1939 Vincent HRD Series A Rapide
March 2, 2009 1:08 PM
According to legend, British flyboy Howard Raymond Davies spent his captivity in a German prison camp dreaming of building the perfect motorcycle. Less than ten years later, he started building the HRD, setting the gold standard for motorcycles throughout the decade of the 1930s.
Cambridge educated engineer Philip Vincent shared the same dream of building the perfect motorcycle. He acquired Davies’ trademark, good will and a few remaining parts for £500 in 1928. The company’s name was changed to Vincent HRD Co., Ltd, and remained so until 1949, when the 'HRD' was dropped to prevent any confusion with Harley-Davidson as Vincent jumped the pond to America. When Vincent decided that he wanted to start building his own engines, he sought out Phil Irving, who joined the company in 1931 as chief engineer. Together, the two Phils got to work designing their first twin, the Series A Rapide, which debuted in 1936.
The Rapide was the world's first fully suspended rear frame motorcycle, a feature on all Vincents going forward. Other innovations included the foot shift, side stand and four-speed gearbox. Perhaps the grandest innovation of all was the Rapide's proprietary 998cc air-cooled V-Twin, which produced 45 hp and achieved a startling top speed of 110 mph. It was simply the fastest thing on two wheels. In fact, the Rapide had so much power and torque, that its transmission wasn't strong enough to keep up with it, and its complex system of external piping caused it to be nicknamed the "Plumber's Nightmare." Thus only 78 of the Series A Rapides were produced, making Jay's, #50, a very rare motorcycle indeed.