John Crispin ~ living with Vincent's


1949 Vincent Comet 500cc


Rally stickers ~ bearing witness to the work this bike has done.

JOHN CRISPIN'S ~ fourth Vincent!

This Comet is my fourth Vincent, and second 500, having worked my way up from a basket case 51 Comet bought in late '98.
that was within my limited resources. Yes limited I said, I know they are attracting daft money now but did not always . The upside of this is that restoring them is easy because parts are readily available, and they are good to use too, in the real world riding sense. Joinng the owners club then allows access to the internal market so to speak and I have bought the other machines from fellow members.

Vincents pioneered a kind of modular production in that most single cycle parts were in common with the twins. Arguably the increased weight and power meant that the Twins were on the limits in terms of chassis and brakes and the Comets over endowed. By modern day standards this is true maybe but the Comet has very powerful brakes for its performance (80mph and 80 mpg would be par for one of these) whereas the twins are in modern conditions a little wanting in the stoppers dept. The handling characteristics are good on both machines although different obviously, but the Comet is exceptionally nimble, a really comfortable bike. Bear in mind this is a fully suspended design when contemporaries were just toying with half hearted attempts at rear suspension in 1949. The motor is a fully stressed frame member, and as such was way out of the conventional mould in its time,
but now almost universally the basis of modern bikes. Most brit singles motors were all iron, the Comet is an all alloy motor, again almost unique except in race machinery. I bought the bike from a VOC member I had ridden with in earlier days back in Surrey where I was living at the time. He had ridden the machine to every FIM rally with a mate on a Rapide from 1984 -97. He owned another iconic British machine of the same capacity and better performance, a Velocette Venom, but chose to use this Comet for his distance touring. Interesting that the Velo engine from the same designer, Phil irving, was inherently something which addressed some of the 'issues' for want of a better word of his earlier Vincent design, but it was the Vincent chosen for the marathons.

Because the machine was used for such long distances, the previous owner incorporated several modifications. The most obvious of these is the B90 dynamo driven from a v belt running from a mild steel drive ring welded round the Burman clutch basket.
This drive belt runs through slots cut in the primary chain case outer. I have beefed this up by welding the auxiliary cover to the inner chain case .This helps rigidity and I also increased support and adjustment for it as it is a very heavy item. The dyno' is 80w nominally and I have a car type AO regulator mounted on the back of the alloy strut which takes the place of the rear cylinder on 500's. The previous owner needed to have a spotlight for continental driving which I have relocated by remount from the front offside fork leg to the n/s crash bar which I fitted. It is not the prettiest feature of the bike but it is very useful at times when I have to ride after dark. To take the place of the original 40w Miller dynamo is a Morris Minor oil filter canister which is just to occupy the space really, but serves to house a supplementary breather pipe out of the rear window of the timing chest.

The post war 500 engine prior to the girdraulic forks models on the series C machines, was fitted to the series B Meteor, which had Brampton girder forks bought in by the company for the early post war years and not phased out finally until 1950.
The Meteor was supposed to be a budget machine but was still pricey for its time. It had a slightly lower spec, smaller carb etc and lower compression, no front stands and were all badged HRD. The Comet spec was in effect half a Black Shadow, 1.1/8" carb and 7.3 :1 compression.

UMF is an early Comet, hence the embossed HRD cases and corresponding tank decal. It was 97th off the line October 1949. There are various other mods which are obvious and I have the Vincent touring bars in preference to the straights more commonly employed. I am trying to keep as many original Vincent features as possible and will replace the Lucas rear light now that bright repro Vincent type ones can be obtained. Again the previous owner chose to fit a 7" Miller headlamp in the interest of safety and it is much more effective. I also intend ultimately to replace the 18" rear rim with 19" to match the front . The lower photo of the front guard shows some of the rally stickers applied by the previous owner and bearing witness to the work the bike has done. It was taken soon after the bike came into my ownership.

I know it is my machine but when built it was such a groundbreaking design, and can tirelessly cover large distances in relative comfort and with virtually no vibration. Had the twin not overshadowed (sic) the smaller sibling it would have stood out head and shoulders over its contemporaries without doubt IMHO.

Thank's John for story ~ EBMCC webmaster

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