Trackmaster Build – 1952 Vincent Rapide

In Custom, England by Tim HuberLeave a Comment

99 percent of the time, modifying a 1952 Vincent isn’t remotely acceptable. Enter: the elusive one percent. This motorcycle is ridiculously noteworthy for a multitude of reasons; its frame, its powerplant, its previous owner(s), its components and hand-built parts, the list goes on. What you’re looking at is a “Lightning-ized” Rapide V-Twin stuffed into a Trackmaster flat tracker frame, then fitted with a long list of components to optimize this 65 year old machine’s performance.

In the 1960’s, purpose-built aftermarket frame companies started establishing names for themselves, and one of the biggest players in competition-use frames was Sonic Weld. In the late-1960’s two Sonic Weld employees – Ray Hensley and Neil Keen – would jump ship in order to start a new company: Trackmaster Frames. Trackmaster would go on to become a renowned producer of lightweight, hand-made racing frames, starting with frames for Britbike engines before expanding to include Japanese scoots, too. Dick Mann and Gene Romero both experienced success while riding Trackmaster-framed machines.

At some point, Trackmaster would trade hands and Rick Cresse and Gary Davis would become the company’s new co-owners. Cresse is a seasoned chassis builder and Davis is an ex-racer as well as a wildly successful Hollywood stuntman and coordinator:

That career enabled Davis to amass a collection of several hundred seriously gorgeous two-wheelers, though he sold off a lot of it a few years ago. From the research I did, it appears in early 2007 someone bought all the rights and tooling for Trackmaster Frames, though other sources suggest that Cresse and Davis still own it. Cresse does currently own Tri-C Engineering.

In 1955, a 15-year-old Tony Blackstock would make his racing debut aboard a genuine Vincent Black Lightning, igniting his life-long passion for antique Vincents. Fast forward half-a-century and Blackstock would end up meeting Cresse with whom he shared his idea for building a Trackmaster-framed Vincent racer. Trackmaster had never built a chassis for a Vincent, but in recent years the company had begun offering custom frame fabrication services. It just so happened that Gary was in possession of a 1952 Vincent Rapide, albeit in really poor shape. Blackstock would fork over the cash in order to get the ball rolling on this ambitious project.

Cresse started by first sending the 998cc V-Twin off to renowned engine specialist Marty Smith, who broke-down the power-plant, fixed a damaged shaft in the gearbox, installed a V3 clutch, and sprayed the engine with a fresh coat of paint. Meanwhile back at Trackmaster HQ (or possibly Tri-C Engineering’s HQ?), Cresse got to work creating a lightweight, 4130 chromoly, “half-miler” flat track frame with integral oil tank, full Heliarc welding on all seams and joints, and Trackmaster’s traditional nickel-plate finish for the Vincent engine. Because the V-Twin was markedly larger than the engines Trackmaster routinely builds frames for, the bespoke chassis also had to be lengthened by two inches.

Despite it technically being a flat tracker chassis, this particular frame was built with more street-oriented geometry. Making the Rapide tracker more streetable required adjusting the fork angle so Trackmaster designed and CNC-machined a special aircraft-grade aluminum triple clamp and solid billet. Next, a set of modern telescopic forks and disc brakes were borrowed from a Suzuki SV650. A headlight was also added to keep the project street-legal.

Other noteworthy elements of this unique build include NBJ shocks, Triumph speedo drive, Vincent five-inch speedo, bespoke aluminum rear-sprocket, custom-fabricated shifter and rear-brake control, and electric starter. In order to gussy-up the Vincent, a lightweight Matchless tank was added along with a custom leather seat with an integrated taillight off an old Army Jeep. The complete ground-up rebuild included new everything; barrels, two front heads, transmission, V3 multi-disc clutch, Carrillo rods, Black Lightning racing cams, Amal T.T. Carbs, B.T.H Magneto, and custom stainless exhaust pipes. Part of what makes this project such a good idea is that when compared to other large V-Twins, the all-aluminum Vincent unit construction engine and transmission are relatively compact and lightweight. By combining the aluminum V-Twin with the lightweight Trackmaster chassis, Cresse has managed to deliver a surprisingly nimble and well-handling machine that weighs in at just 360 lbs wet. This was the first Trackmaster Vincent, but I know the company has since completed at least one more.

Unsurprisingly, this example has garnered a deserved amount of attention, taking home the Best in Show Award at the SLO Classic Motorcycle Show (held by the CA Central Coast Motorcycle Club). This exact example is also featured in its own multi-page spread in the book Vincent Motorcycles: The Untold Story Since 1946 by Philippe Guyony. The March 2010 (#734) issue of MPH; The Journal of the Vincent H.R.D. Owners Club also dedicates more than a dozen pages to this particular project and raising the stakes ever further is the fact this example has only had four miles put on it since being completed. There are just so many reasons as to why this is an insanely special motorcycle.

You can find this Trackmaster Vincent Rapide custom flat tracker for sale here on Hemmings classifieds in San Luis Obispo County, California with a price of $75,000.