Philip Vincent built his first motorcycle, featuring the signature cantilevered rear-suspension design he patented, in 1927. Seeking the advantage of an established name, he purchased the defunct HRD motorcycle company and formed Vincent HRD in Stevenage, England, one year later. Australian designer Phil Irving joined the firm as chief engineer in '31, and helped the company produce its first 500cc single three years hence. The V-twin-powered Rapide debuted in '36, with a 110-mph top speed that made it the fastest production vehicle of the time. The legendary Black Shadow-named for its black-enameled, 998cc V-twin-appeared in '48. That same year Rollie Free raced his tuned Black Shadow to 150.313 mph at Bonneville, wearing only a bathing suit. Despite remarkable racing success, ongoing and heavy financial losses drove Vincent to discontinue production in '55.