A few years ago I wrote about motorcycles engines re-purposed for use in aircraft and I wondered why we didn't see more of them. This morning, an email shows up, from Kim Scholer, my friend over in Denmark, with this photo attached showing a Vincent Picador Drone engine. Though target drones have long been used by the military, in earlier years, they were far from being the sophisticated fliers we have today.
It seems, sometime in WWII, Vincent tried to get a government contract supplying motors for the ML Aviation U120D target drone. The years involved are unclear because all references I found are a bit vague.
The motor had to be capable of passing prolonged full power operation tests. This was called the Picador project. The Vincent motor was upgraded with a better crankshaft, Scintilla magneto, double speed oil pump and fuel injection. They did not get a contract. (Russel Wright's record breaking bike was fitted with a Picador crank and oil pump, by Vincent, while in England for Earls Court, shortly after the 1955 record attempt.)
I had never heard of this project, but as I scanned the comments on my earlier article, I see one referred to this very setup.
The neat thing about a project like this is all of the reengineered high performance parts developed. When the project fell through, those parts were now available to be used in Vincent motorcycles, probably snapped up by those lucky individuals who knew about them or who were in the right place at the right time.
Although this is new to me, I'm sure some Vincent owners out there are well aware of the details of this story beyond the scant information available on the Internet, and I'm sure many of you would like to hear all about it, I know I would.
There are a few more photos available here.
Thanks for the photo, Kim!