In Pursuit of the Vincent Series B Rapide

Riding a 1948 Vincent Series B Rapide

| January/February 2012

1948 Vincent Series B Rapide

Power: 45 hp @ 5,300 rpm
Top Speed: 110mph (claimed)
Engine: 998cc OHV air-cooled 50-degree V-twin, 84mm x 90mm bore and stroke, 6.45:1 compression ratio
Weight (dry): 455lb (206kg)
Fuel capacity/MPG: 4gal (15ltr)/40-50
Price then/now: $1,250 (approx.)/$15,000-$45,000

“A Vincent owner might forget his wife’s birthday or anniversary, but never his engine number.” — Doug Carper

Rolling off the throttle and lightly bracing for a series of upcoming bumps, I pull in the Vincent’s clutch. Pressing carefully on the shift lever with my right foot, savoring the gentle burble of the big V-twin and the precise engagement of the next gear, I ease back into the throttle. Feeling the effortless surge of the engine as we gather speed in a gentlemanly fashion, I marvel at the perfection of the action. No primary lash, no stutters or lurches as the clutch puts the power to the drive train and the rear wheel takes it to the ground, just the richest, soul-enlightening, two-wheeled mechanical experience imaginable.

Like an old locomotive with a full head of steam, we speed down into a shady valley deep in the rolling Virginia hills. As I watch the speedometer needle climb around the Vincent’s big Smiths dial, marveling at the bike’s competency, the unique series of events that fell together in such a way as to find this unworthy moto-scribe riding one of the rarest, most-storied motorcycles in the world starts coming into focus.

Building up to the Vincent Series B Rapide

You don’t generally own a Vincent before putting a few decades in the saddle under your belt, and Doug Carper is no exception to this rule. Born into a military family in St. Louis, Mo., his first exposure to motorcycles came at the tender age of 6 years old. A teenage family friend owned a Cushman scooter, and watching him ride off into the sunset with another buddy on a matching machine was all it took to get Doug hooked.

The year 1952 brought a military posting to Germany for his father and Doug’s first real exposure to motorcycles. With Germany rebuilding from WWII, cars were few and motorcycles were everywhere, and when his nanny’s boyfriend took him for a spin on an old BMW, Doug knew he had to have a motorcycle of his own. Dad said no, of course, and it wasn’t until he joined the military himself and got his first military posting in Panama that Doug could afford a real motorcycle, a Triumph T100R.

1/20/2013 2:37:35 AM

The 1971 magazine article by Charlie Taylor to which Doug Carper refers was in Cycle World (not Cycle) - the April issue to be exact. I reread it last night. It was one of five Vincent stories in the magazine that month, part of a special Vincent supplement. Peter Akraboff, San Francisco

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