1955 Series D Vincent Rapide
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Undaunted, Jim dashed off a letter to Vincent Engineers (Stevenage) Ltd. Although Vincent had quit making motorcycles in December 1955, the company was still in business and developing products. Jim inquired directly at the factory, wanting to know if there were any enclosed Series D Vincents available for sale. In a letter dated January 7, 1957, J. Bland, Vincent spares and service manager replied:
We thank you for your letter of the 2nd January with reference to obtaining a new “Black Prince” machine.
We regret that to our knowledge, Messrs. Conway Motors are the only firm who had new enclosed machines in stock. We would mention that the enclosure can be fitted to the open Series “D” machines, but this works out in the neighbourhood of £95 in England.
We feel that it would not be a satisfactory proposition for you to purchase your “Black Prince” in units such as the motor, cycle components, etc. and assemble them yourself.
Regretting our inability to be of more assistance to you, we remain, Yours faithfully, for VINCENT MOTORS (STEVENAGE) LIMITED [signed JR Bland] J. BLAND SPARES & SERVICE MANAGER.
Jim decided his next best option was the open Series D Vincent Rapide offered to him by Conway Motors. He sent them a check for $1,100 U.S., for which Conway sent a note of receipt on January 16, 1957. In a short letter, Conway Motors manager Broomfield told Jim his firm would “look into the seat question to see if we can do anything in this request.” Exactly what the request was is unknown, but it can be assumed Jim had asked if the saddle could somehow be altered to suit his height.
Perhaps not completely satisfied with his purchase of the Series D, Jim evidently dashed off another letter to Vincent, for in a reply dated January 29, 1957, Vincent sales manager J. Bland wrote:
We thank you for your letter and note that you have purchased an open Series “D” Rapide.
To convert the engine to the same specification as a Series “D” Black Shadow or Black Prince the only modifications required are the polishing of the con rods, rockers, cam followers and valves. It would also be necessary to open out the inlet ports and carburettor stubs to 1 1/8” bore and to fit the type 389 Monobloc carburettors, part number P85/6.
Assuring you of our best attention at all times, we are, Yours faithfully, for VINCENT MOTORS (STEVENAGE) LIMITED [signed JR Bland] J. BLAND SPARES & SERVICE MANAGER.
Conway Motors shipped Jim’s Vincent, a holdover 1955 Series D Vincent Rapide, engine no. 11103, to his home in Mountain Lake, with the motorcycle arriving in the spring of 1957. That engine number is noteworthy — it places Jim’s Vincent as one of the last 31 machines to leave the Stevenage line in 1955 before the factory ceased motorcycle production in December that year.
It appears Jim never followed up on the instructions to convert his Series D Vincent Rapide to Vincent Black Shadow specification, and for whatever reason, he only added some 3,522 miles to the Smiths odometer. But for the miles he did add, before Jim got on his Vincent he would strap 4-inch wooden blocks to the heels of his boots so his feet would touch the ground from the saddle, the front of his feet free to operate the shifter and brake pedals.