Where Big Sid Sat: 1950 Series B Vincent Meteor

Renowned Vincent tuner Sid Biberman’s smallest Vincent is back on the road, just as Big Sid would’ve wanted.

| January/February 2019

  • Throughout Sid's long association with Vincents, he owned only one of their 499cc singles: a 1950 Series B Meteor.
    Photo by Corey Levenson
  • During the 20 years Sid owned the Meteor, he made extensive modifications to improve its performance.
    Photo by Corey Levenson
  • Big Sid’s Meteor wears a host of hopped-up parts, including an 8:1 compression ratio forged CP-Carrillo piston and an Andrews Mk1 cam.
    Photo by Corey Levenson
  • For the postwar singles and twins, there were essentially three levels of tune as a result of differing carb sizes, compression ratios and cams.
    Photo by Corey Levenson
  • During the brief period when both Series B Meteor and Series C Comets were on offer, the company tried to differentiate between the two models (and justify the cost difference) by offering the Meteor without the two front prop stands and magneto cover found on the Comet.
    Photo by Corey Levenson
  • Only 126 Series B Meteors were produced between December 1948 and February 1950, making the Series B Meteor one of the rarer Vincent models; only Black Lightnings, Grey Flashes and White Shadows were made in fewer numbers.
    Photo by Corey Levenson
  • It’s not often you see a Vincent running a SuperTrapp exhaust.
    Photo by Corey Levenson
  • Big Sid’s inscription on the timing gear steady plate.
    Photo by Corey Levenson
  • The original ammeter sits in the headlight bucket.
    Photo by Corey Levenson
  • The speedometer is mounted to the top of the fork.
    Photo by Corey Levenson
  • Corey Levenson and the Meteor in Texas.
    Photo courtesy of Corey Levenson
  • Big Sid and son Matthew aboard the Meteor at Road Atlanta in 1998.
    Photo by Corey Levenson

Engine: 499cc air-cooled OHV single, 84mm x 90mm bore and stroke, 8:1 compression ratio (6.45:1 stock), 30hp @ 5,300rpm (est.)
Top speed: 100mph (claimed)
Carburetion: Single 32mm Amal Mk1 Concentric (1-1/16in Amal 276 stock)
Transmission: 4-speed Burman, chain final drive
Electrics: 12v Miller generator, BTH magneto ignition (Lucas K1F GM2 magneto stock)
Frame/wheelbase: Steel backbone w/engine as a stressed member/55.75in (1,416mm)
Suspension: Brampton girder front, dual shocks w/friction and hydraulic damping rear (friction damping only stock)
Brakes: Twin 7in (178mm) SLS drums front & rear
Tires: 90/90 x 19in front, 100/90 x 19in rear (originally 3 x 20in front, 3.5 x 19in rear)
Weight (dry): 386lb (175kg)
Seat height: 32.75in (832mm)
Fuel capacity: 4.2gal (16ltr)
Price then/now: $692 U.S. (approx.)/$25,000 (est.)

Sidney Morton Biberman may not be a household name, but as Vincent owners and aficionados know, “Big Sid” was one of the marque’s most famous and respected tuners and restorers. At almost 6 foot 5 inches and 300 pounds in his prime, he was a larger than life presence on the dragstrip, at rallies and on the international Vincent scene for more than half a century.

Sid grew up in Norfolk, Virginia, developing an early love of motorcycles as a teenager. As a 20-year-old in 1950, Sid rode his first Vincent, a friend’s Black Shadow, and was profoundly impressed by the machine’s performance and engineering excellence. By 1953, Sid had bought himself a red Vincent Rapide, joined the Vincent Owners Club and, while stationed in Germany as an American serviceman, visited the factory in Stevenage, England.

Sid had a tuner’s ear and an uncanny sense of what an engine needed in order to perform at its best, and was best known for making the company’s 998cc twins go faster. Over the ensuing 60 years, he built many fast Vincents and established himself as a pre-eminent Vincent authority. Yet throughout his long association with Vincents, he owned only one of their 499cc singles: a 1950 Series B Meteor. Sid bought the Meteor in 1993 when he was 63 years old and wanted a bike that was lighter and more nimble than the larger twins. During the 20 years Sid owned the Meteor, he made extensive modifications to improve its performance. For Sid, functionality always took precedence over originality.



Vincent singles

Vincent produced 499cc singles and 998cc twins before World War II (Series A bikes), and then after the war (Series B, C and D bikes). All the machines shared an 84mm bore and a 90mm stroke. A major redesign took place between the Series A and Series B machines, although there were some shared items such as the Brampton girder forks seen on A and B machines. The introduction of the Vincent-designed Girdraulic forks, as well as a re-branding from “HRD” to “Vincent” on the tanks and crankcases, marked the transition from Series B to Series C machines.

For the postwar singles and twins, there were essentially three levels of tune as a result of differing carb sizes, compression ratios and cams. Among the twins, the Rapide was the touring model, the Black Shadow the sport model and the Black Lightning a race-only model. In parallel, the Meteor, Comet and Grey Flash singles were tuned to Rapide, Shadow and Lightning specification, respectively.



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