OUR first impression of the latest model 172 c.c. Francis Barnett was the very great improvement in the appearance. Although we have always had a great respect for this machine as one of the most scientifically designed machines of its class, the appearance has always struck us as being rather “unclothed.” The craze for saddle tanks on modern machines has been responsible for a great many ugly designs in which the designers have been trying to emulate the camel, but on this machine the saddle tank has been carried out with great taste and there is no sign of humpiness.
On mounting the machine we were pleased to find that in spite of its small size there is ample room for a large rider without any discomfort, and during some long runs we were able to finish free from that cramped feeling which is inevitable with some so-called” baby” machines.
The engine in question was brand-new at the commencement of our test and like most new two-strokes was very stiff and fairly careful running was required for the first few hundred miles ; however liberal lubrication was efficiently attended to by the automatic pressure system fitted to the Villiers engine which aided the settling down process, and we were soon able to extend the machine without fear of damage and found that quite high average speeds could be maintained without tiring and without any unpleasant feeling of fussiness. Fifty-five miles per hour appeared to be about a reasonable maximum, although we have no doubt that with some attention to the engine and under favourable conditions this could be exceeded. The road holding on indifferent surfaces was a very definite improvement on the older model Francis Barnett and this was due to the new type of fork fitted which is of the conventional parallel action type in place of the old rocking action fork. On colonial going and rough lanes the solid feeling of the machine was particularly noticeable and it it had not been for the customary handiness one would
not have suspected that one was only riding a 172 c.c. light weight.
However on encountering genuine sticky going of the kind so beloved by trials secretaries the light weight of the machine certainly proved a great blessing, as, if it became embedded it was a fairly simple matter to drag it through the obstacle, where a heavier machine would have undoubtedly caused a long delay.
Further comment on its suitability for trials work is rendered unnecessary by the very great number of successes already obtained by this model in open competition.
The controls have been arranged in more convenient positions than in the past, the gear change now being on the tank instead of being mounted directly on the gear box. The clutch was light in action and it worked very sweetly, in fact the control of the machine became a matter of automatic action which is a great point in tight corners.
The brakes are another point where the new model is improved and were both exceedingly powerful without being fierce, nor was any adjustment of them required during the whole of our test. One criticism of the brakes is the foot pedal, to operate which it is necessary to bring the foot in towards the machine. This however is so easily remedied by bending the pedal that it is hardly worth mentioning, but owing to the general excellence of the machine in its essentials, it is only possible to find criticism in very minor details. The clk.ctric 1.ghting set, which is cf the type supplied direct from the engine, functioned satisfactorily and gave ample light for any speeds which were required for night driving, but we would suggest that a more standard type of bulb should be htted as, when we accidentally broke one of them, considerable difficulty was experienced in getting a replacement, as the ordinary car side-lamp bulb stocked by most dealers is not
suitable ; also the switch for the lights consists of a rotating bayonet catch in the holder under the lamp. To operate this it is necessary to get one’s fingers inside the fork blades and it would be a good point if a more conventional type of switch in a more accessible position could be substituted for this rather crude device, as the
present arrangement rather savours of “spoiling the ship for a ha’porth of tar.” Although, as we have mentioned, the lubrication system is entirely satisfactory in its operation and quite automatic, during the whole of our test we made a point of using oil in the petrol as with the variable needle-jet
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type of carburettor fitted it is very easy when starting on a rich mixture to wash the oil off the cylinder walls and cause burring over of the piston ring grooves with consequent effect on the power of the machine. Taken on the whole we feel that there are few machines
which are more suitable for economical motoring combined with suitability for rough sporting trials, the season for which is now upon us, and at £36 this model is a very complete answer to those who maintain that a 172 c.c. machine is too small and light for really hard work.