This motorcycle started life as a 1951 Vincent Rapide, one of the fastest motorcycles in the world at the time of its release. Unlike its siblings this Rapide has been completely redesigned by custom motorcycle legend Max Hazan, and in 2022 it won the coveted Best of Show award at the Quail Motorcycle Gathering.
Vincent motorcycles have won many hearts of many over the decades, including Hunter S. Thompson who wrote about a Vincent Black Shadow in his book Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Few have had the courage to build them into customs, and no one has ever done it quite like Hazan.
Fast Facts – The Max Hazan Vincent Rapide
- The Vincent Rapide is a V-twin superbike that was released in 1936, decades before the word superbike was first coined. The V-twin engine was said to have been conceived when Vincent engineer Phil Irving noticed two single-cylinder engine blueprints laying atop one another in the shape of a V.
- A new engine was developed that used pre-existing Vincent cylinders, heads, and valvetrains – amazingly the new crankcase could even be made using the existing jigs. The engine was capable of 45+ bhp, a heady figure for the pre-WWII world, and it could reach speeds in excess of 110 mph (177.0 km/h).
- Max Hazan is a high-end custom motorcycle builder known for largely reengineering motorcycles in his well-equipped California workshop. He had always wanted to build a Vincent custom, and a couple of years ago he got a call from a friend named Mike who asked him to build a new bike around a Vincent V-twin he had acquired.
- Max set to work, he rebuilt the engine and gearbox, he then machined new two carburetors from scratch. He also machined a pair of new drum brakes, the hydraulic front forks and the hydraulic rear shock absorber. Once he had completed the built it was shown at the “Quail Motorcycle Gathering” in 2022 where it was given the “Best of Show” award.
Max Hazan is an anomaly of sorts. He’s both one of the most influential custom motorcycle builders of his era, and one of the most unassuming. He’s friends with the likes of Jay Leno and Jason Momoa, and he’s been fortunate enough to count both the late Anthony Bourdain and Bobby Haas among the admirers of his work.
Max’s first custom was a Royal Enfield single that began attracting attention right out of the gate, including from Paul d’Orléans, the larger than life character behind The Vintagent. Paul would later so an interview with Max, which you can read here, which goes into great detail about his work, his background, and some of the highlights of his career – including this custom Vincent.
The Story Of The Max Hazan Vincent Rapide – By Max Hazan
This section of the article was written by Max Hazan
I was looking for my next project following my supercharged twin-engined Velocette and was vowing to get as carried away on the next one when a fellow, Mike Klingerman, emailed me saying he had a numbers matching Vincent in pieces that he wanted to build a bike from. oOnce in a while you get lucky.
Initially the plan was to make something that could be put back to original to retain the value of the bike but about a month before we began he said just do whatever you want, again, once in a while you just get lucky.
The engine was actually for the most part all there and I wanted it to be the centerpiece of the bike as it is one of the best looking engines ever made, but other than that I just let it happen.
Above Video: This clip from Revival Cycles shows Max in his workshop, and he has the Vincent up on the bench in incomplete form explaining his build process and the unusual steps he’s taken along the way.
I didn’t want to clutter it up with forced-induction but wanted it to still be something special, so after trying out a set of rare Dellorto SS1 race carbs I decided to design my own carbs and machine them from aluminum. I matched the intake flanges (28mm) but otherwise got creative and eliminated the float bowls and made a vacuum operated diaphragm setup that despite my skepticism, worked almost perfectly right away.
For the ignition, I decided to ditch the generator and put a magneto there in addition to the magneto in the usual spot. I hit up Dave at Morris Magneto and said that I wanted two mags but one with a single dwell and the other with a dual dwell as one would be spinning at engine speed (in the generator location) and the other at cam speed in the usual spot… he laughed and said “sure, I got you.” Both mags had dual output so I machined the heads for dual spark, one mag each.
I wanted to run a 200 superbike slick on the rear so in addition to widening the primary for the dual sided belt drive and Bob Newby clutch that would also run the rear mag, I also had wo move the drive side to clear the tire – normally a sprocket spacer deal but on the Vincent a lot had to be made, even a special sprag bearing kick setup among other things.
I wanted to retain the engine as a stressed member as it was in the original production bike (as well as it cool as hell) so made a chromoly tube frame that everything bolts to but eliminated some of the bracketry. I made everything else from scratch other than the tires – the wheels, spokes, front and rear hydraulic suspension suspension and drum brakes, and the twin carburetors.
I wanted to run shouldered Borrani-style wheels but there were none in the sixes that I needed so I had my buddy, Mark Atkinson, machine up some blanks and I finished and drilled them in my own machines.
The front brake was a bit more of a headache as I also had Mark rough out the front drum then I spent countless hours on it before the brake shop told me they had no 13″ diameter cast iron liners. I eventually machined the cast iron liners from two 35lb barbell weight plates from a gym and had the brake shop press them in and line my shoes to match.
The bike full with fluids weighed in around 340 lbs with a good bit of that in the front drum itself but it ended up being a pretty fast little bike. Probably picked up some power with the headwork, carbs, and high-comp pistons but would say it’s probably 10hp over stock-ish.
Mike entered the bike at the 2022 Quail Motorcycle Gathering and (to our surprise) took Best In Show, Best Custom and the Arch Design Award as the first custom ever to take best in show.
For me the most satisfying part of the whole thing was being able to make that happen for Mike, a complete stranger, to take drop off an engine and trust me to make whatever I wanted with his bike/hard money from the sale of his house, truly a dream project all around.
If you like to see more of Max Hazan’s work you can visit his website here.
The Quail Motorcycle Gathering
The Quail Motorcycle Gathering is an annual event held in Carmel, California, that showcases vintage, classic, and modern motorcycles. It is part of The Quail, A Motorsports Gathering, which is a broader event that also includes a prestigious car show. The motorcycle gathering began in 2009, and since then, it has grown in popularity and size, attracting motorcycle enthusiasts, collectors, and restorers from around the world.
The Quail Motorcycle Gathering is held at the Quail Lodge & Golf Club, a luxury resort located in Carmel Valley. The event showcases a wide range of motorcycles, spanning various eras, countries of origin, and categories, such as racing bikes, touring bikes, and off-road bikes. In addition to the display of motorcycles, the gathering also features a variety of activities, including test rides, live music, and gourmet food and beverages.
Each year, the Quail Motorcycle Gathering presents awards to exceptional motorcycles in various classes, such as Best in Show, Spirit of the Quail, and Innovation Award. The event also honors a specific marque or theme, which changes annually. Past themes have included “50 Years of the Norton Commando,” “100 Years of the Brough Superior,” and “Legends of the Sport.”
The Quail Motorcycle Gathering has developed a reputation for being a premier motorcycle event, combining the elegance and sophistication of a concours d’elegance with the camaraderie and passion of motorcycle enthusiasts. The event is known for its welcoming and inclusive atmosphere, making it a favorite among collectors, restorers, and fans of all ages and backgrounds.
The 2023 Quail Motorcycle Gathering is due to take place on the weekend of May the 6th, and you can visit the official event website here for more information.
Images courtesy of Shaik Ridzwan
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