Phil Vincent -  Life After 1959:  by Robin Vincent-Day (3/23/03)

I suppose I ought to let you know a bit of history which you will not read in any books.  

Philip Vincent, his wife Freda and their daughter Deirdre, (Dee) left Stevenage in January 1960. The company had been bought out by Harpers and PCV was employed by them as a sort of technical consultant. It was not a happy relationship and PCV was offered the option to “resign” in November 1959. Dee was 6, Freda was 30 and Philip was 51, a relatively young man.  They were living at 3 High St. Stevenage in the house which was owned by the company.  Refusal of the offer was not an option so PCV and the family were forced to leave with the contents of the house and office, 1 year’s salary, and a clock ! Most of the fine furniture, some which had been handed down from the Horndon on the Hill property, was put into storage. Most of it was subsequently stolen.  PCV had enough savings to buy a small garage concern in Caythorpe, Lincolnshire.  They offered forecourt petrol sales, paraffin, sweets and tobacco. A workshop provided servicing and repairs. They also dealt in used cars. Freda ran the shop and Philip ran the car sales business. He changed the name to Vincent Motors and used the Vincent logo in their advertising. 

The business was seriously affected by an increase in purchase tax on used cars which was introduced shortly after they moved in. To add to this a bypass was opened up around the village which drastically reduced passing trade. So, the business folded and PCV was effectively unemployed and virtually unemployable!  The family moved down to London where Freda was able to gain employment back in the hotel industry. She had experience in this field.  Freda never worked at Vincent’s. She was working at the Cromwell Hotel when the couple met in 1953.

The new address sounded very grand.
Wentworth Court Hotel,
London.  W.2.

In fact it was a run down one room bed-sit!

Dee attended primary school locally, Freda worked shifts at various hotels in nearby Park Lane and PCV set about gaining an income by working from home writing articles for the motorcycle press. He also did some consultancy work on behalf of the government but payment for the work took several years to come through by which time inflation had taken its toll.

Philip’s inventive mind would not rest. He turned his attention to the design and development of a rotary engine. This project was to occupy his time, for many thousands of hours, over the following 15 years. He embarked on a course of study which involved research into all of the existing theories relating to the internal combustion engine, most of which he soundly rejected.
He continued writing articles for various motorcycling publications but many of his articles were dismissed or heavily edited because of the intense technical content and his tendency to drift off the subject matter and into his own theories of design.
The family moved around from here to there. They eventually settled in a fourth floor, two bed roomed flat in Chiswick.

PCV always had an extremely determined character. He was never a man with which one would wish to argue. His determination was what had led to the success of the Vincent Motorcycle which, by the mid 60’s, had already gained a legendary status. His self confidence, coupled with his phenomenal work rate, was enough to convince the B.S.A. Company to take up his designs and begin a development programme for the rotary engine.  Sadly, B.S.A. did not have the financial background to pursue the project as sales of their own machines were already being eroded by the invasion of the Japanese. Development of such a radical design would require a working budget.  They simply could not afford further backing so they dropped it like a hot potato!!

Undeterred, Philip set about the arduous task of trying to secure backing from other companies within the motor industry. He wrote to everyone and anyone and he received polite replies of rejection from all and sundry. He was probably a victim of his own exuberance insomuch as he was convinced that the entire industry was completely wrong to pursue their existing development programmes and he told them so! He was asking large corporations to abandon years of development, tear up the rule book, and start from scratch !  Eventually a company called Norris Brothers of Hayward’s Heath took an interest in PCV’s designs. Although small, they had been major players in the development of Donald Campbell’s Bluebirds. They are currently planning an attempt on the World Water Speed record in October 2002 details of which can be seen on

An old friend had introduced PCV to the Norris Brothers and a small team, headed by PCV, was set up to embark upon production of a prototype engine. At last it seemed that the bad times, which had dogged Philip and the family for so long, were about to be reversed. The Vincent Rotary engine was about to get up off the drawing board.

More anon.

Robin Vincent-Day   

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