The Price of a 1950 Vincent Series 'C' Rapide Superbike Is Heading Through the Roof

While the Rapide was the grandaddy of superbikes, the Vincent Black Shadow and Lightning ultimately stole all the thunder as they were wildly fast, as was the prototype Lighting machine Rollie Free - near buck-naked in shorts and a rubber cap - piloted across the Bonneville Salt Flats in 1948 on his way to a top speed of 150.31 mph.
1950 Vincent Series 'C' Rapide 9 photos
Photo: Silverstone Auctions
Rollie Free1950 Vincent Series 'C' Rapide1950 Vincent Series 'C' Rapide1950 Vincent Series 'C' Rapide1950 Vincent Series 'C' Rapide1950 Vincent Series 'C' Rapide1950 Vincent Series 'C' Rapide1950 Vincent Series 'C' Rapide
That moment built Vincent's rep and stole the speed record from Harley-Davidson. It also sealed the deal as the first true superbike, and it meant that the Rapide, the Free bike’s progenitor, had provided the template for the Lightning and Black Shadow's stunning successes.

As with Ducatis, the engine itself is a “stressed member” of the Rapide’s chassis, and the massive, 998cc, 45hp V-Twin wrought from cast aluminum alloy was famous for the pushrod arrangement and four polished aluminum caps which decorated the finned cylinders.

Designed and built by the Vincent HRD motorcycle company, the Rapide debuted in 1936 and was built until it was paused in 1939. Production resumed in 1946 and closed out in 1955. There were ultimately four versions of the Rapide built, Series A through D.

Rollie Free
Photo: Silverstone Auctions
But it was a radical revision of the Series B Rapide, which came about during World War II and began the legend. Rapide's new "B" model featured unit construction as the engine and gearbox were incorporated into a single case.

Philip Vincent spoke of the design, saying that “what isn't present” takes up nothing for space, can’t bend, and adds nothing to the weight of the bike as an explanation of why he decided to eliminate frame tubes entirely.

The cylinder angle moved from the 47° used for the Series A engine to a 50° configuration to accommodate the stressed member design, and this allowed the frame to be limited to a box-section backbone that also functioned as an oil tank. That design also allowed for the front forks and rear suspension to be attached to that backbone as well.

The “B” model also meant the oil supply lines could be moved internally in the engine, and an inline oil filter was also incorporated.

1950 Vincent Series 'C' Rapide
Photo: Silverstone Auctions
The wheelbase of the B was shortened by 1.5 in (38 mm) in comparison to the Series A. Vincent also developed quick-detach wheels to simplify wheel and tire changes, and the rear wheel was reversible to allow a variety of rear sprockets sizes to make speedy drive ratio changes possible.

The 1948 C Rapide offered an upgraded front suspension that served as a replacement for the Brampton fork and avoided using much more common telescopic front forks, as Vincent believed they failed to meet their standards for adjustment and strength. Instead, the Brampton fork was replaced with an all-new front end of Vincent's design which they named the "Girdraulic" fork. While it was essentially a girder fork setup, Vincent forged the lower arms from steel. The section was formed from heat-treated alloy fabricated by the Bristol Aircraft Company.

But it was the brutish performance of the 998cc V-Twin which made the bikes legendary, and the stock factory Rapide could approach a top speed of from 115 to 120mph (185-193 kph), which made it the fastest vehicle on the road during those postwar years.

This fantastic example of a relatively rare and still relevant Rapide C was restored over the course of seven years by Bob Culver and completed nine years ago. It was also the subject of a feature story for Classic Bike the following year and it comes with an extensive history file and documents.

With the passage of time, Vincents have skyrocketed in value across all the various models.
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