The Bonhams auction at last weekend's Stafford Show was its usual buzzy self, and some of the lots sold for small fortunes. Here are three which attracted a lot of interest: a 1939 Vincent-HRD, 1995 Ferrari 900cc and the last Vincent of the production line, a 1955 Vincent 998cc Black Shadow...
Ex-Brian Verrall 1939 Vincent-HRD 998cc Series-A Rapide
Of all the many makes and models of motorcycle produced during the 1930s, there are two outstanding V-twin-engined thoroughbreds that feature at the top of every knowledgeable enthusiast's 'fantasy barn find' league table: the Brough Superior SS100 and Vincent-HRD Series-A Rapide. These days the chances of finding an example of either hidden behind a pile of straw bales are slim indeed, all the more so in the case of the ultra-rare Series-A Rapide, a mere 78 of which were produced between late 1936 and the summer of 1939. (Expert opinion differs on this point, but most authorities favour a total in the high 70s). By comparison, production of the rival SS100 ran into the hundreds.
The Vincent-HRD marque originated in 1928 when Philip C Vincent acquired the name, jigs, tools and patterns of the recently liquidated HRD Company. ('HRD' stood for Howard Raymond Davies, the Isle of Man TT winner who had founded the firm in 1924). Vincent moved production from Wolverhampton to Stevenage, pioneering his own design of sprung frame on an entirely new range of machines. Like Davies, Vincent relied on proprietary engines, but increasing dissatisfaction with suppliers led to the creation of Vincent's own engine in 1934. A 500cc high-camshaft overhead-valve single, this all-new power unit was designed jointly by PCV and his Chief Engineer Phil Irving who, so legend has it, came up with the idea of a 1,000cc v-twin after seeing two drawings of the single superimposed on one another. By producing a v-twin in this fashion, many of the existing single-cylinder components could be utilised, thus reducing costs, an important factor for the fledgling concern. SOLD for £225,000 inc premium
1995 Ferrari 900cc Motorcycle by 'David Kay Engineering'
It all started when David Kay wrote to Enzo Ferrari's son Piero, requesting to build a one-off motorcycle sporting the famous prancing horse badge in tribute to his late father. In a letter dated Maranello, 23rd May 1990 and signed by P. Ferrari himself (included in the comprehensive press and information file on this lot) Kay receives: 'the approval to place the Ferrari badge on your motorbike' and is wished good luck with his project. When highly reputed MV Agusta 'guru' David Kay set about building this unique piece of engineering from scratch, he looked towards both the future and the past, as he thought of what may have been if Ferrari would have decided to produce a GT or endurance racing machine.
The engine is a 'scratch built' 900cc, transverse, double overhead camshaft, four cylinder, eight valve unit with magnesium and alloy casings, driven through a five speed gearbox. The tubular chassis is made of Reynolds 531 tube, engineering on the motorcycle is irreproachable and the detail is quite astounding. The attention to this is quite incredible, with the master cylinder built into the obviously one off digital instrument panel and is again portrayed with the exquisite steering damper. Terry Hall, who also produced the double curvature reverse cone megaphones, made the entire bodywork out of aluminium. In Kay's own words these are too beautiful to merely funnel exhaust gases from engine to atmosphere; 'the noise is like a Messerschmitt chasing a Spitfire'. The front end is very contemporary in conception with Forcelle Italia upside down forks, massive twin piston Brembo disc brakes front and rear (6 pot callipers to the front, 4 to the rear) and special 17 inch hand spun Astralite wheels. WPS twin rear shock absorbers complete the basic spec. SOLD for £85,000 inc premium
Last off the production line 1955 Vincent 998cc Black Shadow Series C
Production of Vincent's much altered Series D range began in 1955, but for the first couple of months the Stevenage firm was still turning out the Series C, approximately 287 of which were manufactured early that year. Dating from February 1955, this matching numbers machine is the final Series C Black Shadow produced (confirmed by the Vincent Owners' Club) and thus of exceptional significance in the history of the Vincent motorcycle. Purchased new from Forest Hill, South London dealer, Jack Surtees, the machine was acquired by the immediately preceding owner's father (Mr Brown, only its third private owner, now deceased) in 1996. The preceding two owners had both been friends of Mr Brown in Forest Hill, and the Vincent was acquired from the second owner's family following his untimely death. The Vincent was in pieces when acquired, having been stripped down for repair in 1969 (following a minor accident involving a 'Keep Left' sign) and kept in dry storage ever since. It has covered fewer than 29,000 miles.
The preceding owner recounted this machine's history in the Vincent Owners Club magazine MPH (September 1999 edition) following his father's death earlier that same year: 'Dad, having built a Rapide to concours standard in the 1980s was familiar with the best suppliers in the country and set about restoring 'PYE 714' to its former glory. Every time I visited father over the next three years I could see it taking shape and took pleasure in his joy at working on something he had coveted for over four decades. Sadly, Father passed away before he was able to complete the restoration in 1999 at the age of 69. I have since completed the restoration with the aid of Colin Jenner at Conway motors and partly run it in. The bike is now running as well as it did in 1955.' SOLD for £124,700 inc premium