Vincent is one of the most hallowed names in motorcycling. The original company only operated for 27 years, but that short time was enough to create some of the world’s most desirable motorcycles.
Not surprisingly, we don’t often see custom Vincents: They’re rare, and they sell for a fortune at auction. So when we heard that Keino Sasaki was working on one in his Brooklyn workshop, our ears pricked up.
This beautiful machine—a ‘resto-mod’ in the finest sense of the word—is actually a mongrel with a pedigree. It’s technically a Rapide, but a conglomeration of different parts from different years.
Keino suspects that the rear frame and swingarm are from a 1948 bike, and the front end is from somewhere between 1951 and 1953. The engine is dated 1949, making it a ‘transitional’—a late Series B, or early Series C.
“I wanted to keep the integrity of the original chassis,” Keino tells us. “So it was a bit of a challenge to work around that limitation. Even though bike looks custom, it can be converted back to the original styling.
“Nothing was chopped off. Well, apart from the electric starter, which required a little machining!”
The 998 cc air-cooled V-twin has received a lot of love. It’s now sporting Black Shadow cams, new bottom end components throughout, and an upgraded crank rebalanced to 60%.
The rest of the motor has been lightened and weight-matched, and the transmission—which turned out to be damaged—has been strengthened and modified to suit a Bob Newby Racing multi-plate clutch and belt drive.
Vincent buffs may also spot the new Alton 12-volt charging system and regulator/rectifier, the two-start oil pump, and the ceramic-coated cylinder barrels.
Then it was time for custom sheet metal and fabrication work. “The owner wanted to have creative input on how the bike looked. His company, the whiskey distillery Widow Jane, is just a few blocks from my shop,” says Keino.
“I didn’t want to cut up the chassis. I needed to do the fabrication while leaving the rest of the bike the way it is, but still make it unique with my personal touch and the client’s vision.”
After a lot of sketches, reference images and discussion, fabrication started. There’s a new tank and subframe, and the rear cowl now hides many of the electrical components.
We’re especially fond of the new exhaust system, and the mechanical simplicity of the foot controls.
An immaculate Series C Rapide sells for just over $100,000 these days. It’s hard to put a price on this bike, but it’s a one-off that will never be replicated.
Top marks to Keino Sasaki for a beautifully judged resto-mod. Would we take this over a totally original Rapide? After a moment’s deliberation, the answer is yes.