Featured Bike: Ron Stupart’s A Tale of Two Vincents Part Two

Sometimes things just find you…

THE STORY OF MY CHINESE RED RAPIDE

I very much missed owning, riding and showing my Black Shadow and had decided that I would like to somehow acquire another one.  This is easier said than done as the prices of Vincent twins had skyrocketed.  I then came up with what, at the time, seemed like a feasible but enormous plan, I would build one from any parts I could dig up.

From a fellow VOC member, I acquired an Upper Frame Member from a Comet, a ratty seat with green covering and some other assorted parts.  I purchased a Made in India replica gas tank that was completely chrome plated. Here, I thought, was the beginning of my next Vincent.

In October of 2009, I received an email from Phil Mahood with some vague details of two basket case Vincent’s in Michigan.  I put it down to just another rumor of long lost Vincent’s and continued with my plan to build a bike piece by piece.

Over the next six month’s, more details of these machines emerged from VOC Michigan member Doug Sawicki.  This was indeed a genuine find.  The two bikes were part of an estate that Doug was trying to liberate and make available to his fellow VOC members.  The first bike was 2/3 of a Black Shadow with a missing rear frame member.  The second was what was reported to be a 1949 Rapide with numbers matching on the engine, upper frame and rear frame members.  Even with it being 2/3’s of a Black Shadow, it was beyond my financial means. I decided to work with Doug on purchasing the Rapide.  Doug being a very meticulous person, photographed the various components and boxes and completely inventoried the parts.  This information was all emailed to me on March 21, 2010 and I agreed to purchase the bike for $23,000 U.S.  I arranged a Line of Credit with my bank and a money transfer was sent to Doug.  I had not seen the bike or up until that point, met Doug in person. It was a huge leap of faith.

Doug made arrangements with me to bring the bike in it’s various boxes to the 2010 VOC North American Rally in Niagara Falls, Ontario.  This was not until June so I had a few months to start researching and collecting parts.  While looking closely at the photos Doug had sent, I noticed red paint on a few of the components.  I immediately called Phil and told him I had a feeling that this bike may have something a little special.  Phil called the VOC Machine Registrar and provided him with the serial numbers.

It is said that when a door closes behind you, a bigger and better door opens up in front of you. I had indeed purchased something special.  I had unknowingly purchased one of only 107 red Vincent twins ever produced.  It was a 1950 Touring Rapide in Chinese Red.

“IT LOOKS LIKE JUNK TO ME!”

That was the comment Cindy, my significant other made when I showed her these pictures for the first time.  These are the actual pictures taken of the bike by Doug Sawicki as found at Don Woods Racing in Michigan.

vincent rapide basket case frame
Note the traces of red paint on some of the parts and the Rear Frame Member with the top half cut off.
vincent rapide engine in a box
Engine in a box.
assorted vincent rapide parts
Assorted Vincent Bits.

THE VINCENT RAPIDE’S PROVENANCE

Anyone can claim their motorcycle/car/antique is something special.  That doesn’t necessarily make it the truth.  Having the documentation to back your claim is called “Provenance”.

The Vincent Owners Club retains the original records of most of the machines produced.  This makes it easy to establish what a machine was when it left the factory and what options were originally fitted.  The Works Order Form and the Dispatch Check Sheet confirm the bike to be a Red Touring model.

vincent rapide works order form
Works Order Form
vincent rapide despatch sheet
Despatch Sheet

Note the date on the Works Order Form.  I took possession nearly sixty years to the day after is was ordered.  A sign from the Vincent Gods perhaps?

MATCHING NUMBERS VINCENT RAPIDE

On a “matching numbers” Vincent the Rear and Upper Frame Member serial numbers will be exactly 1900 apart from the Engine number.

vincent rapide engine serial numbers
Engine Case Numbers
vincent rapide main frame serial numbers
Serial Numbers Steering Neck
vincent rapide rear frame member serial numbers
Rear Frame Member Numbers

PICK UP THE PIECES

Niagara Falls, Ontario June 2010voc rally poster

The time had come to take delivery of my “junk”.  I rode my Harley SuperGlide to the VOC North American Rally in Niagara Falls, Ontario from my home just north of Toronto.  My partner, Cindy Del Tatto followed close behind me in a rental Honda Fit.

The first thing I did when we arrived at the Rally was to accept Bar Hodgson’s offer to take my old Shadow for a spin up Lundy’s Lane.  It felt good.

Next order of business was to meet up with Doug and stuff the boxes of parts into the Honda. Doug had delivered the engine to Phil’s house earlier in the day.

Taking in the rally……

horseshoe falls
Horseshoe Falls
vincent owners club rally niagara falls
Cindy and I chatting with fellow VOC members.
vincent owners rally display
Nice lineup of rally machines.

THE RESTORATION BEGINS

LET’S SEE WHAT’S IN ALL THOSE BOXES

After the bike was finished, my friend Phil Mahood joked that it was probably the sorriest looking basket case he had ever seen in his 45 year’s plus of working on Vincent’s.  I am glad he chose to share that with me later and not at the time I picked up the boxes.

This is what I had purchased site unseen:

  • An engine missing most of the internal components but in pretty good condition considering.
  • A rear frame member that had been cut in half.
  • A solid set of Girdraulic forks.
  • Upper Frame Member.
  • A brand new Alton generator that turned out to be for a pre-unit Triumph and not usable on a Vincent twin.
  • One brake drum.

This is what I was missing:

  • Gas Tank
  • Seat
  • Complete wheels front and rear – Exhaust system.
  • Generator
  • Magneto
  • Carburetors’
  • Fenders
  • Just about every fastener

The hunt was on.

A DELICATE STATE OF REPAIR

ron stupart and vincent rapide engine
The Rapide’s Engine

The one issue with the otherwise excellent cases was the cam follower spindle.  It appears it had backed out at one point and was repaired poorly by a previous owner.  In the motorcycle restoration hobby we call this a “bodge”.  Most likely this bodged spindle repair gave way and ended the bikes career as a drag bike.

vincent rapide case repair
Repairing the spindle hole took some careful planning and execution. The man for the job was Robin Armstrong.
vincent rapide case repair view one
The brass sleeve was made up to stop the weld from closing the breather hole.
vincent rapide case repair view two
Alloy does not stick to brass.
vincent case repair third view
Completed Repair

CAMS AND FOLLOWERS

Cams are not supposed to be round.  These ones were…and mismatched to boot!  The cams and followers were sent to Gary Robinson in the U.K. and were stellited and reground to Mk1 specs.  They are now the proper egg shape.

vincent rapide cams
Finished cams and followers.
incent rapide cam mk1 spec
Close up detail.

CRANK IT UP!

The crank was in remarkably good shape and did not have to come apart.

vincent rapide crankshaft truing
The crank is being checked for trueness with a dial gauge.

ENGINE ASSEMBLY

Vincent Guru, Phil Mahood carried out the engine rebuild.

Our goal was to have the engine ready to display in the VOC Ontario booth at the Motorcycle SuperShow early January 2012.

vincent-engine-before-build
Vincent Engine Before Build
vincent-engine-case-seal-install
Case seal install.
vincent-engine-case
Engine case right side.
engine during assembly, installing the crank
Engine during assembly, installing the crank.
vincent rapide engine right side during assembly
Vincent Rapide engine right side during assembly.
vincent rapide transmission
The transmission.
vincent rapide transmission trap door
Vincent transmission before the trap door is installed.

Editor’s note about the transmission:  If you look at the exploded view of the Harley Sportster transmission, you will notice it looks very much like the Vincent except for the shape of the trap door. Harley came out with the trapdoor arrangement just about the same time Vincent closed, makes you wonder don’t it?

vincent rapide engine pistons during assembly
Pistons going in.
vincent rapide engine rear piston during assembly
Ready for the head.
vincent rapide engine cam gears during assembly
Engine almost finished.
vincent engine cases polished
Engine cases polished, ready to go on.
vincent engine finished on bench
Engine finished and on the workbench.

THE VOC ONTARIO SECTION DISPLAY

The engine was completed in time to be put on display in the VOC Ontario Section booth at the Motorcycle SuperShow.  It was a huge draw with the crowd.

vincent rapide engine display
The VOC Display
vincent rapide engine on display at the motorcycle show toronto
At the show.

A custom “Chinese Red” engine stand was fabricated by Andy Lux specifically for this show.

vincent engine stand show
Chinese Red engine stand.
vincent rapide transmission filler cap
Transmission filler cap.
vincent rapide engine detail front head
Front head detail.
vincent rapide engine detail right side case
Right side engine case.

BABY IS A CENTERFOLD!

vincent rapide engine detail right side case back and white image
The engine featured in the official journal of the Vincent Owner’s Club, MPH

THE JIGSAW PUZZLE

RESTORING THE CHASSIS

While the engine was with Phil for rebuild, I started the restoration process of the chassis.

THE TRANSPLANT

A critical task in the restoration was to save the cut Rear Frame Member.  One of the atrocities inflicted on the bike was the sawing off of the top section of the matching numbers Rear Frame Member.  This was most likely done to facilitate a custom hard tail suspension when it was used as a drag bike back in the ’60’s.

That was the bad news.  The good news was that it was cut above the brazing points.  All I needed was a donor RFM.  I sent out an email to a Vincent email list and 8 minutes later I had a response from Robert Watson in B.C.  He had a RFM that had damaged lugs on the bottom section. Perfect.  All I needed was the top section.  The deal was done.

The donor and original RFM’s were given to Ken Rosevere to work his usual magic.  Ken unbrazed the upper section from the donor and transplanted it to the original RFM (right).  The repair is perfect.  As with all of Ken’s work, the results far exceeded my expectations.

restored rear frame member
Restored rear frame member.

I spent every night on eBay U.K. looking for various original Vincent parts.  I was able to locate an original gas tank in Ireland, wheel hubs, clutch parts and various items in England.  One of the most significant purchases I made, yet one of the smallest, was a gas line “T” from Scotland. With this simple purchase, I was introduced to Chris Stewart in the VOC Scottish section.  Chris and I struck up a friendship from then on and he became instrumental in locating a number of hard to find items in the U.K. through his sources.

IT’S MADE OF UNOBTAINIUM

A few of the harder to find pieces:

Lucas Altette Horn specifically for the Vincent twin.  It has the wiring posts in the 12 O’Clock position to clear the rear brake rod.

vincent rapide altette horn
Altette Horn

Miller “Split Rim” headlight with GE 3044 sealed beam unit.  These were fitted to U.S. Export models and is the rarest and most difficult part to find.

vincent ge 3044 headlight
GE 3044 Headlight

The Smiths S433/3/L 3” Chronometric speedometer

smiths speedo
Smith Speedo

ALL CHARGED UP!

A modern electronic voltage regulator was discreetly fitted inside the original Miller box.  An original rebuilt Miller D6 dynamo (generator) was obtained from Paul Dunn Dynamos in the U.K.

vincent solid state rectifier
Solid state rectifier.
vincent generator regulator
Generator and regulator ready to install.

PIECING IT ALL TOGETHER

I set up a folding work bench in my “man cave” in the basement and began trying to make the various parts from many different bikes all fit together.  Most times they didn’t. Eventually, I made them fit.

Starting with the Rear Frame Member, the dry assembly of all the parts progressed over the next year.

vincent rear frame fender
Rear frame member and fender.

SEAT AND WHEELS

Both the seat and the wheels were missing from the bike and were built up from scratch.

Stainless steel spokes were used in place of the original cadmium plated originals for appearance and durability.

vincent rapide wheels
New Wheels

The seat was made from using dimensions listed in the Vincent book “Know Thy Beast”.  A cover and seat foam were purchased from the Vincent Owner’s Club Spares Company.

vincent rapide wood seat base
Wood seat base.
vincent rapide seat base finished
Seat base finished.
vincent rapide seat cover and foam
Rapide seat cover and foam.
vincent rapide seat rear
Seat Rear
vincent rapide seat side view
Seat side view.

It is important during any restoration that everything be fitted to ensure there are no surprises after everything is painted.  This is even more important when building a bike up dealing with parts from other machines and reproduction items.

vincent rapide primer mock up
The Rapide in primer and mock up.

After the January show, Phil completed the last little bits in the engine and I brought it home in the trunk of my BMW.  The mocked up chassis components were bolted to the engine and it all stared to look like an actual motorcycle.

vincent-rapide-engine-rear-frame-mock-up
Rapide engine and rear frame member.
vincent rapide engine front-rear frame mock up
All coming together.

Next step, tear it all down and off to the paint shop.

SEEING RED

MAKING IT ALL LOOK PRETTY

The official Vincent name for the paint colour is “Chinese Red”.  The actual paint code has always been a topic of debate within the Vincent crowd as is what parts should actually be painted red and what should remain black.

Matching the paint was actually fairly easy in my case.  The underside of the battery box had never seen sunlight and was coated with oil thus preserving the original paint.  Paul Dempster at Pine Orchard Auto Refinishers was able to use this sample to colour match the shade of red.

Determining what parts should be red and black took a little bit of detective work.  I scoured the Internet, books and magazines for as many reference pictures as I could find.  Most of the images I found were of restored bikes and completely painted red.  This is incorrect.

I received a picture from BIg Sid Bibberman, who is a well known Vincent legend.  He had purchased a Red Rapide brand new in 1950.  He sent me a scan of the colour photo that was taken of his bike the day he unpacked it from the crate. Here was my reference pic!

It was clear to me what needed to be black. All Smith’s items (speedometer and brackets), tool box, license plate bracket and tire pump were black as well as the Lucas Altette horn.  All Miller equipment (regulator cover, generator end cap, headlight and tail light were red.  The handlebars were also painted red and not chrome as with many restored examples.

With my research photos and notes supplied to Paul, the paint was applied.

vincent rapide chinese red parts
Parts hanging in the shop.
vincent frame parts
Vincent frame parts laid out in the “man cave.”
vincent allette horn restored
Allette horn restored.
vincent rapide chinese red wheels
Finished wheels with Chinese Red hubs.

GAS TANK RESTORATION

The gas tank was one of the biggest missing pieces.  A good original Series C tank was purchased on eBay U.K. and handed over to Ross Thompson Metal Refinishers for dent removal and lining.

vincent rapide gas tank right side before repair
Right side, lots of dents.
vincent rapide gas tank top side before repair
The top, same as both sides, dent city!

The tank was then painted and colour sanded by Paul Dempster at Pine Orchard Auto Refinishers.

vincent rapide chinese red gas tank
Base Chinese Red

John Connery applied the 18k gold leaf stripe to the gas tank as per original factory specifications.

vincent rapide chinese red gas tank left side view
Chinese Red gas tank left side.
vincent rapide chinese red gas tank top view
Top View
chinese red vincent gold leaf-detail
Gold leaf detail.

 CVMG PARIS RALLY

cvmg paris rally poster
CVMG Paris Rally Poster

THE LATE NIGHTS

Vincent was the featured marque at the 2012 CVMG Paris Ontario Rally to mark the 75th anniversary of the first Series A twin.  June 15, 2012 was my deadline to git’er done.

For the two weeks prior to the rally I spent every night in the garage installing the parts that arrived in the mail daily.

vincent painted rear frame member fender
Completed rear frame member and fender.
vincent engine magneto
New engine magneto detail.
vincent rapide engine on lift
Rapide engine on lift, ready for frame members.
vincent engine with upper frame member installed
Engine with upper frame member installed.
vincent rapide steering head detail
Steering head detail.
vincent engine rear and front frame members attached
Front and rear frame members attached.
vincent rapide oil line detail
Oil line detail.

At 11:30pm on June 14, I had for the most part, finished the bike.  I did not receive the clutch parts in time and therefore would not be able to start the bike at the rally.  This meant it was not eligible for judging in the Sunday Concours.  I was ok with that. I had just finished a two year restoration of a very rare bike with a limited budget.  I was content.

vincent rapide chinese red right side low view
Vincent Rapide Chinese Red right side low view.
vincent rapide chinese red left side view
My Vincent Rapide left side view.
vincent rapide chinese red right side view
The right side again.
vincent rapide left three quarter view
Left three quarter view.
vincent rapide chinese red right side full
Full side view.
vincent rapide chinese red rear view
Rear

VOC ONTARIO SECTION

THE USUAL SUSPECTS

vincent owners group
A very large turnout at the Rally of Vincent Owner’s Club Ontario Section members.

After being dormant for some time, the Ontario section has now been revitalized due to the efforts of Section Chairman Phil Mahood.

voc show
Pictured with my bike is the most famous Vincent of them all, Gunga Din, now owned by Bar Hodgson. (Left Foreground)
gunga din voc show
Gunga Din right foreground.
voc show placard
The history of the Chinese Red Rapide.
vincent rapide at voc display
Beautiful
vincent rapide engine transmission detail
Engine and transmission detail.
vincent engine left side detail
Left side primary.
vincent apide chinese red paris rally
My Rapide with Gunga Din in the background.
vincent script detail
Tank Detail
vincent rapide ron stupart voc show
Me and the Chinese Red Rapide.

75 YEARS OF THE VINCENT TWIN

75 years of vincents one
A spectacular display of Vincent’s in chronological order was organized by VOC Ontario member Peter Salter.
75 years of vincents two
Vincent Black Knight (Center Frame)

INAUGURAL MEETING OF THE ONTARIO RED VINCENT OWNERS ASSOCIATION

red vincent owners club
Fellow Red Rapide owner Dan Stone and I comparing notes.

THE PHIL IRVING BASKET CASE AWARD

the phil irving basket case award
Tony Cording and Phil Mahood with a special presentation…and it was for me!
ron getting the phil
Receiving the award from Dorothy and Mike White. I was honoured to be recognized by my peers.
Close up of the award.
Close up of the award.

A FITTING END

MY TWO VINCENTS

ron stupart with his two vincents
Worth every minute of effort.

Standing in front of the result of two years of hard work, my red Rapide.  Behind it, my Black Shadow, now owned by Bar Hodgson.  The two bikes are together for the first time.

This is a fitting end to a story of passion, heartbreak and perseverance. Phil Irving and Phillip Vincent are looking down and smiling.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS

A SPECIAL THANKS TO THE FOLLOWING PEOPLE WHO HELPED MAKE THIS RESTORATION A REALITY:

Chris Stewart, VOC Scottish section for helping secure a number of hard to find parts in the U.K.
Paul Dempster, Pine Orchard Auto Refinishers for the fantastic paint job.
John Connery, Gold Leafing and Decals.
Gary Nolan, Diamond Automotive Trim, Seat Upholstery Ron Peter, Engine case bead blasting.
Roger Burtnik, Aluminum Welding.
Bar Hodgson for donating the brake drums.
Mike McCartney for donating the Lucas Altette horn Dave West for supplying the valve lifter parts.
Mayfair Plating, Chroming and Polishing.
New Toro Plating, Cadmium Plating.
Doug Sawicki for tracking down the bike for me and also selling me his very rare Miller split rim headlight.
Keith Newton, Wheel Lacing.
The VOC Spares, parts.
Coventry Spares, parts.
Walridge Motors, parts.
Glenn Bewley for supplying the Touring Fenders.
Robert Watson for supplying the donor Rear Frame Member.
Steve Corrigan & Steve Knowles, my friends the cabinet makers for making the plywood seat base.
Paul Dunn Dynamos for supplying the Miller D6.
Gary Robinson, Restoration of the Cams and Followers.
Herb Becker, Head Work.
Ross Thompson, Gas tank restoration.
Andy Lux for fabrication of the custom engine stand.
Heather Dollman for supplying the Renold drive chain.
Gary Dollman for his never ending moral support and encouragement.
Cindy Del Tatto for providing me with love and listening to my endless Vincent ramblings…
….and last but not least, my good friend Phil Mahood for engine rebuilding, endless technical advice and giving me the original lead on the bike. None of this would have been possible without him.

Words By: Ron Stupart

Images Provided By: Ron Stupart

Editor’s Note:  This was an amazing build!  The next time you are looking at a basket  case project, and the cash outlay is a few hundred, or a thousand, just think of Ron paying $20,000 for a few boxes of greasy parts!  I am honored that Ron chose to share his story here on The Biker’s Garage, if there was anyone that embodies the spirit of TBG, it’s Ron.

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7 thoughts on “Featured Bike: Ron Stupart’s A Tale of Two Vincents Part Two

  1. This is a great story of initiative, drive, and perseverance. This is two years of hard work, fellowship, and knowhow to get a difficult job completed. Thank you for the story, the photos, and in the end, one very fine motorcycle. It doesn’t get too much better than this!!
    -Steve Harris in Tucson

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    1. Hey Steve,

      Ron has been my friend for a while, and I have watched this restoration in his Face Book albums over the past year. I was very excited when he offered the story. He is very much a concours class restorer. The best part is, except when he’s having “expert” work done, like paint, or machine work, the bulk of it is done in his “man cave” or garage. You can’t get more “The Biker’s Garage” than that!

      Thanks for commenting!

      Like

      1. I would fail miserably at a Concours I’m afraid….lol….but thanks. I like to build my bikes to ride and therefore make sensible upgrades for comfort and safety. This basket case had literally no fasters with it so I opted to go with modern stainless steel ones for looks and durability rather that tracking down the original ones and have them cad plated. Same goes for the spokes…stainless is better.

        Ignition is a modern electronic BTH bolt-on mag in place of the original Lucas, hidden under the mag cowl. Regulator is a electronic one hidden in the original Miller box. Center stand is a popular add on that makes the bike easier to start and park. This with my liberal use of stainless would drive the anal Concours judges crazy.

        I put thousands of miles on my Black Shadow riding to shows and club runs. The Rapide still only has a couple hundred of shake down miles on it but will get regular use as well. I made it out to two British car events last year and won Peoples Choice awards in the Motorcycle categories at both. The bike was not fully sorted at that time and made for an adventure on the 6 lane highways. Winning those types of awards means more to me than a concours judging where you lose marks for not having the correct markings on the bolts or any kind of sensible improvement not fitted at the factory.

        I guess the moral of the story is…I build the bikes for me and to be used as designed…on the road. I ride them to events and let people enjoy seeing something real and up close that they have only seen in pictures. I love talking to the crowds and answering questions on the bike and Vincent’s in general.

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  2. Hi Ron,
    What a great story. I agree with everyone here that the inspirational part is how you have done most of the work yourself. Unfortunately , I don’t have your mechanical expertise but am afflicted by the same Vincent bug , so I had to hock half my worldly possessions to buy my 1950 Vincent Black Shadow and it was worth every cent.
    I can’t believe how small these things are for 1000cc and 60 plus years old.
    If they were cheaper when new , I think Harley would now be out of business!
    Keep on riding the red rocket – you can always restore it again.
    Regards from Australia.
    Brett

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    1. Thanks for commenting Brett, I am sure Ron will appreciate the comment when he sees it. I agree with you, Harley was in many ways behind the times compared to Vincent, it is a shame the marque did not continue. Vincent was the cutting edge of technology back in it’s day, and even now, it is still the equal of many motorcycles today, can you imagine where they would be had they continued? Unless some visionary with big money resurrects Vincent as Polaris did recently with Indian, we may have seen the last of them. At least you are one of the lucky few who get to enjoy this incredible machine.

      Like

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