The Series A Vincent-HRD Rapide (as featured in the July 2020 top 10) . . . the first and probably the most enigmatic Vincent twin.
Introduced in the late 1930s and with a production run of less than 100 machines, not many people would have ridden or even seen one of these handsome machines.
“Oh yes, the plumbers’ nightmare,” the clubroom experts proclaimed (on account of its multitude of outside oil pipes). Can it have been that bad?
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Of the three Series A riders I met, two raced them successfully at Brooklands and one learned to ride and passed his test on his father’s outfit!
Jim Kentish rode his big twin several times at Brooklands in unlimited races, gaining a Gold Star for lapping at over 100mph in 1938. A great all-rounder, Jim won a TT replica after the war on a Norton and a gold medal in the ISDT.
Streatham club member Ted Frend had been very disappointed with his Ariel Square Four and whilst admiring a new ‘Rapide’ at the Earl’s Court motorcycle show, Phil Vincent made him a part-exchange offer that he could not refuse.
Trained as an aircraft engineer, Ted prepared his machine to good effect and after riding to his second meeting, with clubmate Carl Pugh on the pillion, also lapped at over the ton to gain his Gold Star (actually, they were made of brass).
Straight-talking Ted reckoned his machine was capable of over 120mph.
“If this machine is as good as you say,” challenged club members, “why don’t you ride in the forthcoming grass track meeting?” Remember, pre-Second World War grass track circuits, unlike today’s speedway-inspired tracks, were much longer and featured left and right hand bends, with riders using stripped sports models.
Ted blew them away, winning several races and only retiring when his exhaust pipe came adrift.
After that meeting, all grass track races in the South-East Centre were restricted to a maximum capacity of 750cc!
Not content with this, Ted entered the 1938 International Six Days Trial, held in Wales, and was in line for a gold medal until a stone jammed in his back wheel, breaking teeth of the sprocket.
Not having the optional dual rear sprocket (funds being really tight), He was forced to retire. The bike was kept until after the war, when it was sold for a good profit. “The best all-round bike I ever owned,” Ted proclaimed.
Persuaded by friend Harold Daniell to enter the 1948 Senior TT on a new ‘garden gate’ Norton, Ted finished fourth . . . an amazing first-time result and was invited to join the AJS works team, riding the new Porcupine twin and 7R machines with Les Graham.
A few years later, in Belvedere, Kent, not far from the AMC factory, a young Colin Seeley was learning to ride on his father’s Series A twin combination and became rather good at it…
Read more Letters, Opinion, News and Features at www.classicmotorcyle.co.uk and in the September 2020 issue of The Classic Motorcycle – on sale now!