1949 Vincent Rapide
& Blacknell Bullet sidecar


"The Indiana Jones of the motorcycling world". That, apparently, is how some people view Herb Harris; the man with an enviable knack of "discovering hidden treasures".

 

A retired lawyer, he's said to be in "de-collecting mode" at the moment (we know the feeling). But in his time, he's unearthed some very interesting motorcycle artefacts. It was Harris, after all, who tracked down the Rollie Free "bathing suit bike"; meaning the Vincent Black Lightning that hit 150.313mph at Bonneville Salt Flats in 1948, thereby establishing a new US speed record.

 

Over the years, he's collected numerous other rarities which he displays or restores at his three-man shop in Austin, Texas, the Harris Vincent Gallery (HVG). And this bike (above) is another such find.

 

 


 

Rollie Free's mobile sun tanning test bed at Bonneville. Good for 150mph and all the salt rash you can handle. We tried this on our T140 and almost circumcised ourselves. But it was fun while it lasted.

 


It's a 1949 998cc Touring Rapide with matching numbers and was restored from boxes of parts at HVG. The Blacknell Bullet sidecar wasn't supplied with the bike. Instead, it had originally been paired with a Vincent Black Shadow (apparently, that was established by checking the sidecar's frame number and matching it with records).

 

Touring items include special handlebars and wider Dunlop wheels, but the electric starter on the bike was, naturally, not supplied by Vincent. Instead, it's an aftermarket item designed to give the ageing Vincent elite an easier time down at the golf club (or wherever wealthy Vincent owners hang out). The kickstarter, however, has been kept (if only for the sake of appearances).

 

The Blacknell Bullet sidecar, meanwhile, has a boot/trunk lined with jaguar wool carpeting. It has a tonneau cover, and "snap-on privacy panels" for the chair.

 

That brilliant red colour might not have been originally applied to the Vinnie. But Phil Vincent wasn't afraid of using it which is evidenced by the numerous brightly blushing Rapides and Shadows in the wild.

 

 

 

If you're not freely salivating at the sight of this Blacknell Bullet sidecar detail, go see your doctor. Then check with your psychiatrist.

 

 

This Vincent is still not properly run-in. Hell, you can say that about practically all the modern Vincents, can't you?

 

Herb Harris, incidentally, belongs to the "caretaker" school of thought in which he's merely a custodian for posterity. We don't subscribe to that philosophy. Our bikes are ours, and the future will have to fend for itself. But we're glad he threw together this pile of bits, anyway.

 

Bonhams is preparing to sell this bike and help Harris de-collect. That's why it's going under the hammer at Bally's Hotel and Casino, Las Vegas, USA on Thursday 8th January 2015.

 

It's Lot 236. The frame number is F10AB12516. The estimate is $100,000 - $120,000 (64,000 - 76,000).

 

The Third Man

 

 

 

 

 

 

The fabled Vincent Rapide. This 998cc, OHV, air-cooled, pushrod V-twin pumps out around
45hp @ 5200 rpm and has more kudos than just about any other motorcycle on the planet. A technical
tour-de-force, the design is as much (or more) Phil Irving's work as Phil Vincent's. But let's not quibble and just be grateful for what we've got. Or, in our case, haven't got.

 

 

 

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