Francis-Barnett of Coventry were producers of motorcycles from
1920 to 1966.
Affectionately known as the Fanny B, Francis-Barnett specialized
in making economical and lightweight roadsters. They moved into the former
works in Coventry when that company moved to Birmingham.
The company was founded in 1919, by Gordon Francis (whose father, Graham
Francis, was co-founder of Lea-Francis)
and Arthur Barnett of A. Barnett
and Co, his father-in-law, at Lower Ford Street, Coventry.
The new Francis-Barnett was effectively an Invicta from A.
Barnett and Co, with a different tank transfer. This continued until
Arthur Barnett adopted the bolted-tube frame design.
The Invicta continued with the 269cc two-stroke Villiers
engine, which was then joined by 346cc and 678cc sv JAP,
plus 499cc Abingdon
engines. The largest had chain drive.
1923 The range had reduced to 247cc Villiers,
and 292cc and 346cc four-stroke engines.
1924 There were four-strokes only.
1925 The four-strokes were joined by a 147cc Aza
two-stoke. It was to be their final year of production.
1920 The first model was produced using a 292cc JAP
engine driving a two-speed gearbox by a chain within an aluminium case
and belt final-drive - it also had foot-boards with toe guards, and sprung
1921 Another model appeared, using the 269cc Villiers
1922 In came a model with a 346cc JAP
engine and all-chain drive.
1923 The well-known 'built-like-a-bridge' frame concept was first introduced,
having been devised by Gordon Francis. Cheap to make and easy to assemble,
it had seven pairs of tubes, all but one of them straight, that bolted
up to form a triangular frame. This also allowed the bikes to be taken
apart for shipping and the company advertised that it could be re-assembled
in 20 minutes (a fact that was recorded on film). It used a 147cc Villiers
engine which resulted in a very cheap and popular machine. The frame was,
in fact, guaranteed against breakage forever.
1924-1926 Various models were added to the range including those for Sports
and Touring. The JAP
engine capacities were of 147cc, 172cc, 175cc and 346cc. The 175cc model
was sold as the Aza.
1927 Only two-stroke models were made during that year, plus the limited
production Pullman with its unusual design whereby the cylinders
and crank-shaft were set along the frame to drive the three-speed gearbox,
built in-unit, with a worm drive to a shaft carrying the final-drive sprocket.
The Pullman had a 344cc vertical-twin Villiers
engine, made specially for Francis-Barnett, but production was limited.
1928 The range remained the same.
1929 The Pullman had gone, but 196cc and 247cc models were added.
1930s The new decade brought new models and, in particular, the Cruiser.
It had a new frame design and an enclosed engine, gearbox and rear chain,
using panels that left just the cylinder in view. For the rest of the decade,
the firm produced mainly two-strokes. These had names such as Merlin,
Lapwing and Plover.
1935 They offered a four-stroke fitted with a 247cc Blackburne
engine that had crossed push-rods. It was listed for three years as the
1940 Following World War II, the company produced only two models - the
and the Merlin.
1947 The company became part of the AMC
group but this had no real effect for quite some time.
1949 The range expanded and over the next few years all the motorcycles
went over to telescopic forks.
1952 Pivoted-fork rear suspension first appeared, as did the firm's first
1954 The Cruiser name was revived and used for a 224cc model, which
had a frame incorporating pressed members, but without the enclosure.
1957 The company was forced (together with James)
to fit the new 249cc AMC engine into
the Cruiser. The design of this engine was not as reliable as the
and its troubled performance affected its success. Gradually all Villiers
engines used on Francis-Barnett models were replaced by AMC.
1959 A second Cruiser appeared that had the entire rear-end fully
enclosed, even the pillion rests folding flush, and leg-shields as standard.
1961 Employs 260 persons. Part of AMC
1961 Lightweight motor cycle manufacturers, makers of "Francis-Barnett"
and "Fanbar" motor cycles. 260 employees.
1962 Villiers engines were
once again used in some models, and in particular on the Cruiser Twin
and the newly-styled Fulmar with a spine frame, leading-link forks,
pressed-steel bodywork and the 149cc AMC
1964 The same AMC engine went into a
single-tube spine frame to produce a restyled Plover.
1966 The Plover was replaced by a simple, basic model. The parent
company had major financial problems and this brought the end of both Francis-Barnett
and James in the
October of that year.