The first machines to bear the ‘HRD’ badge though, were those made by Howard R Davies, racer and manufacturer, who not only won a TT on his own-made machine but also is the only man in history to have won the 500cc TT on a 350, which he achieved in 1921.
Philip Vincent (PCV) bought the HRD brand to attach to his own motorcycles, with the first Vincent-HRDs made in 1928. The first Vincent-HRD twin wasn’t built until 1936, so the singles came first. It’s been claimed that PCV reckoned the Series A Comet was the best motorcycle his firm ever built.
Owning and riding
As an owner, one becomes tired of the endless questions and comments: “Is that a Black Shadow, then?” or “My mate used to have one of them – his was a twin though,” and “Are you saving up for the other cylinder?” being among the oft-heard comments during the editor’s five years of Comet ownership.
Basically, though, the Comet, if taken on its own merits, is as fine a 1950-ish single cylinder machine as you’ll find, only hindered by a bit too much weight and a riding position that doesn’t suit all.
Description and years of models follow…
1926 Howard R Davies Super 90
The Howard Davies HRDs used JAP engines, with side valves and overhead valves offered, in capacities of 350cc, 500cc and occasionally 600cc. A quality motorcycle and TT winner (1925 Senior, 1927 Junior) they were one of the early exponents of the saddle tank phenomena.
1932 First Vincents
In the early days, Philip Vincent used proprietary engines in his Stevenage built machines. Motors were sourced from various suppliers, including JAP, Python (Rudge), Blackburne, Swiss firm MAG and even Villiers. All were made in miniscule numbers.
1934 Vincent Series A
Launched at the 1934 motorcycle show in both ‘cooking’ Meteor and ‘sporty’ Comet form, the model hadn’t even been run prior to the event, though that didn’t stop Philip Vincent from confidently proclaiming that the Comet would ‘do 90’. Happily, he was proved right.
1949 Vincent Series B Meteor
Very few Series B singles were made, and unlike the Series A (where the twin was based on the single), this time the single was based on the twin. Cycle parts were largely the same, though a Burman gearbox replaced the twin’s Vincent made component.
1950 Vincent Series C Comet
There were no Series B Comets made, and few C Meteors, with by far the most ‘common’ Vincent single (and today the most affordable Vincent) the Series C Comet. With equipment levels to shame most ‘opposition’ they were a luxury item, with 90mph performance.
1950 Vincent Grey Flash
Based on the racer campaigned by factory employee George Brown, others – including a young John Surtees and also Johnny Hodgkin – enjoyed some success on the grey machines too. A few were supplied with ‘road’ equipment. Made in tiny numbers, survivors are few and far between.
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