"One Japanese rider commented

that he particularly likes British bikes

because they break down a lot

which, I suppose, makes

them all the more



Rod Atkins

1950 Vincent Comet



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Vincent: World's Fastest
Production Motorcycle

Price: £15.00
P&P: UK £3.00.

EU and Worldwide £4.00.
Colour: Black only

1950  Vincent Comet Series C


Type: Air-cooled OHV single

Capacity: 499cc (500cc)

Bore & Stroke: 84mm x 90mm

BHP: 28 @ 5,800 rpm

Compression ratio: 6.8:1 (optional  7.3:1)

Transmission: Burman 4-speed, multi-plate

dry clutch

Brakes: Twin 7-inch front, twin 7-inch rear

Electrics: 6-volt, Lucas magneto,

Miller dynamo

Front suspension: Girdraulic

Rear suspension: Pivoted action rear sprung, hydraulically damped

Wheels/Tyres: 3.00 x 20-inch front,

3.50 x 19-inch rear

Weight: 413lbs

Maximum speed: 84-90mph

Vincent Series C Comet contacts


Bob Culver

Telephone:  01462 673705

Vincent re-engineering specialist. Years of service and support. Friendly and approachable. Also does ally welding.


Maughan Vincent

Telephone: 01529 461717

Lincolnshire based Vincent engineers and parts manufacturers.


Vincent Series C Comet facts


1. The Vincent C Comet was produced in 1948 and priced at approximately £240 (including purchase tax).


2. Comets, like many other Vincents were fitted with a Feridax dual seat.


3. Many riders consider the Comets to have superior handling to the big twins citing high-speed "jittering" problems with the Rapides and Shadows. Conversely, other riders claim the opposite, which probably simply makes it a case of different strokes for different (sized) folks.


4. The Comet has twin (linked) front brakes and twin (linked) rear. The company favoured control rods where possible rather than cables to preclude rider maintenance neglect.


5. The 998cc V-twin Vincents have an unusual clutch that operates partly like a more conventional multi-plate unit, and partly like a drum brake (with an inherent self-servo function). It was developed specifically to handle the extra power of the larger capacity bikes. But the Vincent Comet, having a lower power output, has a fairly typical multiplate clutch unit.


6. Prior to 1950, Vincent motorcycles were called "Vincent HRD". The initials "HRD"  referred to Howard Raymond Davies, a successful and very popular motorcycle celebrity racer and ex-WW1 pilot who started his own company in 1924 (to 1928). Phil Vincent, aged just 19, bought the HRD name and rights and used the "HRD" initials until the firm became more active in the US market and needed to avoid public confusion between their product and the large V-twins of Harley-Davidson (HD). Post-1950, Vincent motorcycles became simply "Vincent".

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"I bought my 499cc Vincent Comet in 1970 and paid around £65. It was a local bike that belonged to a friend who had had a sidecar on it and had toured heavily. The name Vincent, naturally enough, carries a lot of weight, and like a lot of people I’ve always been interested in the company, which was very local to me. But what I was really had in mind was putting a big Vincent V-twin engine into a Comet and I spent the next 38 years waiting for one to come up at the right price at the right time.

 "Converting a Comet to Shadow or Rapide specification isn’t hard. Just a little expensive. I recently missed out on an engine that would have done the job. The engine was priced at just £4000—which is a bargain. But for various reasons it didn’t happen.

"You can now buy brand new big twin Vincent engines for around £10,000. But I’m still looking out for a genuine old engine at the right price.

 "Of course, if you convert a single-cylinder Vincent Comet to a big twin, you’re not going to get top money for it. It wouldn’t be a genuine Shadow or Rapide, and any serious Vincent enthusiast would quickly spot that and wouldn’t be very impressed. But if you did the modification, you’d still have the big twin riding experience, and it’s the riding that interests me mostly.


"My bike, incidentally, is 1950 Vincent “C” Comet

(3,791 produced). The first Vincent Comets were built in 1935 (to 1939; announced in 1934). That was the “A” Comet (prototype). The short-lived “B” Comet was developed from that, and the C Comet came along in 1948 and was built until 1954.

"There was a Series D Comet made for that same year, but as far as I know it didn’t go into production.

 "I’ve ridden around 165,000 miles on my Comet, which isn’t bad mileage. But it’s nothing compared to some Vincent riders who have covered 500,000 miles, or more.

 "Vincents are a very different riding experience. You tend to sit on top rather than “in” them. You’re almost perched up there. It’s not a bad position. Just different. I used to ride a lot more than I do today. Two hundred miles a day is plenty now. But I have done mileages as high a 1700 in a single week.

 "One of my favourite riding events is the Irish Munster Rally. I've done that 14 times; 13 times on my Vincent, and once on my VH Ariel. For over 35 years, the event has been organised by the Munster Motor Cycle and Car Club and is currently staged around the 4-star Kenmare Bay Hotel in the Killarney/County Kerry region. It’s not one of the better known rallies, but it’s one of the best for great scenery and great riding.


"The event is currently co-supported by Murphys, the brewers—who will probably in turn be co-supported by the participants.

"Generally, you arrive over a weekend in August. Monday night begins with a social get together. The riding itself takes place the following morning and continues on and off until Friday. Depending on the power and specifications of the bike you’re riding, you set your own average speed of either 20mph, or 24mph. Which doesn’t seem like much, but some of the roads are pretty small and tight, and average speeds are often misleading. In fact some of the riding is pretty much off-road; a bit like the lowlands of Scotland. But there are stretches where you can get the speed up a little.

"Every year the route varies.

"There have been a couple of accidents. The year before last, for instance, an Irish lad came off his Norton and wrecked the forks. And I remember a rider on a BMW who was hit by a tractor-trailer or something and lost one of the cylinder barrels. Apparently, BMW cylinders come off a lot easier than you might think.

"But no one, as far as I can remember, has been seriously injured. It’s much more relaxed than that.

"The upper cut-off year for bikes entering the event is 1961, by the way. There’s no lower limit.


"The way it works is this; you establish your route in the morning (after a full Irish breakfast) and ride around 70 miles. Then it’s time for lunch. There’s another 70 miles or so in the afternoon, all of this passing through 3 checkpoints. It’s not a race, but there are penalties and awards. Around 160 bikes or more usually attend.

"You get to meet interesting riders from all over the world. For example, the oldest machine last year was a 1907 German Triumph with a young German girl on it. There also were a couple of Japanese guys last year dressed like Kamakazi pilots. One of them commented that he particularly likes British bikes because they break down a lot - which, I suppose, makes them all the more interesting.

"Another Japanese guy was riding a Sunbeam which had a magneto problem that they couldn’t sort out locally. So they put the bike in a van or something and took it all the way to Dublin where it was fixed overnight and ready to ride the following day.

"That’s the kind of spirit that makes it worth riding the event each year.

"You do have to put up with some modern riders getting in the way, but just a few. You never, or hardly ever, see any police.

"Jeff Smith rides regularly on (as far as I know) a BSA DB34 Gold Star outfit owned by Dave Bickers—who usually also comes along and rides a Matchless G80CS Steib outfit.

"The worst weather we had was 4 days of gales and rain, and the best was 4 days of non-stop sunshine. In Southern Ireland, with the Atlantic weather just over your shoulder, you never know what to expect, even in August.

"On the last night, incidentally, there's another big dinner, and that's that for another year.


"I met the now legendary Bud Ekins on the Munster Rally a few times. But the first time I met him (briefly) was back in the late 1950s when he was riding a Matchless in an ISDT event. When I met him again in Ireland about 10 years ago, I got to know him a little better.

"Bud was a bit of a whisky and fags man; a great big bloke and typically West Coast American. As most people know, he was heavily into desert racing, and had ridden for Matchless and Triumph. When he packed that up, he started doing stunts for films—both cars and bikes—and later became famous for doing “Steve McQueen’s” bike jump in The Great Escape.

"Bud always had lots to say about the American bike scene and was interesting to listen to. He generally came over with a few mates from the United States and was riding Matchless bikes mostly. I think he kept a machine or two in the UK or Ireland for convenience.


"As  far as I can recall, Eric Cheney built Bud a bike a few years ago. Bud’s health was declining, and the Cheney bike was a very lightweight machine with a small unit Triumph engine. Bud dropped it on one occasion and when I spoke to him afterwards to check if he was alright, he said “well, my heart’s still going at least, so I suppose I’m still alive.”

"The last time I saw Bud was in 2006. He didn’t look too well at all, which was particularly sad because, as I said, he was such a big bloke and now didn’t look so big. And when I asked about him in 2007, one of his friends said that “he’s a poor old thing” now, and of course he was gone the following year.

 "Anyway, the Vincent Comet was almost always my bike for the Munster Rally, and has been pretty reliable. It’s more or less original except for a few points worth mentioning. It was designed to run with a magneto (it’s actually had three mags on it), but some years ago I converted it to coil ignition.


"It’s also running an alternator taken from a Citroen 2CV. The alternator is driven by a vee-belt. The belt acts as a kind of shock absorber. The good thing about the 2CV alternator is that it doesn’t have a rectifier built into it, which is often the part that fails on the road. For rectification, I use a tiny Lucas unit that sits underneath and is easy to get at.

 "The alternator runs at engine speed and replaces the original 50-watt dynamo. It puts out around 120-watts. This 12-volts system is far more reliable than the original 6-volts system. I paid around £10 for the alternator, £12 for the regulator. And another £12 for the extra bits and bobs. I also use a contact breaker from an early BSA C11. I think a more modern alternator is an essential upgrade for the standard Vincent charging system if you plan to do any serious riding.

 "The carb is a 276 Amal, which was how it left the Stevenage factory. I suppose I could upgrade that too, but I’m happy with the 276. The bike has also got the original Vincent dampers.


"Working on the Comet is easy, and you don’t need too many tools; just a few pullers which you can get almost anywhere. In fact, it’s just had a new big end on it that was sorted out by Bob Culver, the Vincent specialist in Letchworth, Herts.

 "The Comet engine, like all Vincent engines, can be dropped out of the bottom of the bike. You simply prop up the engine at the rear (with a some blocks of wood or something) and use the two side stands at the front (one on each side) to hold up the other end. After releasing the petrol tank, a few oil pipes and some electrical connections, it’s just a matter of taking out a handful of engine bolts. Then you’ve can wheel the bike away and start on the engine. Couldn’t be simpler really.

 "And these are tough engines anyway. Phil Vincent and Phil Irving built them well and didn’t compromise on much.

"On the road, the handling is good, if not remarkable. There’s not a lot of power mind. Vincent Comets put out only around 28bhp when new, and the top speed was no more than 90mph or so. But it’s all usable power, so you can push it hard and get some real riding pleasure from it.


"Braking is brilliant, both front and back. Vincents of that era used twin drums at the front, and because they’re twin, they tend to stay cooler than a single larger unit, and so don't fade easily. I recently had them serviced by the aforementioned Bob Culver, and you can pretty much lock them up if you want too. But they’re not hard and aggressive like, for instance, modern brakes. They’ve still got plenty of feel.

 "Bob bonded new linings to the shoes, then put them on the back plate and fixed that to his lathe. Then he skimmed the shoes. That makes a lot of difference and gives you a smooth action and progressive braking.

 "I used to be an electrician and rode the bike to work every day for years. Also, I’ve been in quite a few VMCC runs and touring rides with friends, etc.

"It’s always been pretty reliable. I’m not sure about its current value, but it must be somewhere between £6000 and £10,000. I couldn’t be more accurate than that because I just haven’t considered selling it.

 "People often say, derisively, that a Vincent Comet single is just half a Rapide twin. Which is true. But a Comet is arguably also half the trouble. I think it’s an underrated bike, and I’m very happy with it."





All this and the open road