Me and my Francis-Barnetts by Geoff Thomas

It seems that I had an early passion for bikes and I can well remember poring over "The Motor Cycle" and "Motorcycling" when I was ten or eleven in the late forties. I lived in Malvern where the Royal Radar Establishment was based and the place seemed alive with "boffin" bike enthusiasts.  Fifty shillings (2.50) would buy a pre-war runner and, over time, my stable ran to a 1928 AJS, a massive Sloper of some sort and a 1930 Coventry Eagle which rarely, if ever, started.

The early fifties saw the run-up to my O-levels and my dear Father, George, who owned the "Baylis" Chemist Shop in Malvern, sought to bribe me with the promise of a new bike if I gained the seven plus passes required to take me on to eventually becoming a Pharmacist just like him.  My luck and the skill of the Worcester Royal Grammar School meant that on November 23rd. 1953 I was at Ranfords Garage in Malvern on my sixteenth birthday to take delivery of my brand-new Francis - Barnett Falcon 67 - MNP 910.

This is the bike and what a beauty it was!  Although registered in Nov. 1953 it was a 1954 model - the Falcon 67.  The  67 was a modified version of the Falcon 58.  The 67 had better wheel bearings, a different steering angle, plastic tank badges, and mine was factory fitted with a dual seat and a four speed gearbox.  I rode the bike every day, in all weathers, principally between Malvern, Poole and Cardiff.  Eventually it gave way to something younger and sexier - in dark green ... another Falcon ... a Falcon 70!

Nostalgia strikes! - The quest to re-live the past

We skip ahead now for forty plus years during which many exiting things have happened but Geoff finds himself in retirement having been there, done that, and paid the price. Now old, past it and decidedly secondhand, Geoff tracks down the Francis Barnett Owners Club and decides to advertise in their "Directory" for a F-B to help him feel at least middle aged, if not young, again!  Good news ... the first reply ...

1955 FALCON 70.  OTR 852  Although at first, I really wanted a Falcon 67, I realised that they were quite rare, and so when Alan Anderson rang me to offer his 70 I was much pleased.  The bike has had a bit of hand painting here and there, but is as original as one could want.  It has the 4-spd box and runs really well. I like the fact that it has the pannier frames (panniers not shown) and luggage rack.  It has its "Buff" log-book and I would think the current mileage of 51.300 could well be genuine.
Now happily the owner of OTR, I went on to receive another call from a lovely Scotsman, Bill Skea, a retired engineer.  He had an accent you could cut with a plug spanner. It transpired that he had a Falcon 81 which had been stored in his old "byre" for over 30 years.  It was complete, but certainly looked as if it had been in a barn for over 30 years!  "How much" I asked.  "Fuffty poonds would be fair" he said.  I agreed and then asked him where he lived "The Orkneys" came the reply.  It will cost a fortune to get it here I said. "Ach noo ... me paal will drap it doon t'yer" came the reply!  Two weeks later the bike was duly delivered and I started my great relationship with VXM 655.

Geoff's 1958 Falcon 81 Barn Bike

When I got the bike from Bill early in 2001, there was no "paperwork" with it, but luckily, the licence holder still contained a few old tax discs.  These were for Jan 1962, March 1968 and April 1969. 

Prior to getting the bike back on the road, I checked everything to make sure it was all safe. However, I also made sure that the original "barn bike" look was preserved!  I still get a kick of parking-up and watching the funny looks!  Being really lazy, I took out the complete engine and gearbox assembly and sent it off to Steve Gollings at Villiers Services. Steve and his Dad Paul are really nice people and they made a super job of the overhaul.

With help from John Harding, the official Francis Barnett Owners Club "dating" officer, I was able to get a V5 registration document, and my very first "run" was to the local VMCC evening "do", 10 miles away. It was "touch and go" but I just about made it there and back!

THE LATEST FOR RESTORATION

I also have three Greeves bikes and advertised for some spares. I had a reply from a chap who happened to mention that he owned a Francis -  Barnett Trials bike, which he had bought when it was almost new.  It transpired that the first owner was a pal of his, who lived locally.

So, it was not long before I was off to the Sevenoaks area to see them both to have a Pub lunch and an enjoyable haggle. The bike is a 197cc 1952 Falcon 62, TKL 491, seen here with the original owner, Brian Camp (right) and the owner for the last 50 years, Gerard Chatwin (left)

Gerard did mention that the bike "might need a bit of attention !!!"

 

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