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Lot 420: c.1947 Vincent-HRD 498cc Comet Racing Motorcycle

Collectors' Motorcycles, Bonhams (16 October 2005)

When Vincent factory rider George Brown received permission to construct a one-off racer over the winter of 1946/47, he used a pre-war Comet, engine number ‘TTC17’, as the basis of what would become known as the ‘Cadwell Special’ (see Lot ???). In George Brown, Cliff Brown’s biography of his brother, Cliff, who also worked at the Stevenage factory, recalls that ‘TTC17’ had been raced at Donington Park pre-war by Captain Bill Clark, one of the Vincent-HRD directors.

Factory records show that this machine had originally been ordered in February 1936 by one George F Barber and was tested on 14th March that year by none other than George Brown himself. George Barber was employed as a machinist at Vincent-HRD’s Stevenage works, earning around £3 6s (£3.30) per week, so the fact that he was, apparently, able to afford a motorcycle that cost £105 new would appear to indicate a measure of factory support. A member of the Six Hills Motor Cycle Club, George Barber raced ‘TTC17’ extensively at Brooklands during 1936 and ’37, including at the inaugural meeting held over the Campbell Circuit on 17th July 1937.

In Phil Irving – An Autobiography, Vincent’s chief designer recalls that ‘TT17’ was Jock West’s works entry in the Isle of Man Senior TT in 1936. Vincent’s never used the same engine number with a different prefix, so ‘TT17’ = ‘TTC17’, and in a later chapter Irving recalls that the Cadwell Special was powered by “the pre-war Comet TT engine No. TTC17.” (Presumably, the fact that George Barber was a Vincent employee explains why the works was able to ‘borrow’ his machine, perhaps under the terms of its original sale, and why it was still at the factory in the late 1940s). More usually associated with BMW and AMC, Jock West had found himself in the Vincent-HRD camp thanks to a tie-up involving his sponsoring oil company. His team-mates were Jack Williams, Manliff Barrington and Jock Forbes, none of whom would finish the race. Jock West ended up in 8th place, having pushed in after the primary chain broke.

No information has yet come to light concerning the fate of ‘TTC17’ following its removal from the Cadwell Special, but it seems highly likely that the engine came into Eric Houseley’s possession from the same source as the Cadwell bike. ‘TTC17’ was subsequently rebuilt and incorporated into the machine offered here, which is believed to have been used successfully in hill climbs.

Although no longer in its original frame (unclear on the order form but probably ‘D1101’) ‘TTC17’ represents a rare opportunity to acquire an early Vincent-HRD works TT engine, dating from only the second year of own-brand Vincent power units and associated with a Grand Prix winning rider, Jock West.

Lot Details
Auction Collectors' Motorcycles
Bonhams, Classic & Motorcycle Mechanics Show, Stafford
Lot Number420
Outcome NOT SOLD
Hammer Price-
Hammer Price (inc premium)-
Condition rating
Registration number
Chassis number
Engine numberTTC17
Engine capacity (cc)
Engine - cylinders
Number of doors