That time VIncent made the world's first personal watercraft.
Last week on Cycleweird I told you about Vincent's desperate attempts to survive bankruptcy in the 50s by building two-stroke engines for industrial and commercial use. Ill-advised and ill-fated, these little motors went in all sorts of things from farm machinery and lawn mowers to personal watercraft. Personal watercraft? Yep! Turns out that, along with these desperation two-strokes, Vincent may also have invented the personal watercraft as we know it today.
Friends, meet the Vincent Amanda. Built by a struggling Vincent Motorcycles in the late 50s, the Amanda was a revolutionary machine when it was released. Powered by a 75cc, Vincent-produced two-stroke engine—later models had 100cc and 200cc mills—the Amanda featured a lightweight monocoque shell made from reinforced fiberglass, propeller drive, and could scoot through the water at 15 miles per hour. Riders could sit or kneel, and the machine was controlled by handlebars mounted on a shaft that rose vertically from forward of the Amanda's seat. It was started with a recoil starter like a lawnmower and was equipped with a system that circled a rider should they fall off.
The Amanda was a nice looking machine and relatively popular, but like the rest of Vincent's schemes to remain relevant and stay in business, it was a hilarious failure. First, it was eye-wateringly expensive. Amandas went for upwards of £140, that's about £3,300 or $4,200 today. That's a ton of money for a purely recreational vehicle in post-war England. Second, fiberglass technology was in its infancy when the Amanda hit the scene, and the machine's hull would distort and warp like crazy when exposed to direct sunlight for long periods of time. You know where you get a lot of sun for long periods of time? At the lake or at the beach, the places where this thing was designed to operate (insert joke about cloudy English weather here, I guess). A whole lot of Amandas sank at their moorings after doing nothing more than sitting in the sun for an afternoon.
Ultimately the Amanda was too little, too late for Vincent and only a few thousand were made before the company shut its doors for good in the late 50s. To really get the full Amanda experience, I've included a couple videos here for your viewing pleasure—the Pathe video above showing some spirited young Englishwomen sporting on Amandas and a video I found on YouTube of a running Amanda engine. Enjoy!