c1949 Vincent HRD Rapide 998cc Motorcycle
Vincent was a well-established name on the world stage by the early post-war years and the flagship Rapide model recognised as being the world's fastest production motorcycle until the Black Shadow came along. Originally launched as the Series A in 1937, the Rapide utilised an air-cooled V-twin designed by talented Australian engineer Phil Irving housed in a frame with cantilever rear suspension, a stainless steel tank, a foot-change four-speed Burman gearbox and a side stand. Developing 45 horsepower, the earliest V-twins suffered from gearbox and clutch problems, something Vincent addressed with the Series B of 1945 by switching to unit construction, with the engine (now using a 50-degree cylinder angle) becoming integral with the frame. Other changes included 'Girdraulic' front forks and triangulated rear springing, plus 7-inch single-leading shoe brakes front and rear. Vincent continued manufacturing Rapides during the war and and later moved to a more modern hydraulic shock absorber set-up and semi-sprung seat, while the gear-change and brakes were adjustable for reach to suit the rider, making for a very comfortable ride. Rapides, in Series C and D guises, continued in production through to 1955. Technologically advanced, the Vincent Rapide was certainly one of the finest high performance motorcycles on the market but quality never came cheaply and the steep price put bike well beyond the reach of most enthusiasts when new. Today the Rapides, and their Black Shadow offshoots, have attained cult status amongst motorcycle fans with a cult following and survivors are sought after by collectors the world over.