1955 Vincent Black Knight
September 8, 2008 11:47 AM
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 began designing the remarkable line that was to include the fastest production motorcycle of its day, the Black Shadow.
Despite the recent pinnacle achieved with the Black Shadow, sales were falling in the early 1950s. In 1954, Vincent introduced three new models which would become known as Series D. The Black Knight was an upgraded Rapide which was fully enclosed - not streamlined - to protect riders from wind, rain and dirt thrown up from the road. In theory, the motorcycle's cladding provided a much needed opportunity to cut costs, and actually improved efficiency. But this sleek, futuristic styling didn't go over so well with riders of the period, as many stripped off the cladding, leaving very few in original condition for today's collectors. And of course, the hand built Vincents were quite expensive, at a time when cars were becoming more affordable. By the summer of 1955, Phil Vincent announced that the company was unable to sustain itself, and production ceased within the next six months. However, Phil did promise that Vincent parts would always be available, as they are to this day.