What may well be the oldest Vincent motorcycle in America is nearing completion at HARRIS VINCENT. A US serviceman picked up the project many years ago and lost momentum. He sold it to me about 10 years back and upon examination, I knew I was likely in over my head, so we put it off to deal with post-war Vincent restorations.
"Currently, the PYTHON SPORT VINCENT HRD undergoing restoration has been broken down so as to have only the engine and transmission on the build table. The main frame, front forks, engine/trans cradle, rear frame, battery box, seat, oil tank and more are being painted. Shortly, these will be assembled back into the full bike. All Mike and I know is that we need some final work on reconstructing one part on the headlamp's rotary BT-H switch but we think we can get it working. World! Are you ready for this one? I hope so."
The P.S. or “Python Sport” refers to the most sporting of VINCENT in those very early years of the VINCENT company. The RUDGE motorcycle and wheel company needed business at this point owing to the Great Depression and found buyers among the many motor cycle builders of the day, VINCENT HRD among them. The engine is amazing. In 1932, RUDGE was producing a 4-valve engine of 500cc in this case with a most amazing way of opening valves using a very involved double rocker arm system. The variations were several with some having cylinder heads with fully radial valve locations, some with only the two exhaust ports being splayed (as on our P.S.) and so forth. Material as well varied with the most rare of the entire lot being the bronze head used on the ULSTER or tuned version. RUDGE men will tell you few bronze heads survive as most cracked due to casting flaws. This PS has one such surviving head in excellent shape.
Our motorcycle is a matching-numbers motorcycle! Somewhere along the way, the rear frame became separated from the main frame and engine and many years later, in the course of discussing the project with an Irish enthusiast of early VINCENTS, the owner discovered that the Irish gentleman had that rear frame! A deal was struck for it. Proof that it belongs with the rest of the bike is in the layer of grey paint on all parts of the frames from some custom paint job many years ago; grey pain UNDER subsequent black layers.
The engine was completely redone in Canada a number of years ago by the acknowleged experts in RUDGE engines and returned to me, ready to go. Our gearbox is a pre-war BURMAN BAP box, 4-speeds and correct for this application, though not numbered to the original order. Forks are special as per the Works Build Order (number 4!), being an upgrade ordered by the buyer, BRAMPTON TT’s.
Here’s the best part---the factory records from the Vincent Owners’ Club show that the person who inspected and passed this individual motorcycle was none other than PHIL IRVING. As well, those records show that the test rider who tested and passed this P.S. was------PHILIP C. VINCENT himself. The two legends - one motorcycle! It gets no better than this in the world of VINCENT HRD.
Chain lines were established, mudguards are fitted and stays produced to fit as per the original photos as only HARRIS VINCENT can do. The petrol tank is painted and ready as is the headlamp which is an extremely rare BTH example. Controls are correct with the oddly top pivoting ones in place along with the longer throttle and dummy grip on the “W” shaped handlebar called for on this model.
Carburetion is tricky needing a bronze bodied AMAL 1 1/8” (same size as a Black Shadow) but which mounts horizontally. This is tricky as we all know it requires sideways air which is not quite as abundant as regular, vertical air. (just kidding) The correct AMAL float chamber was with the project and has been correctly finished and mounts perfectly above the combination mag-dyno by BTH.
The world probably hasn’t seen Hi-Gate silencers in many, many years, but we shall have the pair along with high pipes, one on each side as was the style of the day. Wheels were difficult, but we were able to find in our parts dept. two sets of very fine, original spokes with which to lace the correct wheels and hubs.
No one I’ve talked to lately knows about BLUMFIELD brakes. I didn’t either except the image of it in the VINCENT GALLERY book, the authority. One day, I found one on Ebay! I’d given up on having one, but there it was. The saddle is listed as a solo TERRY’S and ours is being correctly recovered using the correct material and horsehair padding over the original frame and springwork.
In 1932, VINCENT HRD made about one motorcycle a week. The two Phils personally worked on this exact one. I’m blown away by such history and I hope you will enjoy this and our images as the bike nears final completion.