We-“^v-“•No-“Nre•’ SPORTING MACHINES ON TEST The 172 c.c. Francis-Barnett. • •
WE have always looked with admiration on the performance of the Super Sports FrancisBarnett in trials and races, although we were inclined to be sceptical towards the claims put up by private owners of these machines. It was with a lively interest therefore, that we removed
the wrappings from the Model 9 which we found awaiting US at Euston. In spite of a (theoretically) drained petrol tank, the little engine responded to the very first depression of the kick starter and purred evenly and quietly at a quite sedate number of r.p.m. The handlebar levers required setting in their correct positions, after being swivelled round out of the way, for the train journey, so that we had an early opportunity for investigating the tool kit. This is housed in a metal box tucked away under the tank and always appeared adequate, though simple. One infinitesimal criticism is that the lid cf this box should open on the opposite side, as at present the petrol pipe is inclined to hinder the withdrawal of the tool-roll on that side. We left Euston in search of a garage and although we
were wearing a pair of clean flannel trousers, one glance at the excellent legshields, fitted as an extra to these machines, at once dispelled any anxiety as to the necessity of an early visit to the local valet service ! We are disposed to enlarge upon these legshields, for they have many virtues ; net only do they provide ample protection from mud and water thrown up from tlae road, but their inner sides effectually prevent any stray oil which might exude from the engine (but which doesn’t)
from reaching the aforementioned trousers.
On wet days we derived great satisfaction from watching a healthy spout of water flying off the tip of the front mudguard and flinging itself impotently against the legshields, while our feet and legs remained warm and dry in their lee. Still further in praise of the legshields is the ease with which they may be removed—three minutes work with an adjustable spanner and the machine is ready for motor-cycle football, a sporting trial or racing and in an equally short space of time we have ” closed car comfort” again ! To return to more serious and important matters, we must confess that our inexperience of small size two
stroke engines, together with the amazing feeling of power in the engine led us to seize the piston twice du; ing the early days of our test. Curiously enough, although the seizures were purely momentary and the engine immediately became perfectly free yet it proved quite impossible to restart. On dismantling the engine it was found (on both occasions) that the piston had fused over the rings on the induction side, and presumably the lack of gas-tightness was the sole cause of non-starting. New rings were fitted, the whole operation of dismantling, fitting and re-assembling taking a mere half hour, and having learnt our lesson we drove more carefully, used ” Mixtrol ” in the fuel to supplement the ordinary lubricant and so avoided further repetitions of this trouble. After a reasonable mileage had been accomplished it was found that no further seizures were to be feared and long spells of full throttle work could be indulged in with impunity.
As proof of the machine’s stamina when fully run in, we put in several laps of Brooklands all out, complete with legshields, lamps and eleven stone rider, on a windy day, and actually lapped at over 50 m.p.h.—giving a maximum speed quite in keeping with the makers’ claim of 55 m.p.h., and this with an engine that had undoubtedly been badly treated in its youth.
Furthermore, at one of the now popular grass track meetings the little Francis-Barnett covered in all twentytwo miles, all out in 2nd and bottom gears, incidentally winning the 250 c.c. class and finishing 4th out of fourteen starters in a “Grand Prix” Event of nine miles, competing against 500 c.c. o.h.v. machines.
( )ii slippery grass corners the machine was very easily controlled, naturally it slid about somewhat, but there was never any tendency for a skid to assume dangerous proportions and cornering in the best dirt or sand racing style was quite the order of the day.
Although the gear ratios are close enough to be distinctly useful for improving one’s average speed in fast road work, the ability of the engine to pull hard at slow speeds banishes any doubts as to the hill climbing capabilities of the model ; second gear suffices for any main or secondary road hill and it is not until one leaves the beaten track and takes to ” trials ” country that bottom gear is called for. The gear lever is easily reached by hand and at the same time, owing to the smallness of the machine, changes between top and second are easily performed by foot. Both brakes operate on a dummy belt rim on the rear wheel, a possible disadvantage under certain conditions, but which is largely discounted by the excellent adhesion obtained by correct weight distribution and large balloon tyres. Both brakes are incidentally extremely powerful and smooth and we have never found them wanting in any emergency. The hand brake, operated by Bowden wire is easily adjusted in the usual manner, but the foot brake pedal is provided with three holes, in any of which the rod may be fixed, unfortunately the flywheel magneto and the frame make it an extremely difficult matter to change the position of the rod.
Our only other criticism of the machine also concerns accessibility, more particularly the task of removing the sparking plug ; when the engine is hot this is a most blasphemous business, as the plug is neatly housed between four cylinder head bolts and the underneath of the tank. However the operation can be performed, and luckily is not often necessary, so no more need be said on the subject.
Having disposed of the machine’s few faults we will return to its virtues, other than those already described, virtues which, roughly fall under the headings of comfort, steering and strength. Terry saddle, balloon tyres and well damped front forks naturally eliminate most road shocks, while the riding position, together with the extremely light and easy handling of the machine -and all its controls minimise fatigue on a long run.
The carburettor levers deserve particular praise as the best examples we have ever tried ; smoothly and easily operated, at the same time they were just stiff enough to stay exactly where put, for an indefinite period. We congratulate Messrs. Villiers on these levers and on their variable jet carburettor which suits the engine admirably. Steering, with or without the very neat damper is quite above reproach, and is never given a moment’s thought on the roughest surface.
With regard to strength, the machine has performed “long jumps,” has been run into from behind by a car, and in a grass track race was crashed quite heavily owing to a footrest catching the ground. The only damage caused by these episodes were bent bars and battered rear mudguard, although on the latter occasion the fall was sufficiently violent to break the rider’s collarbone.
Petrol consumption of the small Villiers engines has been demonstrated time and again, and our own experience bore out the excellent claims made by the makers ; the patent lubrication system operated by crankcase pressure worked admirably and gave no cause for alarm.
At £38 10s., the Sports Francis-Barnett is at the top of its class for price, but in view of the fact that its performance is comparable with many machines costing £50, the value is remarkable.
Altogether a very delightful little machine with an appeal all its own.