1952 Vincent Rapide For Sale

1952 Vincent Rapide R Side

Thanks to reader Jess for pointing this one out. In the minds of motorcyclists of a certain age, no motorcycle can really match the aura and mystique of a v-twin Vincent. Expensive, powerful, dripping with exotic technology, and produced only in muted colors that were either serious or sinister, depending on whether or not you’d had one try to kill you or not…

1952 Vincent Rapide L Front

Hunter S Thompson referred to the Vincent Black Shadow in his writing, using the iconic name as shorthand for everything mysterious and dangerous about motorcycles: “It is like riding a Vincent Black Shadow, which would outrun an F-86 jet fighter on the take-off runway, but at the end, the F-86 would go airborne and the Vincent would not, and there was no point in trying to turn it…”

Even if you’ve never seen a Vincent, the picture in your head is probably pretty close after reading that.

1952 Vincent Rapide Dash

Phil C Vincent began making motorcycles during the 1920’s by slotting other manufacturer’s engines and transmissions into frames he designed. His enterprise met with some success, and this allowed the burgeoning company to design its own powerplant. The 500cc single formed the basis of the v-twin that Vincent’s Rapide was literally built around: while the original 1936 “Series A” used a traditional frame, the later “Series B” model was almost completely frameless, with the steering head bolted directly to the front cylinder and the rear suspension to the gearbox.

Which sounds an awful lot like a Ducati Panigale, except that the Ducati uses a less advanced style of front suspension…Unhappy with the flexing that plagues telescopic forks to this day, Vincent used a variation of the girder front end. This girder front end was advanced in theory, although limited damping of the era did lead to notoriously unforgiving handling.

1952 Vincent Rapide Controls

Quite literally, there was nothing on the road like it at the time, and you could argue that there hasn’t been anything like it since.

The v-twin came in two performance flavors. The bike being offered is the lower-spec Rapide, not the evocatively-named Black Shadow, although many of these have been improved to the point where performance differences are irrelevant. In this case, it looks like it’s been cosmetically updated to match the sinister black of the Shadow as well…

From the original eBay listing: 1952 Vincent Rapide for Sale

Up for grabs…Here’s a very nice 1952 Vincent Rapide 1000.  Has been given a light custom treatment with many smart and usable upgrades.  Has black engine with two front cylinder heads (a la Lightning).  Fitted with Lightning front brakes and center pull brake cables; acentuated with extended cam arms in the front.  Extended intake manifolds with Amal Concentric carburetors.  Magneto has been replaced with points and coil, generator replaced with Alton alternator.  All 12V electrics.  Rare 5″ 150 mph Smiths chronometric speedometer.  Numbers on frame headstock are “RC/1/5878”.  Numbers on rear frame section are “RC 8835C”.  Engine case halves match (both stamped “XX 59”), engine number is “F10 AB/1/8128”.  Altogether, an excellent road going package.  Feel free to call or email with any questions.  Good luck!

1952 Vincent Rapide Carb

I’m a big fan of “artistic” photography, although I’d prefer clean, unretouched shots when you’re using those pictures to sell a $50,000 motorcycle. We’re just north of that now, with active bidding and the reserve not yet met. It’s not a real Black Shadow, but it’s pretty clear this is a gorgeous bike, one of the most desirable and collectable and technically interesting machines ever built.


1952 Vincent Rapide R Front

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4 Responses

  1. Jess says:

    Great write-up! It seems the Vincent has reached Legend status. Richard Thompson has a great song about a 1952 Vincent Black Lightning telling a story about James and Red Molly. When I look at John Britten’s fantastic V1000 I wonder if he took some design parameters from the Vincent. The story and picture of Rollie Free (?spelling) on a Vincent at the Bonneville Salt Flats has become popular. Sir John Surtees raced the performance version of a Vincent Comet early in his racing career. Last, I know I can’t afford a good Vincent but I sure would like to ride one someday.

  2. tad says:

    Last time I wrote about a Vincent, I compared it to the V1000 and I was actually planning to use that nugget in tomorrow’s OTHER Vincent post… It’s hard to find another motorcycle that combines as many innovative, forward-thinking features into one machine. It’s pretty amazing, when you consider what other motorcycles were like in the 1930’s. By the way, that HST quote is from “The Song of the Sausage Creature” which, if you’re not familiar, you should track down and read immediately.

  3. Jess says:

    I’d like to read your comparison of the V1000 and Vincent. Was the HST quote from a Cycle World interview from which the”Sausage” article came from. Didn’t CW give HST a Ducati 900 SS to test?.

  4. tad says:

    I think Cycle World arranged it, but it was Ducati NA that actually sent it out to him. He wanted a 916. They sent him the 900SS instead, I guess figuring it’d be cheaper when he wrote it off… http://www.latexnet.org/~csmith/sausage.html

    I didn’t really write a full-on comparison of the two, just basically talked about the raft of innovative aspects of the Vincent and said that the only other bike I can think of that featured as many radical design features incorporated into one machine was the Britten. I wish they’d made a road version of that V1000.