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Origainally published in Spring Motorcycle Magazine, Volume 25, Issue 1 2015

Cobble Beach Concours d'Elegance is the new holy grail

By Sam Longo

Vincent Black Prince
Photo by Hedy Hodgson

NOTHING LIKE A VINCENT: The 1955 Vincent Black Prince in the foreground, owned by Bar Hodgson, will be one of the Vincents competing at Cobble Beach in 2015. Pictured here at the 2011 International Vincent Owners Rally, where the Concours d'Elegance took place at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, the Prince took Best Series 'D' in Show.

The Cobble Beach Concours d'Elegance is the Canadian answer to the world famous Pebble Beach event held yearly in California. Now in its third year, the upcoming event is being held at the Cobble Beach Golf Resort just north of Owen Sound, Ont., on Sept. 12 and 13, 2015. This extravaganza boasts and hosts some of the finest examples of rolling art in the automotive world. Chosen and judged on the criteria of quality of restoration, authenticity and provenance, it is the crème de la crème of the fourwheeled realm. To win or even place at such a prestigious event is the holy grail of collectors. The most coveted prize, of course, would be winning "Best in Show" Interestingly, this year will mark the first inclusion of two-wheeled classics to the already overwhelming display of motorized icons. What better way to branch out into motorcycles than to start with the legendary mark of Vincent HRD? This special class will include superb examples of eight motorcycles, ideally showcasing Series A, B, C and D along with other special interest models. One such legendary motorcycle is Bar Hodgson's famous factory test bike "Gunga Din". already a past Concours winner at Meadow Brook and Amelia Island.

The British-built Vincent HRD has a rich history, produced from 1928 until 1955. Philip Vincent purchased the manufacturing rights of the HRD Company, founded in 1924 by Howard R. Davies, and then proceeded to build robust, well-built singles and V-twins. The early models were powered with Rudge or JAP engines (J.A. Prestwich) of 346 cc, 489 cc and 598 cc. Subsequently, entirely new 497-cc engines of proprietary design, with high-camshaft and overhead valves, began powering the bikes from 1935 onward. Late in 1936 Vincent produced the first 998-cc V-Twin engine. With front and rear sub-frames bolted fore and aft, a girder front end, sprung rear wheel and twin brakes on each wheel, the legendary formulation was born. Post-Second World War improvements produced further refinements and additional versions of the big twin, such as the Black Shadow, Rapide and the much-coveted Black Lightning. The Lightning boasted 100 hp and broke many speed records. Perhaps one of the most famous was the notorious Rolland Free, who managed to achieve 150.313 mph in 1948 on a specially prepared, alcoholburning Black Shadow. It should be noted that his record was achieved wearing nothing but a bathing cap and swim trunks while lying prone atop this thundering projectile on the Bonneville Salt Flats.

Gunga Din Vincent owned by Bar Hodgson
Photo Hedy Hodgson

BEST IN SHOW: Bar Hodgson's "Gunga Din" takes Best in Show at the 2010 Concours D'America at Meadowbrook estate in Michigan. Here the emcee interviews Bar about the amazing story behind Gunga Din, with the judge ready to present the prestigious award. All vehicles are ridden to the Viewing Stand to receive their awards so the audience can see them run.

Vincent Black Lightening, the Lost Singapore Lightening
Photo by Hedy Hodgson

An example of a very rare 1953 Vincent Black Lightning - only about 30 were every manufactured - bound to excite the Cobble Beach crowd. This particular one, known as the 'Lost Singapore Lightning' will be competing at the 2015 event.

In 1949, Vincent decided to resurrect some single-cylinder models. Essentially utilizing half of the V-twin engine, these 499-cc motorcycles, such as the racing Grey Flash, met with limited success and despite being very collectable, don't quite match the provenance and desirability of the V-twins.

Finally in 1955, due to the high cost of production and weak motorcycle sales worldwide, financial hardships caused the factory doors to close forever. It is hard to believe now, but in the early 1970s with the onslaught of the Japanese motorcycle invasion, Vincents could be purchased for a song. However, supply and demand can be a fickle taskmaster, and today these same motorcycles in top shape can often fetch more than six figures on the open market!

So if you happen to have a free weekend on Sept. 12 and 13 and feel like taking a ride to Owen Sound, check out the Cobble Beach Concours d'Elegance. The Vincents will be taking their place amongst the other gleaming four-wheeled classics, vying for the attention of the judges and surely holding their own. Philip Vincent, who always strove to build quality machines, will surely be looking down and smiling knowing that his creative vision has stood the test of time.

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Rare Red Vincent owned by Ron Stupart
Photo Ray Vella

Ron Stupart's rare Red Vincent is only one of 120 ever made. They were manufactured in this colour exclusively for the American market.

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