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Francis Barnett Powerbike History
Francis Barnett Powerbike

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 &'147;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.

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, 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 only sold the Powerbike 56 for three years, so it's not a machine you commonly come across. Great expectations for the new 2F autocycle were sadly disappointed as sales became badly hit by the move toward cheap cyclemotor attachments. Sun had been the first to read the writing on the wall for the autocycle, withdrawing their 2F version in 1950 after barely two years production. The Associated Motor Cycle Group was all about increasing numbers, not falling ones, and accountants drew a line under the last Francis-Barnett autocycle at the end of the 1951 season. While the Sunbeam brand had been sold on to the BSA group following WWII, Associated Motor Cycles went on to take over James in 1951, then Norton in 1956. For a brief period AMC Group became the biggest motor cycle manufacturer in the world, but fortunes waned,and on the 4th of August 1966, the giant fell, taking Francis-Barnett with it into the dark abyss.