It’s In the Name: 1951 Vincent Rapide for Sale
While the sinister-sounding Vincent Black Shadow gets all the headlines, the more basic Rapide has almost all of its more evocative sibling’s impressive technology and speed. In the same way the racing Brittens are almost mind-bendingly advanced considering the era in which they were built, these bikes include features that wouldn’t be seen regularly on mainstream bikes for another ten or twenty or even thirty years in some cases.
The first Rapide was introduced in 1936 and used a 47.5° v-twin with unit construction to fit into the frame which was later changed to an even 50° when Vincent went to a frameless design. That’s right: the second-generation Rapide basically lacked a frame. Similar to Ducati’s radical Panigale, the steering head bolts to the front cylinder and the rear suspension mounts to the gearbox.
And the suspension was just as radical. First of all, it actually had suspension at the rear, and used a set of girder forks up front. And like a modern motorcycle, the gearshift was foot-operated with a hand clutch.
It was one of the very fastest, most exotic bikes of the time, and with 45 torquey horses pushing 450lbs, these have plenty of poke to keep up with modern traffic, and you could always tune yours up to a Black Shadow-spec 55hp.
Vincents that come up for sale these days seem to be either pristine collectibles or barn-find basket-cases. This particular bike falls right in the middle of those two extremes.
From the original eBay listing: 1951 Vincent Rapide Series C for Sale
Recently pulled out of long term storage
This is a very rare example of a Touring specification Rapide. It has been stored for the better part of the last 30 years inside. The engine turns over and has compression. No attempt has been made to start the bike. It is a matching numbers bike -see photos of the UFM (upper frame member), RFM (rear frame member) and engine being 1900 numbers apart. The right engine case has been replaced at some time during its history. It is missing the speedo and rear stand, and the fenders are incorrect, but it is otherwise complete. The correct Miller generator is included with the bracket-see photo.
This motorcycle was originally supplied to Indian Sales Corp. of San Francisco in May, 1951 according to factory records. It is a touring specification with raised handlebars, steel fenders, 19″ front and 18″ rear wheel. Tires are a Firestone front and Dunlop rear with lots of tread, however, they are older and must be replaced prior to any road use.
This bike could be used as-is cosmetically, however it would benefit from a restoration. The paint is original on the frame. The red tank and fender paint is shiny but has flaws. The headlight lens is cracked. Sharp eyes may notice the left rear brake drum is from a Black Shadow-no big deal, but I thought I’d point it out. If you have any questions, please ask prior to bidding.
There is a very reasonable reserve on this auction. This motorcycle is not advertised elsewhere, and this auction is the exclusive opportunity to purchase it. This is a an extremely rare bike and RAPIDLY appreciating. An opportunity like this does not come along very often, so NOW is the time to buy-thanks and good luck!
This is obviously in serious need of work to return it to concours-ready condition, although it doesn’t sound like much would be needed to make it a rough and ready runner. Considering the way values are headed, a full restoration is certainly an appropriate path, and the bike looks pretty cool, in its current worn and well-used state.