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Vincent Motorcycle Serial Numbers and Post-War Production Records

The following numbers are provided as General guidance.  There are many opinions as to number of Vincents produced, exact year, and serial number breaks.  Your opinion is welcomed and may prevail on the next version of this list.  To obtain the matching frame number, add 1900 to the engine number (with specific documented exceptions).  Vincent Engineers was a very small company and exceptions were made.

Series           Year   Engine Number
                  1946   3-19
                      1947   20-400
                      1948   401-1400
                      1949   1401- 4980 (#4439 was October 27, 1950 so something off here)
                      1950   4981-5730
Note: 1950 was a "transition year' when both B's and C's were available. Timing covers may have been HRD, Vincent, or polished smooth.  Vincent embossed crankcases may have appeared as early as 1949 (F10AB/1/3090).

                   1951   5731-8250
                       1952  8251-9570
                       1953  9571-10,000
                       1954  10,001- 10,300
                       1955  10,301- 10,587

D                    1955  10588 -11,134

Engine Model Identification by Series
A Meteor: M
A Comet: C
A Comet Special: TTC
A TT Replica: TTR
A Rapide: V
B or C Rapide: F10AB/1/xxxx
C  White Shadow:   F10AB/1A/xxxx   ( UFM/RFM would be RCxxxxA )
B or C Black Shadow:  F10AB/1B/xxxx
B Meteor: F5AB/2/xxxx
C Comet: F5AB/2A/xxxx
B or C Black Lightning: F10AB/1C/xxxx
B or C Grey Flash: F5AB/2B/xxxx
D Comet: F5AB/3A/xxxxx
D Rapide or Black Knight: F10AB/2/xxxxx
D Black Shadow or Black Prince: F10AB/2B/xxxxx
D Black Lightning  F10AB/2C /xxxxx

Where are the Numbers Located ?
The Engine Number is stamped on the left side of the crankcase (viewed from sitting on the bike) just below the cylinder fins. 
The Engine Case Matching Numbers are stamped between the base of the cylinders on each side of the crankcase.  This case matching number may also be stamped on the inside of the timing cover, primary cover, generator drive cover, clutch cover, and the kickstart cover.
Rear Frame Number is stamped on the left side rear axle lug and should match the UFM.
The Upper Frame Number
stamped on the left side of the steering head.  Vertical stamping.
The frame numbers will start with
for Series B
RC for Series C
for Series C Comet
RD for Series D
The frame number Suffix with no preceding slash is
A for White Shadow
B for Black Shadow
F for Black Knight
B/F for Black Prince. 
The frame number
Suffix preceded by a slash
"/" is as follows: 
/A = metric taper bearings in the front wheel only
/B = rear wheel only
/C = both wheels. 
/D = ball bearings on the wheels
/E = different locking mechanism.

Be especially careful of the suffix.  For example:
RC #### B is a Black Shadow.
RC #### /B is a Rapide with metric bearings in the rear wheel.

What does all this number information tell me ??

Suppose you have a Vincent motorcycle with the following (fictitious) numbers..
Engine Number:  F10AB/1/2777
Upper Frame Number : RC4677
Rear Frame Number: RC4677
Case Matching Number: GG66

You have a 1950 Series "C" Vincent 1000cc twin cylinder Rapide motorcycle with all matching numbers.. !!
F=4 stroke engine
10 = 1000cc
A=Aluminum alloy engine cases
/1/= Rapide (series B or C)
2777= early in the 1950 production year
RC = Series C frame
4677= engine number + 1900 and no suffix.. correct frame number for engine number
GG66= both case half numbers should match each other for an original set of crankcases, also appears on the primary and timing covers.

This motorcycle will probrably have early Girdraulic forks, plain  timing cover,  7" Miller headlight, and other Series "C" details..  In addition, the magneto will have a date stamped onto the little tag.. something like..Lucas: KVF  3/50 P403K.  The carburetors are also stamped.. more on these later. Casting numbers are generally raised above the surface and stamped numbers are punch indented into the metal.

Note: The above example does Not exist.

Why changing serial numbers or model identification does not succeed on a Vincent

Vincents have a major advantage over all other motorcycles, namely:  there are many cast, stamped, and  documented numbers and sequences unique to each Vincent; there are experts in the VOC on casting changes throughout production, casting marks, and types of dies used to stamp numbers; and the VOC maintains Extensive current Vincent ownership and factory records for positive authentication.   You would have to be a total idiot to steal or try to fake the numbers on a Vincent.  Ownership is obsessively documented and duplicate serial numbered bikes or "mystery" Vincents attract immediate attention as to authenticity, heritage, ownership, and legality.

Production of Vincent Twins:   (August 2002 Report by VOC Machine Registrar)

Series A Rapide                   80         First January, 1937         Last July, 1939
Series B Rapide               1847         First May, 1946             Last June, 1950
Series B Shadow                 76         First February, 1948       Last May, 1950
Series B Racing Machines      8
Series C Rapide               2758         First December, 1948     Last 1955
Series C Black Shadow    1507          First December, 1948     Last 1955
Series C White Shadow       15          First May, 1949               Last May, 1952
Series C Black Lightning       33         (one with a D engine)  First prototype "B" Black Lightning  1948
Series D Rapide                  151          1955
Series D Black Shadow      144           1955
Series D Black Knight         101          1955
Series D Black Prince         132          1955

Total Production              6852

Ted Davis's Memories: (note some disagreement with official VOC records above)

First "B" Rapide = January, 1947   R2002
First "B" Shadow = May, 1948        R/2PAB
First "C" Shadow, First "C" Rapide, First "C" Lightning = April, 1949
First Grey Flash = October, 1949     RC/1A/4821
First Quickly = August, 1954 engine # 70006B
First 123cc NSU-Vincent Fox = April, 1954
First 98cc NSU-Vincent Fox = May, 1954
First Black Knight = November, 1954    RD/12489
First Black Prince = November, 1954    RD/12493B

Motorcycles with Engine Numbers Under 10,000 (9,900 produced)

Twin Cylinder

 Series B
  Rapides             1,849 (including 2 protytpes)
  Shadows                 71
  Racers                      8

Series C
 Rapides                2,627
 Black Shadows    1,334
 White Shadows         13
 Lightnings                 29
 Type unknown           1

Total Twins      5,932

Single Cylinder

Series B
 Meteors               128
Series C
 Comets              3,791
 Grey Flash             31

Total Singles      3,950

Records inconclusive   18

Motorcycles With Engine Numbers 10,000 - 11,135 (1,136 produced) (although some records indicate 11,134 was last number)

Twin Cylinder
 Series C
   Rapides                 98
   Black Shadows     135
   White Shadows        2
   Lightnings               4

Series D
  Rapides                147
  Shadows                140
  Knights                   78
  Princes                   108
  Lightnings                 1

Total Twins        713

Single Cylinder

Series C
 Comets                     102
 other D singles           5

Total Singles        107

Records inconclusive:  316

Total Number of Post-War Vincents Produced...11,036

This list does not totally agree with the August 2002 List..both extracted from official records.

Vincent Motorcycle Shipments

Records are available for over 9,500 Vincents of the 11,036 produced..  The following countries received Vincent motorcycles at the quantities indicated:

1. Great Britain  6,068
2. United States  1,072
3. Australia  600
4. Argentina  431
5.  Sweden  289
6. Canada  219
7. Brazil  169
8. Switzerland  157
9. New Zealand  79
10. France  67
11. Uruguay 39

Seat Lugs: There were about 200 Series C's with straight lugs on the rear.They later discovered this created a problem with the lengthened swingarm and put in the curved ones.  Somer  2/26/10

"Vincent" embossed crankcases appeared at least as early as engine number 26XX .  Somer  12/15/09

White Shadows:  As far as I can recall the 1A number was what the works came up with initially to distinguish a "tuned"  Rapide motor in  the very early  days of postwar production. The early Surtee's motor that Jack raced  with a chair with son John as the monkey was so numbered eventually Jack swapped it back to the Works who overhauled it and sent it out as new to the Cuban agent Jose Amat in 1947. This was an indication of  how desperate they were to ship product constrained as they were by  postwar shortages. This bike was later brought to the US when the Amat family fled Cuba in the Castro rise to power and at one time George Emmerich of Chicago owned it. Once the Black Shadow became a  production item with the 1B designation a year or so later I would imagine that the works decided to number unpainted Shadows differently to distinguish between finish. As a Shadow was originally advertised as "Sports Rapide" later dropped from the  ad copy having already used the 1A to denote a works tuned Rapide before the Shadow existed I suspect they just carried on using (1A) on unpainted  Shadows. Why they built so many is an odd way of  looking at it as 15  is hardly many. I would simply offer the reply,  because the Works would build a customer whatever he wanted and if a buyer was  particular enough to go to the bother of  specifically requesting an unenameled Shadow they would only be too eager to  accommodate. I don't know this but I suspect most of the "White Shadows " were UK destination machines. As the lengthy lead times with overseas orders
 would preclude most of that special order stuff excepting the odd  Lightning and from tales I've heard about how long it took for the Works to deliver custom  ordered Lightnings waits of  a year plus an overseas customer wouldn't bother. Carleton Palmer 5/8/07
There actually was one.Egyptian Blue Vincent.  Somer  5/18/09
First Black Shadow built (JRO 102, on 19 July 1948)  Amazing how "Official" records do not match memories of those who worked at the Factory.   Source ?

The 1st Production Shadow was built on April 14 1948.  The prototype JRO102 probably preceded it by a few months. Somer  6/13/08

First production Vincent with Die Cast Cases is reported to be #9972. Some sand cast cases have serial numbers later than #9972.  jim  8/13/03

All B Shadows had Brampton forks. There were about 500 "HRD" Series C's made before the "Vincent" Series C's came out. To make things more confusing, there were five Series B Shadows made with Vincent embossed cases.   Somer  1/15/02

It appears that the man whose job it was at Stevenage to record production records was one of those who the Receiver made redundant in Dec 1954.  This would explain why the works records that are now in Club hands, stop at /9999.  So far I have traced and recorded nearly 90% of the machines produced after /10588 (not all are “D”’s, some are Series “C”’ twins, some are “C”/”D” Comets and there are two B/Lightning’s plus the Victor and the one genuine “D” Comet-some machines with interesting variations and histories).  The last production bike was /11134 .  Hills  04/19/01

Ex-Doobie Brothers Prince (F10AB/2B/11128): One of the few D's which was exported as a new machine, it went to Mathew Motors of Des Moines, Iowa. It moved around the States having at least three different owners until Pat Simmons (one of the Doobie Brothers) bought it in 1978. At this time it had only 5000 miles under it's belt and I would be surprised if it did many more while in the Doobie Bros ownership. It seems destined to be one of those bikes which is looked at rather than ridden!  Dave Hills

Rare Vincents: The Meteors were few but more than one. It seems that I heard that there were 10 to 20 built but I don't know for sure. I've seen 3, had one in pieces. Only Gordon probably knows for sure.  2C Lightnings were made in 55, following the advent of diecast cases. The records here are a little sketchy in that the records for the diecast motors were lost. A new one surfaced about 3 years ago in the states. I included Lightnings in one cluster, otherwise one could argue 52 Lightning is rarer than a 53 because they only made 2.5 that year, etc. You could also get into HRD Lightnings VS sandcast Lightnings VS diecast Lightnings VS transition Lightnings VS Lightnings that went back to the factory and had the letters HRD removed (It was done to one). Shoot, each one was hand built anyway. I don't think any body would turn down one in favor of another. "Gee, thanks but I really had my heart set on a diecast Lightning".  I've seen one totally original (as in untouched) Red Rapide. It even had red rubber tubes (I had to do that!). Actually they weren't completly red in that the Miller components other than the head light were usually left black. This usually included the the license plate bracket and speedo bracket.  They seemed to be built in 2  batches. The first were with transition cases (HRD case with the HRD removed). These seem to be in the 27xx range of  serial numbers. The second batch had Vincent embossed cases. These seemed to be in the 44xx range. I've had 3-4 go through my hands (Does that make me red handed ?!). They were not a success sales wise. Dealers would often paint them black upon removal from the crate!  Somer Hooker  12/20/00

Comets: According to the works records the first Meteor left the factory December 29, 1948. By December 1949 they had delivered 63 Meteors, 123 Comets including the prototype and the prototype Flash plus one production one.  Trevor  9/11/03

 Approximately 16 Series "C" Red Comets were originally built.  F5AB/2A/4084 left the factory for the US in June, 1950. (John Romano). F5AB/2A/4090 is also a Red Comet which left the factory June 3, 1950. (Jim Baltusnik 11/05)

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