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Vincent Motorcycles

About Vincent

Vincent Motorcycles was a British manufacturer of motorcycles from 1928 to 1955.

Vincent Motorcycles, "the makers of the world's fastest motorcycles", began with the purchase of HRD Motors Ltd less the factory premises, by Phil Vincent in May, 1928.

HRD was founded by the British Royal Flying Corps (RFC) pilot, Howard Raymond Davies, who was shot down and captured by the Germans in 1917. Legend has it that it was while a prisoner of war that he conceived the idea of building his own motorcycle, and contemplated how he might achieve that. It was not until 1924 that Davies entered into partnership with E J Massey, trading as HRD Motors. Various models were produced, generally powered by JAP engines.

Unfortunately, although HRD motorcycles won races, the company ran at a loss. In January 1928 it went into voluntary liquidation. The company was initially bought by Ernest Humphries of OK-Supreme Motors for the factory space, and the HRD name, jigs, tools, patterns, and remaining components were subsequently offered for sale again.

Philip Vincent was advised to start production under an established name. He had built a motorcycle of his own in 1927 and in 1928 had registered a patent for a cantilever rear suspension of his own design. With the backing of his family wealth from cattle ranching in Argentina, Vincent acquired the trademark, goodwill and remaining components of HRD from Humphries for £450 in 1928.

The company was promptly renamed Vincent HRD Co., Ltd and production moved to Stevenage. The new trademark had "Vincent" in very small letters above "HRD" written large. After World War 2 Britain had an export drive to repay its war debts, and the USA was the largest market for motorcycles, so in 1949 the HRD was dropped from the name to avoid any confusion with the "HD" of Harley Davidson, and the motorcycle became The Vincent.

In 1928 the first Vincent-HRD motorcycle used a JAP single-cylinder engine in a Vincent-designed cantilever frame. The earliest known example extant exists in Canberra, Australia. Some early bikes used Rudge-Python engines. But after a disastrous 1934 Isle of Man TT, with engine problems and all three entries failing to finish, Phil Vincent and Phil Irving decided to build their own engines.

Phil Vincent also experimented with three-wheeled vehicles, amphibious vehicles, and automobiles. In 1932 the first 3-wheeler, "The Vincent Bantam" appeared, powered by a 293cc Villiers engine. It was a 2.5 cwt delivery van with a car seat and a steering wheel.

In 1931 Phil Irving joined Vincent as chief engineer. His first engine design was an OHV 500 cc single-cylinder engine in 1934 called the "Meteor".

Vincent produced the Meteor and Comet motorcycle models, capable of 90+mph however his customers wanted more (don’t they always). 1936 saw the birth of the Series A Rapide, a V-Twin 998cc engine capable of 110mph and the following years saw Series B, C and the (unofficial) D all using the same basic engine design. These were the fastest production motorcycles the world had ever seen, many of them live on and continue racing to this day.

At a Vincent Owners' Club dinner in the summer of 1955, Phil Vincent announced that the company could no longer continue in the face of heavy losses and that production of motorcycles would cease almost immediately.

In 1955, one week before Christmas, the last Vincent came off the production line and was promptly labeled "The Last". The factory then turned to general engineering, the manufacture of industrial engines, and there was the Amanda water scooter. The company went into receivership in 1959. It has since been bought and sold by other engineering firms.

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