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Vincent-HRD Series-A Rapide smashes auction record

Published: 03 September 2008

This Vincent-HRD Series-A Rapide is the most expensive bike ever sold at auction in the UK.

It raised a staggering £201,000 – smashing the British record and its estimate by around £50000 – in a sale of just 26 bikes which raked in a hefty £1.3m.

The Vincent set the new British record just minutes after another lot at the same sale, a 1927 Zenith-JAP Championship Motorcycle Combination, smashed the previous record selling for £180000.

The bikes were part of the private collection of the late vintage motorcycle dealer Brian R Verrall of South London.

The auction, at Bonhams in New Bond Street, London, last week, attracted more than 300 bidders along with telephone bidders from around the world.

Before the Verrall sale, the most expensive British bike to sell at auction was a 1934 Brough Superior SS100, which raised £166500 in April.

The Vincent’s phenomenal selling price confirms its status as the holy grail of motorcycles in the UK. This example, registered in 1939, has a 998cc v-twin engine, and was one of the last off to roll off the production line. 

Ben Walker, head of the Bonhams motorcycle sale department said: “The Series-A Rapide is very much the holy grail of motorcycle collecting. The guys who own them are long term custodians, so they don’t come on to the market very often. I can’t remember the last time we had one at auction – and you can see what happens when we do.”

Other top earners included a 1938 Brough Superior SS100 that raised £153000, a 1925 Brough Superior SS80 Deluxe which clawed in £81000 and 1933 Brough Superior Overhead 680 which reached £59000

Walker said: “The success of the sale had much to do with the discrimination and good judgement Brian Verrall had when he built this outstanding collection.

“The sale was just amazing. When you consider the last record was only set in April, to break it again so soon and twice in the space of five minutes was fantastic.”

The strength of the vintage motorcycle market has been growing year on year, and does not seem to have been hindered by the current economic slow down. Walker believes the future will see more record breaking prices posted.

“In terms of the future, there is always going to be a strong interest in British motorcycles. I don’t see that fading or rescinding.

“This resurgence of interest is coming from a new generation of motorcycle collectors who have. They are people who have grown up with enthusiast fathers, and now have the money to start investing in collections of their own.”


1927 Zenith-JAP ‘Championship’ Motorcycle Combination
Estimate: £120,000-£150,000
Sale price: £180000

Dating from Zenith’s Vintage years heyday, this JAP-KTOR engined model was purchased by Brooklands racer and engineer Roland Martin in April 1927. Martin attached the Graisely TT Model 259 sidecar which is included in the sale, before racing the bike. Verrell first saw the bike in the 1960s and next heard of it in 2001, when it was up for sale. It became the pride of his collection.

1939 Vincent-HRD 998cc Series-A Rapide
Estimate: £125000-1500000
Sale price: £201000

Only 78 of these bikes were produced between 1936 and the summer of 1939, and it is estimated of these just 50 survive today.  Nicknamed the plumbers nightmare because of all of its external oil pipes the Series-A Rapide produced 45bhp at 5,500 rpm from a 998cc V-twin. It hit top speeds of 110mph, making it one of the fastest bikes of its generation.