British motorcycle manufacturers - F
Last update June 6, 2003
|Federation||1919-37. Funded by the Cooperative Wholesale Society, which went back to groceries in '37.|
|FLM||1951-53. Frank Leach Manufacturing.|
Affectionately known as the 'Fanny B,' Francis-Barnett specialized in making economical and lightweight roadsters. Founded by Gordon Francis (whose father, Graham Francis was co-founder of Lea-Francis) and his father-in-law, Arthur Barnett in 1919. Moved into the former Excelsior works in Coventry when that company moved to Birmingham.
They started using two-stroke, one cylinder 293 and 346cc Villiers engines in 1920. After the war, efforts to try to design and build their own engine proved financially unsuccessful so they returned to Villiers motors for their final years. In 1924 they used a unique bolted-together, triangulated frame which helped reduce weight, and costs. This also allowed the bikes to be taken apart for shipping and the company advertised it could be re-assembled in 20 minutes (two works fitters were filmed doing just that, the film still being available on video today).
Fanny-Bs became popular in the trials world because of their lightness. In 1927 they worked with Villiers to develop a 344cc in-line, two-stroke vertical twin model, but it never sold well. Their most popular machine was their 250cc Cruiser (Model 39), made from 1933 to 1940 with Villiers two-stroke engines. In 1935 they offered their first four-stroke, using a 250cc ohv Blackburne engine. In 1938, they offered a 125cc unit-construction Snipe and a 98cc Powerbike autocycle. The Snipe was adapted to war use later. The Francis-Barnett plant was demolished in the same blitz that ruined the Triumph factory.
Post WW2, the company used entirely two-stroke engines from 98 to 248cc. In 1947, the company was taken over by Associated Motor Cycles (AMC), but continued to produce bikes for almost 20 years, closing in 1966. Initially there were few differences between the AMC James and Francis-Barnett machines, although they developed independent designs later. AMC dropped Villiers engines, using a lower-quality AMC engine instead. However, the F-B 199cc Falcon 87, made from 1959-66 proved very popular. as a tourer The last model made was the 150cc Fulmar.
A Francis-Barnett motorcycle is seen used by police on the British TV series, Heartbeat.
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