The Vincent Series B Rapide was designed during the Second World War and rolled out for the press and the public just before that conflagration ended, and it was a radically different machine than the ‘A’ model which preceded it.
The new Vincent featured internal plumbing to handle oiling, a gearbox which was part of the engine casting and introduced what came to be called “unit construction.” And in a move which presaged designs to follow and still being used to this day, the engine was used as a stressed member of the frame. That frame configuration was built around an oil-tank center section with the engine hanging below. The front and rear suspension parts were attached at the ends of that spine, and the layout was viewed as a great leap forward.
In addition to the forward-looking engine and frame setup, the latest Vincent had wheels which could quickly be detached to make tire changes a snap, the rear wheel was reversible, and owners and mechanics could swap out a variety of rear sprockets to come up with simple final-drive ratio changes.
Marty Dickerson’s 1948 Vincent Rapide Racer, which came to be known as ‘The Blue Bike,” became legendary at Speed Week on the Bonneville Salt Flats. Dickerson’s Bonneville record-breaking machine was recently sold at auction in what the auctioneers called “as last raced” condition. The bike still has the original timekeeper seals intact, and that makes it a historically correct find of the most magnificent sort.
So how did Dickerson get his hands on his “Blue Bike?” The racing legend closed a deal with Mickey Martin to take on a cross-country ride on the new Vincent to attract customers and drum up business for Martin, and while that venture was somewhat less than successful, it did lead Dickerson into a series of square-offs with nearly every hot bike and hot rodder in the west.
Ultimately, Dickerson opened his own shop and used it as his base of operations to prep for his series of speed record runs, runs which, a year later in 1951, culminated with the the Class C record at 129 mph. That record stood for a scant two weeks when rival Sam Parriott slid past it on a highly-modified Ariel Square Four.
Dickerson went back to the drawing board, settled down to work in his shop, and with a set of special factory cams and exhaust pipes provided by Phil Vincent, returned to the Salts in 1952 to reclaim the record. And that he did. Dickerson achieved 141 mph to once again grab the Class C Record. In 1953, Dickerson once again broke the Class C record with an average two-way speed which topped out at 147 mph.
On one of those runs, Dickerson cracked the 150-mph mark, and in doing so, rode The Blue Bike into history.