Black Shadow Spec – 1953 Vincent Rapide

In England, Sport by Mathieu Guyot-SionnestLeave a Comment

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Post Listing Update: This Rapide did not get any interest at the opening bid of $65,000.


In 1917, while serving as a prisoner during WWI, the British Royal Flying Corp pilot Howard Raymond Davies imagined a motorcycle design that he wanted to create at the end of the war. In 1924, with his partner EJ Massey, he launched the brand HRD (his initials). Despite some well performing bikes, by 1928, the company ran out of money and everything had to be sold from the factory – including the name itself.

For £450, the British manufacturer Phil Conrad Vincent acquired HRD, its remaining parts, and trademark. Vincent already had some motorcycle plans in its head, notably using a “cantilever” frame, and he needed an already established brand to develop them. HRD Vincent was born. From there until the next World War, HRD Vincent started producing its own engines. By 1934, the Vincent Meteor was launched using the first in-house engine, a 500cc OHV single.

But this was not enough for clients and Chief Engineer Phil Irving started thinking about the next step. By 1936, the Vincent 47.5 degree V Twin of 994cc was born as well as the Series A with the Vincent Rapide. Story says that as he was on his drawing board, playing with the already existing 500cc, Irving started inclining the engine forward at 23.75° and added a second cylinder inclined backward from its original position by 23.75°, which lead to the creation of the 47.5° Vtwin.

From there, in 1946, the Rapide received few improvements with the Series B. Oil lines were now internal –rather than external for the A. The engine went from 47.5° to 50° and became a stressed member of the frame. Brakes were improved to with double SLS (single leading shoes) for the front and the rear. Around these years, the Vincent started being imported to the US and had to remove “HRD” from their tank, so people would not think they were related to Harley-Davidson.

Then in 1948, the Series C was launched with the Black Shadow, a 1000cc evolution of the Rapide. Riders that dared to do it could reach speeds above 110 mph and they were known as the world’s fastest bikes. “The World’s fastest standard motorcycle. This is a fact, not a slogan”: this was Vincent’s advertising for the Series C Black Shadow. And it was damn true…

That same year, at the Bonneville Salt Flats, Roland “Rollie” Free stripped down, hopped on his Black Shadow with the seat removed, and rolled up to the scary 150 mph barrier. The one and only “Bathing Suit Bike” was born that day and the legend became real. To get more information about Vincent, check out Classic British Motorcycles.

The Vincent featured in this article is a beautiful Series C Rapide example. The seller is the second owner and still has all the original paperwork from the first owner. The engine was converted to Black Shadow specs and was rebuilt less than 100 miles ago. The seller still has original parts to convert it back to the Rapide, as well as many spare parts.

Find this Vincent in Clarendon Hills, Illinois with a starting bid of $65,000 and direct sale price of $67,500

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