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Classic Vintage Motorcycles: Vincent HRD

Vintage Vincent HRD

The HRD Motorcycle Company

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The HRD Motorcycle Company began in 1924, as the brain-child of British RAF flying-officer and visionary, Howard Raymond Davies (1895—1973). After WWI, Howard R. Davies (initials "HRD") partnered E. J. Massey to form HRD, and began building motorcycles powered by the J.A. Prestwich Company's famous JAP 1000cc v-twin engines, which were also used in the Brough Superior.

HRD designs were well ahead of their time, setting new standards that the rest of the motorcycle industry would emulate over the next decade. In 1925, an HRD set an average speed record of 66.13 mph at the Isle Of Man TT, placing HRD into the history books.

1935 Vincent HRD 500cc Comet
1935 Vincent HRD 500cc Comet

Phil Vincent & HRD

Another visionary named Philip Conrad Vincent (1908—1979), nicknamed "PCV," began building reconstructed HRD's, in the mid 1920s, renaming his new creations as "the Vincent." Early Vincents used a 499cc single cylinder engine, or the HRD's JAP 1000cc v-twin engine. Vincent even obtained a patent for his innovative cantilevered rear-suspension design in 1928.

1935 Vincent HRD Comet 500cc Single Engine
1935 Vincent HRD Comet - 500cc Single-Cylinder Engine

In 1928, after studying engineering at King's College in Cambridge, Phil Vincent decided to purchase the financially strapped HRD Company. HRD was now in the hands of Ernie Humphries of the "OK-Supreme" bicycle company, who had acquired HRD after it went into voluntary liquidation. Vincent purchased HRD for a mere 500.

Vincent HRD

The newly reborn "Vincent" company was renamed "Vincent HRD Company, Ltd. in Stevenage Hertfordshire, England. Between 1928 and 1934, over twenty models were produced by Vincent HRD, four of which used the same 499cc single cylinder engine that appeared in the early Vincents. The new "Vincent HRD" company logo had the word "Vincent" in small letters above the larger initials "HRD."

1948 HRD Black Lightning
1948 HRD Black Lightning - Owner: Herb Harris, Texas

Phil Irving & Vincent HRD

An Australian engineer named Phil Irving joined the company in 1931, becoming its chief engineer. Irving's first design project was the OHV 500 cc single-cylinder "Comet" and "Meteor" engines. Credit is also given to Irving for the "accidental" design of Vincent's famous V-twin engine, which was first introduced in 1936.

Irving went on to write several books, including the "Motorcycle Technicalities," and eventually received the title of "OBE," or the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire.

Vincent Black Shadow, Black Lightning & Rapide

HRD introduced the now-legendary "Black Shadow" and "Black Lightning" motorcycles in 1948. By late 1948, HRD's reputation as a formidable machine was set by Rollie Free, who rode a Black Lightning, euphemistically named the "John Edgar Lightning" for its ts sponsor John Edgar, to a record-breaking top speed of 150.313 mph at the at Bonneville salt flats.

1948 HRD Black Lightning V-Twin Engine
1948 HRD Black Lightning 1000cc V-Twin

Further adding to the legendary status and mystique of the Black Lightning, Free broke the land-speed record dressed only in a bathing suite and bathing cap, while stretched out flat on the rear fender.

1950 Vincent Series C Rapide
1950 Vincent Series C Rapide Tourer

1950 Vincent Grey Flash 500
1950 Vincent Grey Flash 500

1951 Vincent Series C Black Shadow
1951 Vincent Black Shadow 'Series C'

Vincent Nomenclature

To further add to the confusion over the HRD, Vincent, Vincent HRD, Vincent nomenclature, the letters "HRD" were removed from the company logo in 1949, due to a perceived possibility of confusion with the Harley Davidson brand.

Vincent HRD and Vincent Tank Logos
Vincent HRD and Vincent Tank Logos

'Series D' - Vincent Black Knight, Black Prince, and Victor

By 1954 Vincent sales were declining, so Vincent introduced three new models that became known as the "Series D" line. The "Black Knight" was an upgraded Rapide, the Black Prince a full-fairing and upgraded Shadow, and the Vincent Victor was an upgraded Comet. The Series D lineup was introduced as touring bikes, but sales continued to decline.

1950 Vincent Series B 500cc Comet
1950 Vincent Series B 500cc Comet

Another possibly fatal mistake was the introduction of the "Firefly" (aka "Vincent Power Cycle"), a 45 cc gasoline-powered bicycle which undoubtedly irritated many loyal Vincent fans.

1955 Vincent Black Prince
1955 Vincent 'Black Prince'

Vincent abruptly ceased production in 1955, after Phil Vincent announced that the company could no longer maintain solvency. The announcement was made at a Vincent Owners' Club dinner.

Vincent Reincarnated

The Vincent marque (along with several other vintage brands) has been recently revived by the new "Vincent HRD Company," with the "Black Lightening" being one of the first offerings. Although the Black Lightening uses a Honda engine, several other Vincent models are offered, including the Evolution, Phase 1 Prototype, Standard, Sport, Touring, and Cruiser models.

Vincent HRD Links

Vincent HRD Owners Club

The Herb Harris Vincent Gallery

Vincent Motorcycle Models

Original Vincent Motorcycle

Vincent Motorcycles - Crowood Motoclassics

Riding with Rilke: Reflections on Motorcycles

Vincent VOC Spares Co. Ltd. - Online Vincent Shop

Review of the 1945 Vincent Rapide

National Motorcycle Museum in Coventry

Classic Engines and Spares

Patrick Godet - Egli-Vincent

Corish Norvin

Hailwood Motorcycle Restorations - HMR Egli-Vincent, Norvin, Vincent

The new Vincent HRD

Phil Vincent - Life After 1959 by Robin Vincent-Day

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Books on Vincent Motorcycles
Books on Vintage Vincent Motorcycles
Books on How to Restore Your Motorcycle