Iconic British marque Vincent Motorcycles could be on the verge of a major revival amid reports its trademark and naming rights have been acquired by Indian giants Bajaj Auto.
According to reports in India, Bajaj Auto - the world’s fifth largest motorcycle manufacturer - has acquired the rights to Vincent as previously owned by Dave Holder & Family, with suggestions it is being lined up as the firm’s answer to two other Indian owned marques with British origins, Royal Enfield and BSA.
While no formal confirmation has been made by Bajaj itself - with the news instead broken by Rush Lane after acquiring documents that indicated as such - the speculation comes just months after Mahindra - via Classic Legends - revived famed UK marque, BSA.
However, while the return of BSA, plus TVS Motors’ rescue and overhaul of Norton Motorcycles, generated great fanfare around the world, the resurrection of Vincent could prove an even more significant comeback story.
Revered as the ‘premium’ British motorcycle manufacturer of its era, Vincent held numerous accolades in its time and led the way on innovations, offering models with single-cylinder 500cc and 1000cc V4 engine architecture.
However, its zenith was arguably the 1949 Vincent Black Shadow, which with its 125mph top speed earned it the mantle of the world’s fastest motorcycle. It is a model that remains immensely coveted today, so much so a pristine example of one fetched a mammoth $929,000 (approx £810,000) at auction in 2018.
As with most British automotive firms, Vincent struggled to adapt to market trends following the war and folded in its original form in 1955 due to financial issues. However, both the name and the firm’s engineering expertise continued to be felt in the decades that followed, with its trademarks changing hands several times over the ensuing decades.
In many ways, the question of whether Vincent would be revived has become a case of ‘when’ rather than ‘if’.
Indeed, this isn’t supposedly the first time the Vincent Motorcycles’ name has been targeted by an Indian firm, with Royal Enfield’s parent company Eicher Motors reportedly attempting to acquire its rights back in 2013.
Demand for modern classic motorcycles has never been stronger but while many current models owe much of their inspiration to the British-manufactured motorcycles of the 50s and 60s, the UK two-wheel industry has dwindled significantly since then, making any homegrown revival more likely to be on a smaller, specialist scale like Hesketh.
Fast forward 70 years and India is motorcycling’s new powerhouse, vying with China for honour as the world’s largest motorcycle market. Three of India’s companies - Hero, Bajaj and TVS - sit well inside the top ten for overall global sales, while Royal Enfield has made huge gains internationally in recent years.
It means Bajaj - which focuses largely on small capacity models popular in Asia - both arguably lacks the gravitas and image to rival Royal Enfield or BSA with a ‘premium’ in the upper categories under its own moniker.
As such, it would appear logical for Bajaj to go ‘like for like’ with a separate higher-end range attached to its own rich British heritage, particularly given the press attention given to BSA in recent months.
Whether it adopts the Royal Enfield approach by developing the brand from India, or adopt Classic Legends’ method of establishing a manufacturing base in the UK remains to be seen but Bajaj has the benefit of being a much larger organisation than either of its rivals, giving it greater leverage.
Indeed, as well as its own huge volume of output, Bajaj already has major manufacturing deals in place with KTM, plus its associated brands, while it has been tasked with constructing Triumph’s incoming ‘baby’ range of lower displacement models.
On the flip side, this could afford Bajaj to invest in an overseas operation for the first time and emphasise Vincent’s Britishness in the land it was founded.
As for which model we could expect, rivals for the Royal Enfield Interceptor 650 and BSA Gold Star 650 would seem a likely place to start, though there is an argument for it to dive right in and evoke Vincent’s erstwhile ‘luxury’ status back in the 1940s by giving TVS’ Norton a run for its money.
Of course, this still depends on whether Bajaj’s plans for Vincent are well developed or whether it has simply taken the opportunity to snap up the rights when they came available and decide how to proceed later.
Time will tell…