincent touring model with American
electrics, but both companies were in similar financial predicaments.
For awhile, Vincent hung on, making 50cc and 75cc two-stroke
industrial engines for lawn mowers, garden cultivators, personal
watercraft, clip-on motors for bicycles, and importing smaller
NSU motorcycles. But nothing clicked. It was an ignominious
end for a once-glorious company.
Being a member of
the Vincent H.R.D. Owners Club since I acquired my first Vincent
in 1971-a rather tired, used, and abused 1951 Series C Rapide
-I became aware of the struggles of PCV through the pages
of MPH, the club's excellent monthly periodical. Immediately,
one became aware that here was a very intelligent man, retired,
but not retiring, still very sharp and witty. PCV seemed rather
pleased (and vindicated) that his creations of 20 to 40 years
earlier continued to be so revered, and enjoyed by enthusiasts
all over the world.
As editor of STOP!, the newsletter
of the Chicago Section of the VOC, we sent PCV a lifetime
subscription, and he would, from time to time, comment on
various points in the periodical. In 1976, the Chicago Section
of the VOC invited Mr. Vincent to be our guest of honor at
the Annual North American VOC Rally—hosted in Pennsylvania
that year by the Northeast USA Section of the VOC. PCV sent
his apologies, but due to a motorcycle accident many years
was unable to fly, and graciously declined. In 1979,
while preparing for the International VOC Rally in England
that year, we asked a British official of the club, who was
knowledgeable of PCV's current health, if he thought PCV would
be amenable to our visiting him in London during the Rally.
We were told that PCV was not at all well, but somehow he
learned of this and wrote to us saying that we would "be
shot" if we did not stop in and see him during our visit
to England. Regrettably, PCV passed away that spring, prior
to the Rally. Freda, his wife, was present at the rally, and
we had a very pleasant chat with her. Several days later we
found ourselves staying with Vin-friends in Essex, and we
rode our Vincents over to Horndon-on-the-Hill to pay our respects
at PCV's grave.
PCV was a man who
was enthusiastically intense and intensely enthusiastic, absolutely
driven by his ideas. He had faith in his ideas and never wavered
in his thinking. He had to fight with his board of directors
to proceed with the Black Shadow, and ultimately the Black
Lightning, which is now totally revered, indeed worshipped
by the world's motorcycling cognocenti. PCV’s attitude
sometimes cost him friends and often made him enemies, but
he knew he was right and Vincent owners have been proving
it ever since.
He was a man who was far ahead of his time. He was a pioneer in the use of hydraulically damped suspension, which the two Phils applied with the Girdraulic front fork system. It was remarkably stronger than telescopic forks, and wonderfully smooth, when properly adjusted. When they could not buy a shock absorber to suit their specifications, Vincent invented and manufactured their own. PCV refused to join what he considered a fad to employ telescopic front forks because they were not as strong and their steering geometry was altered on full extension and compression. He pioneered the use of fiberglass when plastics were in their infancy. He was one of the first to use it for major engine enclosures, as in the Series D motorcycles, and in the Amanda personal water scooter.
After the Vincent factory closed, Mr. Vincent operated a small auto garage until his retirement. During his retirement, he worked on developing a new and revolutionary (no pun intended) rotary engine. PCV was indeed a man very much ahead of his time.
About the author:
Glenn Shriver still has his original 1951 Series C Rapide,
a “20-year-old crock for which I spent my life’s
savings (£225) that I didn’t even know how to
start.” Now, 37 years later, he says, “I don’t
think of the bike as being as old now as it was then!”
Later, he would attach a Steib S501 sidecar to his Rapide
and immediately embark on a 6,000-mile trip. In 1976, Shriver
acquired a 1936 Series A Comet that was raced at Brooklands
when new. He also owns a Vincent Firefly clipped on a British
Dunnelt bicycle, and in 2007 built from scratch a stainless
steel-framed Vincent-Egli with a 998cc Series B engine, electric
start, transistorized ignition, five-speed Quaif gearbox,
Mikuni carburetors, double-puck twin-disc front brakes, and
an alloy Manx tank. Shriver adds, “Also cluttering the
garage is a Vincent Rapier industrial rotary lawnmower.”
He has ridden his Vincents in America, Canada, the British
Isles (including the Isle of Man), and throughout Europe.
Shriver is pictured above with his 1951 Rapide/Steib S501
rig at Carmel, California, in 1980.
It Wasn't Easy
By David Wright
Casually written articles about Philip Vincent can give the impression that he was a young man bank-rolled by his father, who went on to establish and control the affairs of a company that carried his name smoothly into motorcycle history. That was not so, for whilst all businessmen experience setbacks, some of those encountered by Philip Conrad Vincent (PCV) would have persuaded less driven men to search for a more comfortable existence. Read about a few of them here and admire his fortitude.
Persuading his father to provide start-up money, twenty-year
old undergraduate PCV purchased the respected name of H.R.D.
and formed the Vincent H.R.D. Company Ltd. at Stevenage in
mid-1928. Toiling through the summer with a small workforce
on the design and manufacture of a range of JAP-powered bikes,
by late autumn he had five examples to take to the premier
British motorcycle show. Getting bikes to the show was an
incredible achievement and the fulfilment of a dream, but
the young man then suffered a nightmare blow to his confidence,
for at the end of the show he had to admit that he had not
sold a single machine nor taken an order for one!
Perhaps absence of sales was due to lack of input from an experienced designer to make the new bikes look right, or maybe it was PCV’s insistence on fitting rear suspension when the feature was not acceptable to the majority of buyers. Whatever the reason, in already depressed economic conditions, sales that eventually came were small, amounting to some 27 in 1929 and 35 in 1930. The backing of a wealthy father should have enabled him to weather the situation, but in 1929 came another hammer blow when, due to imposition of exchange regulations in Argentina where he was in business, Vincent Senior revealed that he could not make further instalments on the £30,000 that he had promised to invest in the new company.
Forced to look elsewhere for finance, PCV was fortunate to
receive the support of former university friend Bill Clarke,
who persuaded his father to invest in the firm in return for
the Chairman’s post for Clarke Senior and a seat on
the Board for Bill. But this brought a further setback, because
thereafter PCV was never in total control of ‘his’
company and when the Clarke’s money was later replaced
by that of merchant banks, he invariably had to play second
fiddle to the money men and their appointees. In 1933 he appeared
on the company letterhead as just a Director and in advertisements
of 1935 he is described as Retail Sales & Advertising
Director, not the boss.
Though sales increased during the 1930s, in its best pre-war
year of 1937, Vincent H.R.D. sold only 219 motorcycles, before
sales fell away as the country slid into conflict in 1939.
Hard work for the war effort of 1939-1945 enabled the company
to enhance its engineering facilities and the end of hostilities
saw it well equipped, but not with the machinery required
to produce high quality motorcycles. In post-war Britain the
dominant word was shortages, be it of raw materials, machine
tools, fuel, power supplies, tyres, batteries, etc. The only
thing not in short supply was demand for new motorcycles,
but the company was unable to take immediate advantage of
it, even though in the Series B Rapide it had a new and exciting
model. Nevertheless, PCV did his best to keep publicising
the Vincent motorcycle, but taking promotional trips abroad
was a risky business as he would return to find that the money
men had cancelled orders for machinery or raised prices, all
of which was detrimental towards turning the company into
a volume producer.
Production did increase in the late 1940s, but a major
expansion supposedly brokered by the
British Brockhouse Corporation
and involving joint projects with
Indian in the USA, went badly wrong and almost put Vincent
and Indian out of business. This meant that PCV, as Managing
Director, had to work with the Official Receiver (appointed
by law) in running the company for the next three years.
Despite the shaky financial position, sales continued to grow
and production peaked at 2,800 in 1950. But with a big debt
to service the company increased its sub-contract engineering
work and also embraced the design of the Picador pilotless
aircraft, powered by a modified twin-cylinder engine. This
diversification took design effort away from motorcycles,
and although still ‘The World’s Fastest Standard
Motorcycle,’ black and gold Vincents began to look dated
amongst the more colourful products of Triumph, BSA, etc.
who also developed larger versions of their twin-cylinder
engines and thus narrowed the performance gap to Vincents,
whilst being much cheaper.
Belatedly bringing out new models in 1954, the all-enclosed Series D Black Prince and Black Knight saw PCV offer the world his (correct) vision of the motorcycle of the future, only to suffer the pain of rejection by the majority. Introducing naked versions of the ‘D’ was not enough to save motorcycle production at Stevenage and it ceased in 1955, just as its products were breaking world speed records and adding further glory to the Vincent name.
As if the end of production for Vincent motorcycles was not a big enough setback for PCV, there were more to come. The potentially profitable Amanda water-scooter saw money invested to meet a large order, but just as fibre-glass enclosure had been the undoing of the Series D, so faulty fibreglass literally sunk the Amanda when it was found to soften under the sun’s rays in warmer climes. In 1960 PCV left the company he created, only to suffer further blows to his later business activities.
To countless enthusiasts worldwide, Vincent H.R.D. motorcycles
are remembered for providing them with some of the greatest
riding experiences of their lives, but for the man who designed
them, built them, sold them, and devoted his life’s
work to them, the production of those world-beating machines
did not provide him with an easy ride.
About the author:
David Wright bought his first Vincent in 1960, and has always
been keen on the Stevenage marque. He has written three books
on Vincents & HRDs, and four books on the Isle of Man
TT races. A resident of the Isle of Man, our photograph shows
him about to undertake Travelling Marshal duties on his Comet
during the TT Re-enactment Run that was held over the original
St. John’s TT course on May, 28, 2007.
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