1955 Series D Vincent Rapide

Barn-find Vincent: The strange story of Jim Tenhoff’s 1955 Series D Vincent Rapide

| November/December 2011

  • jim-tenhoff
    Jim Tenhoff (at right) with co-workers at the Boeing aircraft plant in Seattle, Wash., where Jim helped assemble B-17 Bombers during World War II.
    Photo by Rick Schunk
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    1955 Series D Vincent Rapide.
    Photo by Rick Shunk
  • vincent-rapide-steering-damper
    The 1955 Series D Vincent Rapide steering damper wears a coat of oil and dirt from its years sitting in Jim Tenhoff’s garage.
    Photo by Rick Schunk
  • smiths-chronometric-speedometer
    The original Smiths Chronometric speedometer on the 1955 Series D Vincent Rapide shows just 3,522 miles.
    Photo by Rick Schunk
  • minnesota-license-plate
    The 1955 Series D Vincent Rapide still wears its 1970 Minnesota license plate, wrapped in plastic.
    Photo by Rick Schunk
  • vincent-rapide
    1955 Series D Vincent Rapide.
    Photo by Rick Schunk
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    1955 Series D Vincent Rapide.
    Photo by Rick Schunk
  • vincent-rapide-9
    1955 Vincent Series D Rapide.
    Photo by Rick Schunk
  • vincent-factory-letter
    Steve Hamel gets the honor of starting the 1955 Series D Vincent Rapide: Look closely — you can see the debris coming out of the muffler.
    Photo by Rick Schunk
  • vincent-factory-letter-2
    One of Jim’s letters from the Vincent factory.
    Photo by Rick Schunk
  • vincent-series-10
    1955 Vincent Series D Rapide.
    Photo by Rick Schunk

  • jim-tenhoff
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  • vincent-rapide-steering-damper
  • smiths-chronometric-speedometer
  • minnesota-license-plate
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  • vincent-rapide-6
  • vincent-rapide-9
  • vincent-factory-letter
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1955 Series D Vincent Rapide
Claimed power:
45hp @ 5,300rpm
Top speed: 110mph
Engine: 998cc OHV air-cooled 50-degree V-twin
Weight (dry): 445lb (207kg)
Fuel Capacity: 4gal (15ltr)
Price then: $1,100 (approx.) – original U.S. (1955) list $1,495 (est.)
Price now: $15,000 - $50,000

The story of this particular 1955 Series D Vincent Rapide begins with the birth of James W. Tenhoff in Mountain Lake, Minn., in 1925. His father was a blind piano tuner, who Jim’s mother drove around the Midwest to tuning appointments in their Packard automobile.

Tenhoff suffered from Kallmann’s Syndrome, a condition that wasn’t even described until 1944. A genetic disorder, it leaves its victims short in stature and underdeveloped. While his peers grew normally, Jim stayed the same. By the time he was 18, he wasn’t much more than 3 feet 11 inches tall. When he spoke, it was in a high-pitched, feminine tone.

In 1943 Jim left home, traveling west to work in the Boeing aircraft factory in Seattle, Wash., where he helped assemble B-17 bombers. In an odd twist of fate, it was his small size that got him hired, as the Boeing factory needed small people who could work in tight places, like inside wings and other restricted spaces. People of Jim’s height were well suited to the task.



“I would think he was proud,” says Sid Chantland, a vintage motorcycle collector who, together with his father, Bob, came to befriend Jim in his later years. Jim, it turns out, was quite the motorcycle fan.

The Vincent pursuit

In 1947, as he was preparing to leave Boeing for his return home to Mountain Lake, Jim bought a brand new BSA C11 — a 250cc OHV single-cylinder machine — and proceeded to ride it from Seattle to Mountain Lake.



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