Quarter Miler: ’52 Vincent Rapide Drag Bike!

Vincent Drag Bike

Vincent drag bike with an engine by Hall of Famer Marty Dickerson!

The origin story of the Vincent V-twin is legendary. Designer Phil Irving, while working at his office in Stevenage in 1936, noticed two drawings of Vincent single-cylinder engines lying on top of one another in a V configuration. Irving realized the 23.5° rearward set of the engine’s idler would allow a 1000cc 47° V-twin to be built using the same cylinders, heads, and valve gear as the 499cc Comet single — the crankcase could even be built with existing jigs!

Vincent Drag Bike

The Series A Rapide was the first Vincent to receive the new 998cc OHV V-twin engine. After WWII, the Series B was introduced with a new unit construction engine, combining the engine and gearbox into the same casing, and the engine became a stressed member. As Phil Vincent wrote in his memoirs:

“What isn’t present takes up no space, cannot bend, and weighs nothing — so eliminate the frame tubes!”

Vincent Drag Bike

The Series B would serve as the foundation for the famed Black Shadow — what some call the world’s first superbike, long before the Honda CB750 claimed that title:

“Chris Bunche, editor of Choppers magazine, said [the Black Shadow] was so fast and terrible that it made the extremely fast Honda 750 seem like a harmless toy.” -Hunter S. Thompson

Vincent Drag Bike

Later, English singer / songwriter Richard Thompson would immortalize the Vincent in song:

“Now Nortons and Indians and Greeves won’t do,Oh, they don’t have a soul like a Vincent ’52…”


Today, we’re thrilled to feature a 1952 Vincent Rapide drag bike that ran in the late 1960s and early 1970s. The engine was built by none other than AMA Motorcycle Hall of Famer Marty Dickerson, a California native who caught the land-speed bug after helping he legendary Rollie Free race at Bonneville. As soon as Marty got home, he started transforming his Vincent into a land-speed racer, and the rest was history:

“Marty Dickerson is best known for setting speed records on his own Vincent HRD Rapide during the 1950s. Dickerson set a Class C record of 129 mph on the Bonneville Salt Flats in Utah in 1951. When the record was broken a year later, Dickerson came back with an improved version of his Vincent in 1953 and turned in a run of 147 mph. That record held for 20 years.” –AMA

Marty at Bonneville in 1953

The bike you see here was sold new in Germany and later exported to Southern California. Highlights include BSA 441 Victor Special slipper pistons, a H-D Sportster clutch, 40mm Delorto carbs, and Yamaha forks.

It was built to run consistent 10-11 second quarter mile E/Ts at 124-126 mph on gasoline.

If you need a vintage drag bike in your life, this one will be crossing the block at the Mecum Las Vegas 2023 auction on January 24-28. It has a California pink slip, known ownership history, and a book of detailed specifications, time slips, and build sheets!

Vincent Drag Bike: Photo Gallery



  1. A Radical Design w/SPEED in mind. Thoroughly enjoyed the Story/History of this “Magnificent Machine”, such fluid lines, Amazing Build.

  2. David J. Schroepfer

    Great Bike. Would nice to own the engine.

  3. John Gregory

    In 1963 TC Christenson put a 1961 650 Norton Manxman engine from a wreck into a 1951 Triumph T Bird frame. Stock except for Nomad 10 to 1 pistons and mild porting, he consistently ran 126 and 127 mph in 10:95 to 11:11 on pump gas. In 1967 he installed an Atlas Engine set up like the future Combat Commando. His long-standing record was 151 mph, 9:85 on nitro. The Norton Drag bike was recently featured at The Mama Tried show in Milwaukee. The 650 hasn’t been apart in 50 years. Still runs good in TC’s Chopper. Never beaten by a Vincent.

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