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No.11 - Francis Barnett

Francis and Barnett Ltd of Lower Ford Street, Coventry was formed in 1919 by Gordon Francis and Arthur Barnett.  They were motor cycle manufacturers who, for the 1939 season, produced an autocycle called the "J50 Powerbike".  The Francis-Barnett Powerbike followed the usual pattern, the first model having the Villiers Junior engine.  Just after the K50 was announced for the 1940 season, the engine was changed to the new Junior de Luxe.  The earliest models were unsprung but during 1939 a rubber-cushioned fork that pivoted at the crown was introduced.  Another feature of the Powerbike was a rear hub brake actuated by back pedalling.  This had a trip action that allowed it to be disconnected when wheeling the machine but automatically re-engaged it when the machine was ridden.  The round toolbox in the rear bend of the carrier was introduced during 1939, earlier models having a flat toolbox on top of the front portion of the carrier.  At the same time the design of the engine covers was simplified, earlier ones having a curved depression to provide clearance for the pedal cranks.  The J50 Powerbike was priced at 18gns [£18.90] in 1939.  Francis Barnett used their own expansion box and tail-pipe rather than the standard JDL ones.

1939 Francis Barnett Powerbike 50
1939 Francis Barnett Powerbike 50

When the war ended the Powerbike was quickly re-introduced but it now had a girder fork that used rubber bands to provide the springing.  In June 1947 Francis Barnett was amalgamated with AMC.  Price of the 1948 Powerbike was £55 17s 7d [£55.88].  The Powerbike 56 replaced the Powerbike 50 in June 1949; it was a Villiers 2F powered model.  The frame, fuel tank and engine covers were all redesigned to suit the new engine, and the smaller and wider 2.25×21 wheels and tyres were fitted but the Powerbike 56 still retained the form of the traditional autocycle.  The unusual rubber band front suspension was also retained.

Francis Barnett Powerbike 56
Francis Barnett Powerbike 56

Frame numbers

The frame number is on the left-hand side of the steering head except on post-war Model 50s, where it is immediately below the saddle.  A letter H after the frame number on the post-war Model 50 indicates that is has Harwil hubs; otherwise British Hub hubs are fitted.  A two-letter prefix to the frame number indicates the model and year of manufacture.  The first letter shows the 'model year' (traditionally, motor cycle makers introduced their new models around October or November of the preceding year, or even earlier); the letters are:

J 1938/9
K 1939/40
L 1946
M 1946/7
N 1947/8
O 1948/9
P 1949/50
R 1950/51
S 1951/2

The second letters used on autocycles were:

G pre-war Powerbike
H post-war Powerbike 50
N Powerbike 56

The next article in this series will describe the HEC Power Cycle.

First published at Autocycle Central - November 1998, revised April 2009

The Old Ways is a more recent and more comprehensive article on the Francis Barnett Powerbike.

The Autocycle Roadshow compares the pre-war 'wobbly fork' Francis Barnett and Raynal autocycles.

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