Earliest (?) Texas Vincent Dealership Lore

By Bev Bowen

 

Recently, Honorary Member Carleton Palmer got in touch with me and mentioned that an early post war Vincent dealership in Texas was Texas-British Motorcycle Company in Corpus Christi, and that the dealer was Tiny Miranda. Carleton asked if that name had ever come up in my dealings. Why, yes, it had! But, while I had surmised there had been a dealership in Corpus Christi, I did not know the name of the business.

 

Carleton may be the only present day Vincent Man that knew Tiny Miranda. In 1979, Carleton had been to Tinyís home in Baton Rouge, Louisiana to purchase a 1914 Harley board track racer Tiny had owned from new. He said Tiny had been an active dealer in Corpus Christi and also sold Nortons and other makes and had sold new at least one Series B Black Shadow.

 

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Tiny Miranda (Courier-Journal, October 8, 1926)

 

All this set me off! I am very interested in Texas Vincent history, so I dug deep on line into ancestry, newspapers, etc. Above, I mentioned I had heard of Tiny before and that came along when I researched my 1950 Red Rapide. I bought my red bike from Oskar Zernickow, who back in the day lived in Victoria, Texas and had been for 50 years the 3rd owner. At that time he also had a 1948 Series B (by number a í47), acquired from Sam Prinzing. Oskar hated the mostly all red of the Touring Red Rapide and also preferred the "HRD" art and some of the parts on the "B." So, he swapped some parts between those bikes and I have left the Red Rapide pretty much like Oskar modified it.

 

Anyway, fellow Lone Star John Martin had met Sam Prinzing and kindly supplied me with Samís contact, since Sam had told him he had some history on my bike. Sam had bought the B Rapide in Corpus Christi, wrecked, from Tiny. After getting it in order, he traded it to Oskar for an S7 Sunbeam. Until Carletonís recent contact to me, thatís all I knew about Tiny and the inference that there had been a Vincent dealer in Corpus Christi.

 

First, more about Tiny, from my research. Born in 1894, he emigrated with his Italian family from Palermo, Italy when he was 4 years old. They settled in Plaquemine, Louisiana, now a suburb of Baton Rouge. His full name was Donald Peter Miranda. Being vertically challenged, he was handed the nickname "Tiny". (I found a WW2 draft registration document that had him then at 5 feet one inch and weighing 125 pounds). He wasted no time falling in love with motorcycles and his first machine was a 1905 Minerva, bought in 1907. At age 20 and in Plaquemine, he opened his first dealership (HD).

 

But, "The War to End All Wars" came along and Tiny enlisted in the Army. They promptly had him training Army motorcyclists. As his unit was about to embark for Europe, the war ended and Tiny wandered for a short time, first going to Minnesota to help organize a motorcycle racing association, then was recruited by Indian Motor Company to help with a foundering dealership in Louisville, Kentucky. For whatever reason, that did not last long and Tiny found employment with "The Courier Journal" and the "Louisville Times", the main local newspapers. His job was courier/delivery and he maintained, trained and managed a team of 10 sidecars.

 

He worked with the newspaper up until around 1938, and it must have been a colorful employment. One of the tales told concerned the "Kentucky Derby Paper Caper". For the big annual horse race the paper would print four different headline editions to distribute that afternoon, each with a different winner. They guessed which 4 horses were most likely to win. So, 4 sidecars left the printing office about 3 minutes before the race started, each loaded with a stack of papers with different winners featured. Along the way, they raced, sometimes up to 70 mph on the city streets. Back then, there were mechanical street signs, and police gave the riders a "go", as they were familiar with Tiny and his couriers, having been trained in their police riding by Tiny! They would get to the winnerís circle about the time the race ended, and their prize was a picture with the winner, the jockey holding the paper with his headline! Tiny said they got it right 15 years in a row.

 

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Tiny Miranda (Courier-Journal, September 29, 1929)

 

Tiny was a racer, along with his employment. He did road, off road, drag racing and hill climbs. On September 21, 1921 in Donaldsonville, Louisiana Tiny rode a Chicago 500 HD to a "world record" in a 5 miler. Over the years he was on the podium many times and said he ran into marital troubles due to all the women charging him at the podium, "grabbing", so that often if he ended up with a trophy, it was only because it had been mailed to him!

 

While living in Louisville, he was very active in Kentucky and other states and racing against noteworthy professionals. His newspaper covered many of these events. Interestingly, Rollie Free was a contestant/competitor in at least one hill climb event (Mitchell Hill, Kentucky, in Jefferson County), on August 4th, 1929. Then, Tiny was riding an Indian 45 ci. I was unable to find how he fared against Rollie in that race.

 

Tiny was a stunt man, too! In St. Louis he and another rider collided in a motodrome and the machines caught fire, spreading flames onto on-lookers. In a panic, several parted company with their clothing, one man ending up wearing only his shoes!

 

By 1939 Miranda had gone from his newspaper employment to proprietorship of a Servi-Cycle dealership. I suppose it was from that experience he was somehow recruited or found an interest if not outright ownership of the Texas-British Motorcycle Company in Corpus Christi, since that business was also a Servi-Cycle dealership. It had been in operation since 1940, and it seems that Tiny must have relocated there in mid to late Ď40s. At one time he had a couple partners, David A. Pennington and M. H. Hollingsworth. They sold several brands and also rented motorcycles.

 

Tinyís motorcycle racing experience ended in 1948, when he crashed at 122 mph in a speed test at Corpus Christi. Tiny said that one eye was half out of its socket, he had a cracked skull and that one arm was out of socket. He was hospitalized and was in a coma for 2 weeks. But, as seemingly the case with the always-resilient Tiny, when he woke up he jumped out of bed and went back to work!

 

Given the speed in crashing, it is perhaps reasonable to assume that it had been on the B Rapide he had sold to Prinzing. Prinzing did say that the Vincent he purchased from Tiny had been wrecked by Tiny.

 

Miranda ended up moving back to Louisville, and maintained ownership of a home in Baton Rouge, also, where he spent the winter months. He died on New Yearís Day in 1984, in Louisville.

 

As for the Texas-British Motorcycle Company, we donít presently know when it shut down or what it evolved to. What we do know now is that it was one of if not the first Vincent Dealership in Texas, and that an owner was one very colorful D. P. "Tiny" Miranda!

 

In addition to the enjoyment of learning more about Tiny and the early dealership, I am proud that my Red Rapide has some parts on it from a bike that Tiny owned, crashed and sold. Further, I checked with the VOC archives and learned that the B Rapide ended up in the hands of Glen Challis of the Queensland Section, Down Under. I am also pretty sure that my Red Rapide was sold by Texas-British Motorcycle Company to its first owner, a speed merchant in Houston. It came with some optional "go fast" parts.

 

Great for me that Carleton Palmer got me motivated to look into Tiny Miranda and the Texas-British Motorcycle Company. And, the Lone Star Section has more documentation for its Vincent History.

 

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"D. P. (Tiny) Miranda, 80, is believed to be the oldest living member of the American Motorcycle Association. In left photo, he's shown with a Harley Davidson sweatshirt on in front of his motorcycle dealership in Plaquemine, La, in 1926. He now lives in Louisville."     (Courier-Journal, August 25, 1975)

 

 


 

 

 

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