1954 SERIES "C" VINCENT RAPIDE

1954 SERIES "C" VINCENT RAPIDE


 
I still feel a shudder in my spine every time I see a picture of a Vincent Black Shadow
— Hunter S. Thompson
 

MOTORCYCLE DETAILS

—By Tim Parker

This 1954 VINCENT RAPIDE SERIES C with BLACK SHADOW UPGRADED MOTOR has some paperwork dating back to its original owner, one R.H. Juber, who bought it on February 2, 1954 in Newport, Wales (United Kingdom) 

The second owner, A.J. Welcome, bought the bike on August 24, 1970 for the sum of $650.00 from R.G. Wilson Motorcycle Sales in Boylston, Massachusetts and remained in his possession for 25 years, until June 24, 1995, that is. Under the Mr. Welcome’s stewardship, the Rapide's motor was rebuilt to Black Shadow specification using solely OEM parts.

Just exactly how and when this Series C Rapide “came together” is something of a mystery. The UFM, or upper frame member complete with steering head, is from a C Series Comet (which was dispatched on November 11, 1950 to a dealer called Bannister in the county of Kent, south-east of London.) The number stamped on the RFM, or rear frame member complete with “swinging arm”, is hard to read because it is filled with paint but it is thought to be “original for the engine.” Unfortunately the factory records for the engine are missing but it is thought to date from November or December 1953. Thus one can imagine, perhaps, that the original bike may have had a frontal impact requiring a new front fork and steering head early in its life. What is not in dispute is that the bike is a genuine Series C Rapide that is straight and true.


Since 2013 the bike has been in one of my customer’s private collection, and is now offered for sale. Today, the bike is in excellent condition. It carries its rich patina with obvious pride. And it starts and runs beautifully.


On paper this engine upgrade means a increase of 10 horsepower, from a quoted 45 at 5300rpm to 55 at 5700rpm, with the major hardware difference being high compression pistons and 1-1/8inch bore carburetors as opposed to 1-1/16inch – still Amals, of course. There were some internal materials changes at the factory and some “improvement” fettling. All the work performed – both maintenance and restoration - on the bike during this long period was undertaken by Charles “Charlie” Taylor Vincent Service of Stonington, Connecticut, and included in the history file are approximately 20 pages of receipts, and hand-written notes from Mr. Taylor to Mr. Welcome.

The bike has a lovely original profile. From the side, especially the right side, it is aesthetically picture perfect, from Girdraulic fork at the front to single muffler and “low” fender at the rear. Standing still it carries that industrial-look…if you squint it could be doing 150mph!

In 1995, the bike was sold to Miller Classic Cars in Groten, Massachusetts. It was then bought Jerry Wood, highly regarded historian and proprietor of J. Wood & Company Auctioneers. Jerry kept this Rapide in his collection until 2013. He is on record saying that he believes the bike has less than 500 miles on the Shadowized-motor – even after Jerry had replaced the original Lucas KVF magneto for a BTH to enhance the “starting experience.” (The magneto is hidden by a cover and thus of little consequence to the “originality police.”) The headlamp glass is a period-style P700 tripod Lucas item replacing a Miller original.


BIKE DETAILS

•  Engine # F10AB/1/10191

•  Matching crankcase halves # C69V

•  Upper Frame # RC/1/7257

•  Rear Frame # RC1290 (very hard to read, paint must be scraped away)

•  British registration plate OLN 795

•  Original registration book from 1954, Newport, Wales.

•  Excellent running and riding condition 

•  Upgraded Black Shadow motor using OEM parts

•  Excellent paint. An older restoration with beautiful patina.

•  Sold with a clean title, its tool kit and shop manual (and original Lucas magneto)

 
A Vincent owner might forget his wife’s birthday or anniversary, but never his engine number.
— Doug Carper
 

PHOTOS BY: RYAN HANDT

 

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DISCLAIMER

Every single bike I buy and sell, I personally go through—not someone else. I am the owner operator of my small business, and I take what I do very seriously.  I work on the bikes, I ride the bikes.

If you are serious about buying a true collector piece from someone who not only has a passion for these bikes, but works on them, rides them, and collects them then call me. Jokingly people say to me, “these bikes don’t seem so rare as there are so many in your shop” well... I consider myself a custodian for these machines, they should go to people who will love, and appreciate them.