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Greeves Sport Twin

1961 Greeves Sports Twin


Built by one of Britain's smallest manufacturers, Greeves lightweights were true individuals with an all-round quality that often put to shame the major motorcycle factories. The company took its name from Bert Greevesm but the business was run as a partnership with his cousin Preston Derry Cobb and started shortly after World War 2. In those early days the product was a motorised invalid carriage and the company was called Invacar.

The invalid carriages sold well and established a firm foundation for the factory, based in Essex. The factory possessed its own foundry and very soon became expert in the new technology of fibreglass moulding. The invalid cars featured some innovative designs, notably suspension by rubber bushes that acted as self-damping springs when twisted.

By the early 1950s Bert Greeves, an enthusiastic motorcyclist and no mean off-road rider, was able to indulge his interests by constructing a prototype motocross machine. Production versions of both an off-road machine and a roadster appeared in 1954. Using Villiers or British Anzani engines, and suspension based on the invalid cars rubber units, the frames illustrated another Greeves innovation. In place of the normal tubular front section and steering head was a single enormously strong aluminium alloy H-section beam.

It was the frame and front forks, that really set Greeves apart from the rest. Despite their strange appearance, they offered superb handling on or off road. For a time there was public resistance to the designm but when experienced competition rider Brian Stonebridge joined the company in the mid 1950s Greeves started to make a name for itself with an incredible series of giant-killing demonstrations, which vindicated their ideas.

Roadster production centred on a range of modest 250 and 325cc lightweight twins. By the 1960s the Sport Twins had become probably the best of their kind, thanks to Greeves handling and quality build. An indication of the regard in which they were held was their adoption as police bikes.

Numbers were small however, with only around 300 racers and a few thousand roadsters appearing throughout the 1960s. Then Greeves began to fall victim to a number of pressures. First its engine supplier, Villiers, was taken over and then the British motorcycle market saw the influx of Japanese lightweights. Invacar, too, fell victim to the changing times. It was taken over in 1973, but in any case government support for specialist invalid cars ceased shortly after. The last Greeves roadsters had left the factory in 1968 but they had designed a new motocrosser around their own single cylinder 360cc engine. Its derivatives stayed in production until 1978, although a disasterous factory fire in 1976 was really the end of Greeves as a volume manufacturer.